Focus on Improving Civil Registration and Vital Statistics

The second African Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) Day will be commemorated on the 10th of August 2019,  under the theme, “Birth Certificate for All: Fundamental for Protecting Human Rights and Promoting Inclusion.” The fourth Conference of African Ministers responsible for Civil Registration, held in 2017, declared 10 August to be African Civil Registration and Vital Statistics Day, and advised member states to observe the day every year.3

The 2019 theme is informed by the need for African countries to integrate civil registration and legal identity as expressed in target 16.9 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063, and to reinforce the centrality of civil registration – and registration of births in particular – as the foundation for strengthening the legal identity system.

Civil registration guarantees the provision of essential legal documents to individuals to secure their identity, nationality, civil rights and access to social services in a country. It ensures that decision-makers are provided with accurate information essential for policymaking, planning, implementation and monitoring. Registration of vital events enables governments to have documented evidence and understanding of the prevalence and distribution of causes of death, as well as to identify health inequalities and priorities.

South Africa is one of the few African countries producing vital statistics from the civil registration system. A civil registration system records statistics on vital events such as births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) produces annual reports on recorded live births, marriages and divorces as well as mortality and causes of death, based on civil registration data.

Vital statistics are produced both from the civil registration system using the relevant forms used to register vital events, as well as data downloaded directly from the National Population Register (NPR). South Africa has made great strides towards improving the coverage and quality of civil registration data over time.

According to the Recorded Live Births report for 2017, produced by Statistics South Africa, birth registration completeness was estimated at 89%, while 78% of births were registered within the legislated 30 days of occurrence.1


Registration for adult deaths during 2011–2016 intercensal period was estimated at 96%, with 79% of these deaths registered within 3 days of occurrence.2


South Africa, through the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), maintains an electronic National Population Register (NPR) from the civil registration system. Entry into the NPR is through birth registration, at which point a unique identification number is generated and issued together with a birth certificate. This number is a lifetime number used to issue an identity document (ID) or a smart ID card at the age of 16.

A complete Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System will ensure that no one is excluded from health coverage, schooling, and basic human rights.


1 Stats SA, Recorded Live Births, 2017 (download here).

2 Stats SA, Mortality and Causes of Death, 2016 (download here).

3 APAI-CRVS (download here).