IOM hosts workshop on strengthening digital legal identity to improve people movement and regional integration

Mombasa, Kenya, 28-29 May 2024 – A workshop on Digital Legal Identity, hosted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), gathered partners in Africa to explore how to improve legal identity systems to enhance the mobility of people and regional and continental integration in Africa.

Delegates to the workshop, who include 45 representatives from the African Union Commission (AUC), the East African Community (EAC), the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), exchanged knowledge on how to strengthen digital legal identity systems.

Experts from IOM and other UN entities such as United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) explained concepts and tools important for establishing effective legal identity systems.

According to UNECA, there are 542 million people in Africa who have no identity cards, 95 million of them being children under five who have never been registered at birth. Absence of legal identity presents obstacles to accessing vital social services and heightens insecurity and vulnerability for migrants on the move, with attendant risks such as becoming prone to trafficking and smuggling.

Participants stressed the need for cooperation at the regional and continental level to create a legal identity system that is compatible and can work across different platforms, as proposed by the Africa Programme for Accelerated Improvement of Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (APAI-CRVS). They also concurred on the importance of adopting appropriate technology to realise such a system.

"Africa stands at the cusp of a digital revolution," said Ms Sofia Karim, IOM Deputy Regional Programme Manager of the Better Migration Management (BMM) Programme. "Digital legal identity is not only a tool for individual countries but a cornerstone for a unified, digitally empowered continent. This workshop is crucial to achieving scalable, interoperable digital ID systems that serve all Africans effectively."

Mr Banele Kunene, Programme Officer AU Free Movement of Persons Protocol, highlighted that people are the core of all efforts, stressing the need to count migrants, refugees, and mobile populations so that they can access rights to legal identity. He also said that "legal identity is crucial for facilitating safe, regular and orderly movement and migration across borders and is important for enhancing trade, development and integration and the achievement of the AU 2063 agenda and the UN 2030 agenda, respectively".

The workshop was jointly organized by the Better Migration Management (BMM) Programme, funded by the European Union (EU) and German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and the IOM Special Liaison Office (SLO) to the African Union and UNECA to discuss making digital legal identity possible for all Africans, and ways the continent can become more digitally inclusive.

IOM supports Member States to implement migration management frameworks, to improve border governance and to protect the rights of migrants. This collaboration addresses immediate migration challenges and contributes to the long-term stability and development of migration policies across Africa. It was co-funded through the BMM programme and the Swedish International Cooperation Agency (Sida).

The objective of the BMM Programme is to improve the safe, orderly, and regular management of migration within and from the Horn of Africa region by applying a human rights-based approach. The programme is implemented by British Council, CIVIPOL, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, IOM, and UNODC in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda.

The SIDA funded AUC-IOM Free Movement of Persons Programme in Africa contributes to the efforts of the AUC to accelerate the ratification of the Protocol Establishing the Free Movement of Persons, Right of Entry, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment Protocol (FMP).

For further information and enquiries, please contact:

Sofia Karim, IOM Deputy Regional Programme Manager (BMM), IOM Regional Office for East and Horn of Africa, Email:

Kachi Madubuko, Head, UNECA Liaison and AU Special Projects Unit, Special Liaison Office to the AU & UNECA, Email: