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  • Writer's pictureID4Africa


By Vyjayanti Desai, Julia Clark and Anna Metz, The World Bank Group - ID4D

The World Bank’s ID4D Initiative partnered with the Global Findex team to include questions related to ID ownership, ID use, and barriers to access in the 2017 Global Findex Survey round, covering 97 countries. Initial analysis revealed particularly large gaps in ID coverage in low-income countries (LICs), where more than one in three adults lack a national ID or similar foundational ID credential. For women in LICs, the ratio of those without an ID is closer to one in two: 44 percent of women (compared to 28 percent of men) do not have such a document. In 2019, ID4D completed further analysis of the data to uncover more insights about who is least likely to have an ID and why to better inform policy dialogue and country action on closing ID coverage gaps. The surveys also reveal more about the relationship between ID ownership and financial inclusion and how people with IDs use their credentials.


People are more likely to have an ID when they are married, older and in the workforce, and less likely to have an ID when they have only a primary level of education, are female, live in a rural area, and are among the poorest 40 percent. The association between these demographic characteristics and the likelihood of someone having an ID is greatest in LICs, and smaller in middle-income economies. All else being equal, an adult living in a LIC with primary education or less is 17.1 percentage points less likely to have an ID, compared with adults who have completed secondary school or above. A person living in a rural area in a LIC is about 10 percentage points less likely to have an ID than a person living in urban areas, while a person at the bottom of the income distribution is about 7.4 percentage points less likely to have an ID than a person at the top of the income distribution. These findings highlight the importance of removing barriers to ID access and implementing special outreach efforts to improve access to IDs for members of vulnerable and marginalized groups.


Why don’t people have an ID? The gaps in coverage may be the result of overall supply constraints as well as multiple economic, social, and procedural barriers that affect people at the individual level and factors that influence demand for the ID. Supply-side barriers — namely that people say “it is too difficult to apply” and/or “people don’t have the necessary documents”—are more commonly cited than demand-side factors – that the person “has another form of ID” and/or “doesn’t need an ID for any purpose” – in countries with large ID coverage gaps (>20 percent). However, the precise challenges people face vary by country. In Gabon, where difficulties with ID card printing and the scarcity of ID access points have been well documented, nearly 70 percent of adults without an ID do not have one because the process to apply for one was too difficult. In Lesotho, where under-five birth registration is less than 50 percent and an even higher share of adults have no birth certificates, the lack of the necessary documents was cited by over half of those without an ID, representing a total 16 percent of all adults in the country. In some countries, low demand also plays a significant role. In Afghanistan, for example, 70 percent of adults without an ID—the vast majority of whom are women—said they did not have one because they had no need for it. To effectively address coverage gaps, it is important that countries undertake additional research to map the challenges faced by members of different groups and what interventions are needed to overcome them.[1]


Adults with IDs are more likely to have a financial account and own a mobile phone than those without one. In LICs, an estimated 65 percent of people with IDs have a mobile phone, compared with only 40 percent of those without an ID. Similarly, 45 percent of those with an ID have an account at a financial institution or a mobile money account, compared with only 19 percent without an ID. While having a specific foundational ID may not always be necessary or, on its own, sufficient to open a financial account, people without one face an additional constraint to accessing financial services: 33 percent of unbanked adults in LICs without an ID cited “lack of documents” as a reason for not having an account, compared with only 17 percent of those with an ID. Making foundational ID systems more accessible for all can thus promote financial inclusion and greater access to mobile services, opening the door to further economic opportunities.


About 57 percent of adults with an ID had used it to apply for a SIM card or mobile phone service, and 45 percent had used it to access financial services. The higher reported use of IDs for mobile services is consistent with the fact that mobile services are more easily available than a bank account in most developing countries, and about 80 percent of the population surveyed owns a mobile phone. Furthermore, SIM card registration, which often requires an ID, is mandatory in over 150 countries globally. In addition to accessing financial services and mobile phones, one-third of adults in LICs say they have used their ID to receive financial support from the government, and 16 percent say that they have used it to apply for government services.


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