The ECOWAS Identity Card

Love it or loathe it, one of the hallmarks of the current NPP administration is its propensity to become a major driver of Ghana’s digital revolution. From healthcare delivery through drone technology to Global Positioning System (GPS) of house identification and street naming, among others, the NPP government stands tall among its peers in Africa if not globally.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Card, otherwise known as Ghana Card, happens to be one of the most impactful of all the technological initiatives in Ghana thus far. Each member of the West Africa regional body is supposed to introduce a similar card to facilitate the body’s efforts to ensure free movement and trade in the sub-region.

The idea of a national identity card had been mooted in the 1970s and in 1973 the first national identity cards were issued to citizens in the border regions of Ghana, including Volta, Northern, Upper East and Upper West, (formerly Upper Region), Brong Ahafo and parts of the Western Region. But lack of financial support to continue the program in the assigned regions of the country stalled.

Legal backing was provided in 2003 with the passing of the NIA Act 2006 (Act 707), and in 2008 under the NPP administration of President J. A. Kufuor, the National Identity Register Act was also enacted to give authorization for the collection of personal and biometric data and to ensure the protection of privacy and personal information of enrollees. The setting up of the system, in essence, is in response to providing up-to-date data that will facilitate the nation’s development agenda.

The full mandate of the NIA included the establishment of a national database and to set up a system to collect personal data on the population including resident and non-resident, legal and permanent foreign national residents. The mandate also highlighted accuracy, integrity and security of data collected, and to issue and promote the use of national identity cards in Ghana. The core platform fingerprint, the Automatic Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) enables accurate and prompt fingerprint matching with real-time accessibility at transactions.

Like all biometric identification cards, such as driver license and passport, the Ghana Card has a 10-year expiration and is a package of digital information. Each card does not only have its own unique number, but it also captures the biometric data of the holder and variations thereof in other developed countries. Holders link the Ghana Card with their driver licenses, National Health Insurance cards, mobile phones and bank accounts among others.

Vice President Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, the digital grandmaster of Ghana earlier this month announced that by the end of the first quarter of next year, every child born in Ghana would be issued a Ghana Card. Amandla applauds this move and commends the NIA. We opine that renewal of the card for minors should be less than 10 years and must be made by parents captured during its initial issuance or in loco parentis.

Amandla thinks it is too dicey for the Ghana Card to be issued to Ghanaian citizens living outside Ghana through its foreign missions or for the National Identification Authority to tour the world to do same. For several reasons, including potential corruption, the issuance of the Ghana Card must be in-country.

We believe that any qualified Ghanaian Living Abroad must endeavor to make at least one trip to Ghana to apply for the Ghana Card if they so desire. Same should apply to renewal. After all, the Card is thus far only useful within the corridors of the sub-region, including facilitating entry into the country from outside ECOWAS enclave.

After all, the Card is useful only in the West Africa sub-region and serves no other purpose while domiciled outside the region. It however, facilitates entry into the region from outside.

There have been cases of some foreigners seeking to obtain the card by fraudulent means. Same applies to some corrupt NIA employees who obtain bribes to issue the cards to foreigners living in the country illegally, knowing that they must be eligible to obtain the cards. The NIA must be eagle-eyed to ensure a corruption free exercise in the provision of the card. The card is a security document and must be so regarded by holders.

Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority Prof. Kenneth Agyeman Attafuah has disclosed that more than 15.7 million Ghanaians have so far received their Ghana Cards. Available data received so far reveals that 16,969,034 persons have registered for the Ghana Card with about 16,535,623 cards printed as of July 21, 2022. He further stated that 15,702,719 cards have been printed but not issued, explaining why some people who have registered have not been issued with their cards. Some have double registered, others too are being investigated, while some are seeking to change their vital data. There are several other problems among those issued but not received.

The Ghana Card serves many purposes. Among several uses, it has helped remove bottlenecks in poor addressing system that existed, especially in the banking institution. Among its many benefits too, the Ghana/ECOWAS Card will help reduce corruption and increase revenue collection while ensuring security in the subregion. We hope the entire ECOWAS region would adopt this data-laden card and serve as a future format for a continent-wide Africa Card.

Posted by on Nov 14 2022. Filed under Editorial. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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