Certifications of Citizenship in Africa


Start date: 1 June, 2020 End date: 31 May, 2024 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 19-07-KU Countries: Ghana Uganda Thematic areas: State building, governance and civil society, Lead institution: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Partner institutions: Makerere University (MAK), Uganda University of Ghana (UG), Ghana Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Amanda Hammar Total grant: 11,749,026 DKK

Project summary

CERTIZENS is an interdisciplinary, multi-layered research project which explores the complexities of regimes of citizen certification and the forms of identification these generate, circulate, manage and attempt to control, in selected African settings. It considers, in turn, the significance of such systems and processes – formal and informal – for both states and
citizens, and for state building and citizenship. Formal identification is a prerequisite for living in the modern world, where official identification documents (IDs) are required for ensuring basic rights and accessing public and private services such as health, education, labour, security and justice. Yet there is an epidemic of under-documentation across the African continent, with debilitating effects for millions of the more vulnerable and marginalized both within and outside of national boundaries. Increasing recognition among development actors is reflected in SDG #16.9, which for the first time aims to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030”. Scholarship necessarily addresses such concerns in less technocratic terms, yet often remains somewhat fragmented in its analytical scope. CERTIZENS moves beyond more singular perspectives (such as identity, or conflict, or electoral politics), adopting a relational approach to understanding the many dimensions of the relationship between certification, identification, citizenship, state building and governance. Based on Ghana and Uganda as comparative case studies, the project investigates four linked analytical arenas: national-level legislation, policy and implementation; an intermediate level of certification bureaucracies, and the materialities of identification of IDs; an intimate level of differentiated positions, meanings, lived experiences and practices related to various IDs; and a global level of universalized policy discourses as ‘travelling models’ and their articulation with national contexts.


Midterm report
CERTIZENS produces empirically and theoretically grounded policy-relevant research on national identification and certification systems in selected African contexts, with a focus on Ghana and Uganda as country cases. It weaves together insights from multiple, intersecting scales and spheres: both national and local bureaucratic institutions and practices; intimate, lived experiences of IDs in different settings; travelling global ID policy models; and more. To date all team members (five PhDs and three senior researchers) have completed some if not all fieldwork and have produced drafts of working papers for anticipated publication, all of which have been/are being presented in various international academic panels, workshops and conferences. Cross-fertilisation and comparative analysis continues to be part of ongoing discussions in monthly online team meetings and substantive Annual Project Meetings in person. The latter (the first in Accra in November 2021, the second in Kampala in late January 2023) have both entailed focused PhD training and presentation of findings to external researchers and relevant local policy makers and practitioners. These meetings have often brought together key in-country sector stakeholders for the first time. Meanwhile, the project’s public communication strategy evolves according to CERTIZENS’ expanding activities, networks and outputs. To date, the main focus is on our quarterly newsletter, Twitter account, and podcast series.

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