Certifications of Citizenship in Africa

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.

Go back to all projects