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.


First year report:
CERTIZENS produces policy-relevant research on national identification and registration systems in selected African contexts. The project has progressed well in the first year of implementation with all team members (five PhDs and three senior researchers) completing preliminary fieldwork. Cross-fertilisation and comparative analysis has been part of ongoing sharing and discussion of fieldwork findings in monthly team meetings. At the project’s first Annual Meeting in Accra, Ghana (November 2021), a focused PhD workshop was conducted (including for PhDs outside of CERTIZENS), and a selection of external researchers, policy makers and practitioners working in the field were engaged with through seminars and workshops. A public communication plan was devised early on in the project and continues to evolve according to the expanding activities, stakeholder connections and outputs of the project. To date, communications outputs include a dynamic quarterly newsletter, regularly updated webpage, Twitter account, and podcast series. The project has been presented to several stakeholders within national (Ghanaian) and global academic, policy and practitioner settings.

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