Ghana’s national identity card, the Ghana Card, is set to be used globally as a valid ID card/e-passport. This development comes after the country successfully completed its “Key Ceremony” on Feb. 9, 2022. The historic event took place at The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) headquarters in Montreal, Canada.
A delegation from Ghana that included Vice President’s secretary, Mr. Augustine Blay, and the National Identification Authority’s executive secretary, Prof. Ken Attafuah, graced the occasion that saw Ghana’s High Commissioner to Canada, Mr. Ransford Sowah, receive the “key” certificate. This symbolically indicated that Ghana has joined the ICAO family. ICAO congratulated Ghana for this development.
Given the seal of approval for the Ghana Card by the ICAO, Ghanaians will be able to use it as an official document in 44,000 airports across ICAO-compliant countries for boarding flights to Ghana. The usage of the card is expected to take effect in the second quarter of this year. This is after the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) connects its systems with those of the National Identification Authority (NIA).
As GIS, NIA, and the government gear towards this course, many Ghanaians, and the world in general, are in a state of confusion. In particular, many wonder how the anticipated ID card will help them travel and what unique benefits it offers.
What is Ghana Card?
This is a secure and multi-purpose biometric national identity card issued by the government to Ghanaian citizens. The card comes with a chip that stores biometric data. Holders of this new card will be able to easily prove their citizenship or identity.
Moreover, the card will make it faster, easier, and safer for them to access social services such as education, banking, communication, health, and insurance. It will also help to establish the biometric data of the holder for authentication and verification of transactions.
According to NIA, “the Ghana Card has the features of an e-passport and can be used for travels where immigration stamps are not required.” If lost, the Authority will require the affected person to pay a fee to get a new card.
All Ghanaian citizens residing in Ghana, Ghanaians living abroad, and legal foreign nationals living in the country also qualify to get the card. In addition, it captures three main types of data about the applicant.
These are personal information, parental, spousal, and next of kin data, and institutional verification information. Once the government completes the mass registration that began in 2019, it will carry out continuous registration of newly born children. Also, Ghanaians returning from abroad on a visit or relocating to the country will be allowed to apply for the new national ID card.
Why should you have the Ghana Card?
Ghana’s Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, was among the first to welcome the new development. In his speech, which Mr. Sowah read during the Montreal event, he said,
“This makes Ghana one of the few countries in the world where the national ID card meets the e-passport standards of the ICAO. This means that with this key ceremony, all holders of the Ghana Card who have e-passports that are compliant with ICAO standards can be read and verified at all ICAO compliant airports/border posts across the world.”
Controversies Over Ghana Card
Soon after the Montreal ceremony, some reports claimed that ICAO had declared the ID card as equivalent to a biometric passport. But ICAO disputed that as a misrepresentation. The international organization made it clear that it is not responsible for deciding which identification document is acceptable for a travel pass. Instead, that is the role of individual states.
Last year, Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia had hinted about the Ghana Card during his public lecture at the Ashesi University. He said,
“It is not widely known that the Ghana Card is also an electronic passport (e-passport) that contains the biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travelers. We have been working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this year to globally activate the e-passport function of the Ghana card…”
Skepticism on the Ghana card e-passport status
But some Ghanaians dismissed this statement with some saying it was merely the VP’s imagination that wasn’t possible. Others termed it as falsehood. The VP has since come out to clarify this contentious issue saying,
“It doesn’t mean that you don’t need your physical passport to travel. We will get to the stage where we can have agreements. What is happening right now is we are linking every passport with the national ID card. The Ghana Card number and the passport number will be linked so that your travel history is preserved.”
The awaited ID card with an e-passport function continues to evoke diverse opinions. Some experts question the preparade of airports and border checkpoints. Nonetheless, the Ghana Card will certainly make identification and validation quicker and more effective. Once the government completes the e-passport project, Ghana will join a few other nations in the world that issue national IDs with passport capabilities.