Viewpoint: Vish Ashiagbor
The National Identity Card has been a positive development for the country. It started in 2017, and we have seen significant progress in card registration in recent years. It is becoming an important identification card both for Ghana and the ECOWAS subregion. The card, which is issued by the National Identification Authority, is generally referred to as the Ghana Card; however, it is also officially the ECOWAS Identity Card, and was issued with ECOWAS regional utilisation in mind.
Anyone who is familiar with Ghana knows that the average Ghanaian will probably hold three or more identity numbers or cards. They will usually hold the Social Security and National Insurance Trust card, which provides identification numbers for pension payments; the National Health Insurance card; a voter’s identification card; a driver’s licence; and a tax identification number, among others.
Most of these national identity cards are issued by government authorities and qualify as acceptable forms of identification. For instance, most banks in the country will accept a voter’s identification card or driver’s licence as valid for bank transactions.
The Ghana Card is intended to give citizens a unique identity that will be linked to all the government identification cards that have already been issued. This is beneficial for both individuals and the country. To begin with, the Ghana Card will reduce the amount of cards an individual must have on them. Moreover, cards have an expiry date, and it is burdensome to keep up to date with renewal appointments. In addition, institutions that depend on multiple identity databases – such as banks – do not only have to be concerned about reliability, but may come across identity inconsistencies or duplications. Indeed, there are several standalone identification databases that may not be complete or may only have partial data about citizens and residents. The Ghana Card removes all these concerns.
Nevertheless, the issuance of the Ghana Card is currently a work in progress, and the approach has been mixed. In some cases, the card is seen as a replacement, while in other cases the decision that some government institutions have made is to first link the Ghana Card to an existing form of identification. I believe that old identification cards and numbers will eventually be retired. For example, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust card currently links the Ghana Card to a pensioner or pension contributor. Moreover, the Ghana Revenue Authority announced what appears to be a replacement of all tax identification numbers with the Ghana Card personal identification number.
There are other registration processes that require the use of the Ghana Card as the primary form of identification. For example, the SIM card re-registration process links all SIM cards to the Ghana Card. Furthermore, the Bank of Ghana said that the Ghana Card will be used as the primary source of identification for bank transactions.
The National Identification Authority also issues cards for non-citizens. Every foreigner visiting Ghana can register and get a card. A foreign investor who wishes to register as a shareholder or director of a subsidiary in Ghana will be required to obtain a Ghana Card, as a tax identification number is necessary for such registration processes.
The government has been excited about how Ghana Cards will be linked to tax identification numbers. The expectation is that the number of taxpayers will increase. Our only concern is regarding the transition from old forms of identification to the Ghana Card. Ghana’s population is more than 31m. As of February 2022, nearly 15.9m registrations have been made and cards printed, but only 13.2m cards have been issued. This means there are many unregistered people in the country. For this reason, we encourage citizens and residents to get registered.
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