In the Spotlight: Centre of African Studies - Copenhagen

Image: CERTIZENS PhD Workshop in Accra, Amanda Hammar 2021 

CERTIZENS (Certifications of Citizenship in Africa)


CERTIZENS is a four-year collaborative research project (2020-2024) based at the Centre of African Studies (CAS), Copenhagen, that focuses on the multiple dimensions of national identification (ID) regimes in Ghana and Uganda respectively, but also has a wider trans-Africa interest. It is concerned with the histories, logics, political economies, policies and practices of different systems of citizen classification, identification, registration and certification, and their complex effects both on processes of (and between) state-making and citizen-making.  

CERTIZENS is led by Professor Amanda Hammar at CAS. The team consists of three senior researchers (one in each of the three partner institutions) and five PhDs (two each in Ghana and Uganda, one in Copenhagen).  Additionally, it supports the research of a number of MPhils annually, in both Ghana and Uganda.


CERTIZENS shares with many others a strong concern at the epidemic scale of lack of formally recognized forms of identification for a (newly estimated) 850 million people worldwide. The UN’s Sustainability Development Goal #16.9 promotes ’legal identity for all’, and a growing number of international agencies and NGOs have become very active in supporting African states to enhance their national registration systems – increasingly through heavily promoting digital ‘solutions’.  At the same time, a positively expanding community of critical scholars, practitioners and activists are raising important questions about the assumptions, simplifications and implications of the trends in this direction, including deepening exclusions of certain groups, the strengthening of state surveillance, the commodification of data, and problems of privacy protection.  

CERTIZENS believes strongly in the value and need for well theorized, interdisciplinary and empirically grounded research in the multi-layered field of national identification and registration. Among our strengths is taking a longer-term historical view and multi-spatial and multi-dimensional perspective on each of two countries, while also productively working with comparative sensibilities across countries and regions.


The various research projects cover such themes as: pre-colonial forms of certification in Ghana, shifting histories of inclusion and exclusion of ethnically differentiated citizens in both Ghana (Fulani) and Uganda (Maragoli and Banyarwanda), the bureaucracies of registration and certification in different contexts including national IDs (Uganda), birth registration (Uganda), voter registration in the Ghana-Togo borderlands, the effects of digitalization on voter registration in urban informal settlements (Ghana), the relationship of Ghetto youth to IDs in Kampala, and their significance for marginalized young migrant women head porters in Accra, and the nature of ‘global’ ID policy discourses and practices and their encounters with national ID systems on the continent.   

Other CERTIZENS activities

Besides the research itself – and planned publications – CERTIZENS is actively engaged in connecting with other scholars and practitioners in the field of IDs and citizen certification. We do this through a range of activities, such as

  • Producing a quarterly newsletter that both features CERTIZENS activities and highlights key scholarship and other relevant coverage of the field
  • Active participation in scholarly and public debates through initiating and/or participating in workshops, public panels, conferences and so on
  • Undertaking research-based teaching – including at MA level and PhD workshops – grounded in CERTIZENS experiences and findings
  • Active networking with fellow researchers, practitioners and policy makers in Africa and globally
  • Regular hosting of guest researchers at CAS working in the field

CERTIZENS is currently working towards launching the CERTIZENS Working Paper Series in Autumn 2023, which aims to publish works both by CERTIZENS researchers and by others. We will be welcoming proposals in this regard.