Distribution of ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards to begin in January 2016

The Chairman of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, recently presented samples of the new ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards at the 48th Ordinary Session of Authority of Heads of States and Governments of the commission in Abuja, Nigeria.

According to a report in Leadership while announcing that the distribution of the ID card will commence on the 1st of January, 2016, Ouedraogo stated that “it is the responsibility of each member state to issue the ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards to it(s) citizens”.

He added that the biometric identity card replaces residential permit and removed the need for the use of visas to encourage free movement of people in the region. Ouedraogo said that “these cards will also serve as travel documents and they will replace the resident permit and citizens can live and reside in any ECOWAS country without giving any other document”.

Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo attended the summit in person while presidents of Niger, Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Liberia were represented. Other participants included representatives of United Nations, the European Union, and members of the diplomatic corps among other partner organisations.

Previously reported, in December of 2014 ECOWAS first announced that the biometric identity card program will launch in 2016 after leaders within the sub-region at the Economic Community of West African States proposed to replace residence permits with biometric identification cards.

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21 Replies to “Distribution of ECOWAS Biometric ID Cards to begin in January 2016”

  1. I beg to differ on this new biometric ID cards initiative by ECOWAS; my humble and simple reasons are:
    1. Some West African countries are already running their own biometric ID systems, while others are almost at the tail- end of rolling out theirs and if there are any additions or subtractions or standardized rules to be followed, the ECOWAS can easily get it through without necessarily running a new biometric system parallel to the already existing ones. The type of biographic and biometric data to be captured, the card (smart card) specifications can be communicated to the member states’ existing national identification authorities to be inculcated and carried through gradually.
    2. The issue of ECOWAS circulating identity cards alongside national identity cards of member countries gives a cause to worry since it is rather going to compound the challenge of the several identity cards citizens of member states have been battling with in their day-to-day transactions. In Ghana for instance there are about 4 different state institutions issuing biometric cards that citizens carry on them daily alongside the national ID cards and different banks ATM cards.
    3. ECOWAS as a sub-regional bloc is already implementing an ECOWAS biometric passport system in each member state, so it is difficult to comprehend one of the reasons given for the implementation of the ECOWAS biometric card as a way of replacing the ECOWAS Travel Certificate. I believe the passports in circulation can serve that purpose.
    4. Apart from the ECOWAS biometric passport, if they believe it cannot serve the purpose for which they are now proposing an ECOWAS biometric card, I wish to call on the ECOWAS to consider communicating their standard biometric ID card specifications and retooling the existing national ID authorities of member states to help avoid the building of additional silo biometric systems that do not help with the main objective of identity management and promoting the economic, social and security wellbeing of citizens and member states. This I believe can also help cut down the utilization of limited resources and rather channel the remainder resources to other relevant areas of member states economic and social lives.

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