ECOWAS Biometric ID Card: the 10 facts you need to know

Many of you came to us with questions about the ECOWAS Biometric Identity Card, since the official launch by Head of State Macky Sall on 4 October 2016. We have compiled a list of the 10 most frequently-asked questions below, and briefly responded to them below. 

1- When will the ECOWAS Biometric ID Card be available to people in Senegal? 

The registration system will be opened by 15 October at the latest, in all 45 of the country's Prefectures. During the first two weeks of October 2016, the administrative commissions of the 45 Prefectures will begin to operate, followed by commissions at the under-prefectures and town application review centres.

Registration for the diaspora will start in December 2016. 

2- Where can I apply for the card? 

Administrative commissions and application review centres dedicated to the national identity card will be opened across the nation, according to the Head of the Logistics and Planning Division at the Directorate of Electoral Operations under the Ministry of the Interior, Cheikh Alioune Ndiaye. 
  
He has stated that the administrative commissions will be set up in the country’s 45 departments, while ID card application review centres will be erected in each municipality, though services will also be available at Police Commissariats, in certain Gendarmerie Brigades and in certain Prefectures. 

The Head of State has stated that teams will be sent to them via the Embassies so that this “valuable document” can be issued.

3- Will the card be free for the Senegalese? 

The Senegalese will have six months to register free of charge, at the Commissions that will be opened. Beyond that point, any Senegalese citizen wishing to apply for the new card will have to pay a fee of 10,000 CFA francs (€15.24). 

4- How long will it take to produce the cards? 

The process of manufacturing the cards at the commissions will be swift, the Ministry of the Interior has said. From the moment an individual registers at an administrative commission or identity card application review centre to actual pick-up of the biometric smart card, approximately two weeks will elapse. 

5- What is the main difference with the previous ID cards? 

This biometric card, unlike the former one, will contain an electronic chip not visible to the eye, just like a bank card. The secured chip will contain biometric information or data about the card's owner: name and surname, gender, date and place of birth, address, height, eye colour, fingerprints, and photograph.

6- What countries other than Senegal have established this card in the ECOWAS area? 

None: Senegal is the first country in the Economic Community of West African States to implement the Community Directives regarding the new biometric identity card. All the other ECOWAS countries will fall in step with Senegal (at a date not currently known). In Senegal, as in all the other ECOWAS member countries, the same card, in format, colour and manufacturing criteria. This biometric ID card will facilitate free movement for the 320 million citizens of the ECOWAS zone.

7- Is the card secured? 

“The technological innovation that goes into this biometric card is such that it is impossible to forge. What’s more, it is multi-purpose, and the administrative offices of the Ministry of the Interior will be able to take advantage of all the technological opportunities which the card offers, with multiple purposes”, stated Head of State Macky SALL. Biometrics makes it possible to identify people automatically, using their fingerprints and photo. The technology was developed in particular after 11 September, as part of the fight on terrorism.

8- Is it mandatory to apply for the card?

“Going to the commissions is a duty for all citizens. Everyone must come before the commissions, especially as the current digital cards in effect will no longer be valid, after 31 December 2016”, announced the Ministry of the Interior, emphasising the necessity for citizens to register with the Commissions. 

9- In what ways will this card be used? 

The card will make it possible for the populations of Member States to move around the ECOWAS area, serving as a residency permit, or a passport at the airports, but also as proof of identity for the bearers. It will also be used as a voter's card in Senegal. In addition to the aims which this new card is required to fulfil, each country may, at its own convenience, list other data on the card, such as blood type, driving license, the subject's health condition or other applications relative to the card holder. 

10- Who will manufacture the card? 

An Indonesian company, Iris, has been in charge of producing biometric passports in Senegal since 2007, while Senegalese partners will manage the actual making of the cards. 

Macky Sall
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