Is Ghana milking foreigners with Ghana Card?
The mandatory use of the Ghana Card in re-registering one’s SIM card is something else. I strongly believe a lot of foreigners, especially those from other West African countries, cannot re-register their SIM cards, using their own Ghana Card.
It would be recalled that in March this year, the Ghanaian Government extended the deadline for the registration of SIM to July 31, 2022. The SIM re-registration exercise, which began on October 1, 2021, was expected to end on March 31, 2022.
A statement from the Ministry of Communications and Digitalisation in March stated that as at March 17, 2022, a total of 14,091,542 SIM Cards had been linked to the Ghana Card, 10,348,532 Bio-Captures conducted and 99,445 New SIMS registered.
According to the statement, “Due to a number of factors including the fact that over 7.5 million citizens and residents are yet to obtain Ghana Cards to enable them register their SIM cards, it is clear that the deadline for completion of the registration of the remaining active SIM cards cannot be met.”
One would ask, how many of those re-registrations of SIM cards were done by Foreigners using their own Ghana Cards? And how many of those were done using the Ghana Cards of their Ghanaian counterparts or friends?
I have heard in recent times that what is happening now is that some foreigners are begging their Ghanaian friends to use their Ghana Cards to help them (foreigners) re-register their SIM cards because the cost of acquiring the Ghana Card as a foreigner is simply high for most foreigners.
According to the National Identification Authority (NIA) of Ghana on its official website, “a foreign visitor who has resided in Ghana for a cumulative period of 90days or has a residence permit is eligible and will be required to provide personal details to the National Identification Authority [FIMS] for the issuance of a Non-Citizen Ghana Card at a cost of US$120.”
A Congolese friend of mine called me the other day to complain bitterly about the fee being charged for getting the Ghana Card as a foreigner. “In this hard time, when we are struggling to get our daily bread, where do they expect us to raise GHS940 or US$120 from to get a Ghana Card and re-register our SIM cards?” she asked.
She’s not the only foreigner who has complained about the cost of the Ghana Card for foreigners. The general feeling is that the non-citizenship Ghana Card being issued to foreigners is too expensive. So the plan B for some foreigners has certainly been to appeal to some Ghanaian friends to help them use their Ghana Cards to re-register their SIM cards.
I mean, how can someone be asked to pay at least GHS940 to get a Ghana Card as a foreigner only to use that Ghana Card for re-registering a SIM card that costs roughly GHS3 when you have a valid national passport that equally has biometric features and even with that your passport which is a 32-page booklet cost just US$50 or GHS420 and a single Ghana Card for a foreigner costing GHS940, more than US$100? It’s simply on the high side, isn’t it?
Elsewhere in Kenya, for instance, the Issuance of Foreign Nationals Certificate (Alien Card) which is comparable to the Ghana Card costs less than US$10. The law in Kenya requires that all foreigners residing within Kenya for a period exceeding 90 days be registered for the Alien Card. The cost of registration for the Alien Card is 1,000 Kenyan Shilling which is equivalent to US$8.44. I have a Liberian friend who resides in Kenya and he told me how the relatively low cost of the Alien Card makes it easy for foreigners to voluntarily register.
So I think if the Government of Ghana wants everyone, especially foreigners from other African countries, to get the Ghana Card, it should make the cost reasonable, that’s what is done in Cote d’Ivoire. Because Ivorian authorities want every foreigner residing in Cote d’Ivoire to have a resident permit, they issue the resident permit for 2,000 CFA or GHS24 at every police station and the time for issuance does not exceed five minutes. So, living in Cote d’Ivoire as a foreigner, you have no excuse for not getting a resident permit.
I spent the whole of 2021 and the first five months of 2022 in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire and had no problem in going to get my resident permit because it was affordable and I only had to walk to a police station in my neighbourhood to get the resident permit, unlike in Ghana where I will be told to go to the Ghana Police Headquarters only to stand in long queue for Police Clearance which costs about GHS1,000 for foreigners, before I can go back to the Ghana Immigration Service to acquire my resident permit – cumbersome and expensive process in Ghana in acquiring resident permit as well, isn’t it? Why should foreigners always pay high costs for such services in Ghana when elsewhere the costs are low?
The Ghanaian Government has admitted that times are hard in Ghana and has blamed Covid-19 and the Russia-Ukraine war for the economic hardships in Ghana. Foreigners are also being hard hit by the economic hardships in Ghana and to me, it’s so insensitive to be charging foreigners GHS940 or US$120 during these hard times just for an ID card that is to be used primarily for re-registering a SIM card when indeed other forms of identifications are available or could be used. What’s the use of my biometric passport issued by the Liberian Government for instance which is valid for five years and which can be verified if I cannot use that in registering something like a SIM card?
Why should a Ghana Card be deemed so legitimate than a national passport issued by an authorized or statutory issuing authority? Is there any scientific or empirical evidence to prove that once Ghana Card is used in re-registering all SIM cards in Ghana, cyber fraud will be a thing of the past in the country?
The Government of Ghana must consider the financial implications for its economy and telecom companies operating in the country as it pushes for the compulsory re-registration of SIM cards, using just the Ghana Card. There be could be negative consequences for the Ghanaian economy.
About the author: Melvin Tarlue is an online journalist and media consultant.