The government of Burkina Faso has announced plans to hold a new census in April. This will issue each individual with a lifelong identity number which will be required in the future as proof of nationality.
The last census, in 1996, showed that this poor landlocked country had a population of 10.3 million. It is since projected to have risen since then to about 12 million.
Burkina Faso's population has been swelled over the past year and a half by the return of about 350,000 migrants from Cote d'Ivoire, where they felt threatened following the outbreak of civil war in September 2002.
Announcing the new census on Tuesday, Interior Minister Moumouni Fabere said the unique number issued to each individual would be recorded on a computer database and used as proof of identity for the issue of identity cards, passports and voter cards.
He said this new procedure should reduce the large number of people who fraudulently claim Burkinabe nationality using forged birth certificates.
Fabere complained that the government had regularly to deal with cases of people being arrested in Europe with Burkinabe papers, who turned out not to be Burkinabe at all.
The minister said 12,000 agents would be trained to conduct the census which would last 20 days. The exercise is expected to cost 1.2 billion CFA (US $2.4 million).
Fabere said Burkinabe migrants living in other countries would be eligible for inclusion in the census at a later date, but they would only be registered once they returned home.
He said the data provided by the census should help the government to formulate better policies on health and education.