A focus on certifications of citizenship as a range of inter-related practices of identity classification, categorisation, registration and validation, provides productive opportunities to explore the many ways that different authorities and/or different citizens engage with both the meaning and materiality of identity documents. At the heart of such practices is a complex politics of recognition that in turn is linked to the political economies of certification and of certificates themselves. A selection of African cases helps to highlight some of the paradoxes of certification – such as its simultaneous openings and closures – while pointing to the relationality of its multiple dimensions, including: the material, symbolic, social, spatial, temporal, demographic, political and institutional. These overlapping dimensions manifest in site-specific ways across different empirical contexts in Africa and Asia and beyond,making transnational conversations especially meaningful for deeper understandings of the complexities of the authority-certification-citizenship nexus.