East African Community set to launch new general e-passport

EAC council of ministers secretary General Richard Sezibera address a recent meeting. He says it is time for Africa to invest more in regional integration and promote Intra African Trade.

NAIROBI: East African Community (EAC) citizens will soon be in a position to access the EAC e-passport, the bloc’s secretary general has announced.

In a statement from the secretariat, EAC Secretary General Mr Richard Sezibera said that he is looking forward to the “launch of the New Generation e-East African Passport early in the New Year”, without divulging further information about the exact date of the launch.

The EAC e-passport had been scheduled for launch in November last year but was shelved to allow more time to airbrush pending issues on the travel document.

During last year’s budget presentation to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala), EACs Chair of the Council of Ministers Mr Abdallah Sadaala Abdallah said that the immigration sub-sector had prioritised the need to enhance the capacity of the Immigration Directorates and Departments to develop integrated e-immigration management systems, create enhanced e-immigration services for the public.

“This is by adopting advanced Technology and improving processes and to put in place a secure e-immigration network, through the adoption of biometric technology at all borders to reinforce the national security systems,” he added.

The secretariat also allocated funds for study into a regional e-Passport that would be used by the regional citizens for international travel.

The assembly approved Sh5,096,364 ($49,840) for an assessment of the needs and preparedness of partner states to implement the new generation e-Passport.

The current Kenyan passport which has 32 pages and a 10-year expiry period, goes for Sh4,500 ($450). If all goes as planned, Kenyans currently applying for new passports and those whose passports are yet to expire, will soon have their passes become obsolete following the operationalisation of the new generation passports.

Plans to create the electronic passport for the regional citizens of the five EAC member states: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi were first raised in 2013. A lot of efforts have been channeled towards coming up with the e-passport amidst challenges but the Secretary General, remains optimistic that the region is still on track.

According to Dr Sezibera, now is the time that Africa will have to invest more in regional integration and promote Intra African Trade if it is to withstand the challenges ahead.

“This is the time for creating a truly African Market - In goods, and Services including financial services. This is the time for shared Industrialization, creating value chains across countries and regions,” he said.

“I am glad East Africa Continues to be at the forefront of integration, and growth. The Single Customs Territory continues to deliver benefits to East Africans both on the central corridor, as well as the another corridor. Financial integration is deepening. Free movement of labor is becoming a reality, certainly for Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda,” he noted.

On other projects, several infrastructure programs are largely on track. Many of the One Stop Border Posts have been completed, and are currently being operationalized.