17 April 2017

Africa: East Africa E-Passports to Be Issued in 2018

Photo: CCTV Africa
The new East African e-passport.

The issuance of the East African Community electronic passport has been pushed by a year to January 2018, to give Uganda and Tanzania more time to prepare for the rollout.

Only Burundi, Kenya and Rwanda are ready.

Uganda and Tanzania say they will be ready by end of the year while new EAC entrant South Sudan will start at a later date.

Uganda reported that it was using the public-private partnership mode of financing for the production of the EA e-passport booklets.

In Tanzania, the government has adopted and domesticated the minimum technical specifications, which have been used to prepare the artwork and structural design for the international EA e-passport.

The existing system has been upgraded to personalise and encode e-passport booklets. The process of procuring a contractor to supply and install additional equipment and infrastructure to the existing system is ongoing.

At the EAC Heads of State Summit in March 2016, it was directed that the issuance of e-passports be done at the same time in all member states, with a one-year phase-out of the national and Community passports.

While meeting in Arusha, the EAC Council of Ministers said partner states should be allowed to conclude their preparations before the issuance starts across the region. This would allow for recognition agreements to be signed between the countries.

Burundi said it was ready, having approved and domesticated the EAC designs and specifications of the document.

"However, in the interest of moving forward with other partner states, the Republic of Burundi would wish that the period to commence issuance of the EA e-passport be extended to April 3, 2017," Bujumbura had said.

Kenya indicated it had finalised the specification and design of the document. It had also domesticated the design and procurement of booklets. Nairobi said the upgrade of the current system from machine readable passport (MRP) to e-passport was complete.

Kenya has also revised its laws, regulations and administrative procedures to accommodate the issuance of e-passports.

The Kenya Communication Act, 2013 outlines cyber laws and regulations that promote e-transactions and e-signatures.

The law has given way to implementation of national digital services transformation initiatives such as online visa, e-citizen portal, e-foreign nationals management system, e-temporary permit and online payments platform.

On its part, Rwanda has initiated a tender to procure both the systems and booklets for the EA e-passport and is now in the final stages of contract signing. A Cabinet paper on the e-passport modalities including categories, validity and key features was approved on October 12, 2016.

The infrastructure required for all e-passport issuance offices has been established and an online form with electronic payment capabilities that will be used by Rwandans citizens residing in the country and in the diaspora has been developed and is now in the testing phase.

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