East Africans will have to pay more for a new electronic East African passport that will replace the existing ones and be recognised globally after December 2018.
The e-passport or “smart passport,” which was launched by the EAC Heads of State in Arusha to be issued beginning January 2017 to December 2018, is a strategy to market the region.
Director for political affairs at Kenya’s Ministry of EAC David Njoka said the passport will comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) standards.
“The cost of the e-passport will be determined by the individual partner state and the time to start phasing out current national passports will also be determined by the partner state,” said Mr Njoka.
At about $200, the new passport will however be more expensive than the current EAC and national passports.
“The physical features of the current passport including the colour will remain the same. The only difference is that the EAC e-passport will have chips in set and bear the East African Community name on the cover in addition to the country’s name,” said Mr Njoka.
The chip has a radio frequency identification (RFID), which holds the same information that is printed on the passport’s data page — the holder’s name, date of birth and other information.
It will also contain a biometric identifier and have a digital photograph of the holder and security features to prevent unauthorised reading or “scanning” of data stored.
It will be valid for up to 10 years while the diplomatic passport and service passport will be valid according to specific term of the service of the holder and will have 32 to 64 pages.
The new document is said to be secure and difficult to duplicate compared with the existing passports.
“Electronic passports provide travellers with benefits, such as the ability to use automated border clearance or e-gates, the automated issuing of boarding passes and faster travel arrangements with airlines,” noted Mr Njoka.
Apart from facilitating quick clearance of travellers at immigration checks internationally, an e-passport’s database is enhanced with the automated fingerprint verification system that guard against the issuing of multiple passports to the same person and enhances imposter detection.
Heightened global security concerns led ICAO to set a deadline of 2015 for governments to equip passports with RFID chips.
In 2003, ICAO adopted a global plan for the implementation of not just machine–readable passports but also for use of biometric identifiers in all of its 188 member countries including all the EAC countries.
Already the United States, Britain, South Africa, Nigeria are issuing the e–passports.