Uganda's digital passport, which will be launched in January 2019, will cost Ush250,000 ($67), a 67 per cent increase from the current cost of Ush150,000 ($40), making the document one of the most expensive in the region.
East African Community member states are moving from machine-readable passports to digital versions in compliance with international standards.
Kenya is charging Ksh4,550 ($45.5) while Tanzania, which started issuing the digital passports at the beginning of this year, increased the passport cost from Tsh50,000 ($22) to Tsh150,000 ($65). Burundi charges BFI240,000 ($134).
The digital EAC passport is being rolled out across the region in fulfilment of the 1997 directive from the precursor of the EAC Secretariat to create a regional travel document, similar to one announced by the African Union in 2016.
The idea of a common passport was floated by the permanent tripartite commission, a precursor to the EAC Secretariat, in 1997.
Following this recommendation, what is now termed the first generation EAC passport was introduced for use alongside national ones. But the EAC passport wasn’t recognised internationally.
The adoption of the national identity card as a recognised travel document for Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda also meant that those in the EAC who had regional passports had little use for them.
Although Uganda has in the past increased the passport price to collect more non-tax revenue, Internal Affairs Ministry spokesperson Jacob Simunyu said that this time round the change is intended to cover the cost of production.
“The old price was too low to pay for factory costs,” he said.
The electronic passport is intended to effect recommendations by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Stamping out forgery
ICAO recommended that passports should include a digital version of the biometric data page as a way to stamp out forgery of international travel documents.
The biodata page of the digital passport will now have a chip with biometric data that matches the machine-readable version.
Ugandans with the old passport have been given a January 2021 deadline to switch to the digital version.
Ofwono Opondo, Uganda’s government spokesperson, said the January 2021 deadline was set by the EAC. Since the digital travel document will now be called the East African Community passport, government officials say these deadlines have to be met.
Kenya, which started issuing the digital passport in September 2017, has set August 2021 as the deadline for phasing out the old travel document; while Tanzania has set January 2020 as the deadline.
Information from the EAC Secretariat shows that only Rwanda is yet to set a date for issuance of the digital passport.
Burundi has been issuing a digital passport, but is expected to change the name to include the fact that this is now an EAC travel document.