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e-Passport for Africa a reality

e-Passport for Africa a reality.

Africa has the technical capacity to deliver on an AU (African Union) initiative to drive the development and adoption of a common African passport.

This is according to Charles Mevaa, Vice President for Government Programs in Africa at digital security services firm Gemalto.

Mevaa says there are already regional passports, including the ECOWAS passport in West Africa and the CEMAC passport in Central Africa, which makes it easier to achieve the same objective at a continental level.

"The technology to run such project is available and there is no technical issue implementing an electronic passport for the whole continent," Mevaa says. "The document shall meet the international standards defined by ICAO and a common specification (including a list of minimum security features) must be agreed on."

Gemalto supplies secure identity documents to several countries in Africa including ePassport and eID for Algeria, eID in Cameroon, ePassport for Morocco and passport and Smart ID card for South Africa.

Mevaa adds: "There is a need to have ePassport readers in relevant checkpoints (airports, land borders) whenever needed to authenticate the passport and identify the passport holder. These readers do already exist in several countries in the continent, either in those who currently issue electronic passports or even in those who are not yet delivering electronic passports to their citizens. Nevertheless, this needs to be done in every country in the continent. In addition, relevant telecommunication network infrastructure must also be implemented to allow the verification of the identity with the information stored in the existing identity databases.

The AU plans to launch its ePassport at a summit scheduled for July in Rwanda.

A release from the organisation says the common passport will "capitalise on the global migration towards e-passports, and with the abolishment of visa requirements for all African citizens in all African countries by 2018."

It is also expected to facilitate free movement of persons, goods and services around the continent - in order to foster intra-Africa trade, integration and socio-economic development.

"The initiative is a good one as it intends to ease travels within the continent," Mevaa adds. "It could be combined with initiative to allow Visa on arrival for countries who still require entry visas."

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