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Zimbabwe launches e-passports

By , Sub Saharan Africa Business, Tech, News and Development Journalist
Zimbabwe , 14 Dec 2021

The Zimbabwe government on Tuesday launched a new electronic passport (e-passport) and stipulated that current local passports will no longer be valid as at the end of 2023.

Information Ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana posted a message on Twitter which reads: “The world is moving to a place where many countries will stop accepting passports which are not machine readable because of the risk of counterfeits in the context of threats from terrorism and organised crime. Zimbabwe is keen for its citizens not to suffer indignity at borders.”

Charges for the new e-passports have also been gazetted - US$100 for an ordinary e-passport and US$200 for an emergency or express e-passport.

“The current type of passports … will cease to be acceptable internationally by 31st December 2023 and will therefore need to be replaced by e-passports,” according to Statutory Instrument 273 of 2021 published Tuesday.

Zimbabwe is understood to have a backlog in its passport distribution of about 185,000, with access to the document fraught with red tape that has also exacerbated levels of corruption within the passport issuing offices.

Critics have described the switch-over to e-passports as merely a money-spinning initiative for the government which is struggling to raise revenue for Treasury.

Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs Ministry underscored that the new e-passport “will protect the privacy of our citizens given the embedded features which protect against identity theft and counterfeiting” adding that it will also enhance security standards at ports of entry.

According to PwC, the issuing of e-passports is expected to “increase the security and efficiency of border- control” points. Similarly, the issuing, renewal and replacement of passports will be more efficient, thus saving costs to government.”

However, the research and analysis firm added: “One key challenge is how immigration departments will secure data to ensure its confidentiality, integrity” and availability.

“Data that identifies you as a citizen will be stored on a system, including particularly sensitive, biometric data (such as fingerprints and iris scans) as well as movement and restriction records. This data is validated against a central database in order to authenticate your identity.”

Uganda also intends to introduce e-passports in 2022 and phase out current machine-readable passports under an East African e-passports initiative.

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