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IDs fitted with electronic chips in the pipeline: Interior Ministry

Kenya launched the EAC electronic passport in August 2017/FILE

NAIVASHA, Kenya, Feb 20 –The Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government is working on a roll-out of third generation identity cards in a move geared towards enhancing free movement of persons and regional trade.

According to the outgoing Director of Immigration Services, Gordon Kihalangwa, the procurement process is underway and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“It will take almost a year to complete this process so that we ensure we give the new documents. Uganda and Rwanda are already issuing the third generation identity cards,” he said.

Kihalangwa, who has been nominated Principal Secretary for the State Department of Immigration, said the new documents will be fitted with electronic chips which will enable immigration officials at entry points scan holder’s details with ease.

The retired Major General said once rolled out, citizens will no longer need to carry multiple documents such as the driving license, National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) card, and even the Kenya Revenue Authority Personal Identification Number (KRA PIN) certificate, since the identity card will have the three integrated.

“We will ensure that citizens only travel with two documents: a passport and an identity card,” he told the press on the sidelines of a three-day workshop convened by the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD).

The main agenda of the workshop which got underway on Monday at a Naivasha resort is exploring mechanisms for the implementation of a free movement protocol among IGAD member States.

Newly appointed Interior Ministry Chief Administrative Secretary, Patrick Ole Ntutu who was also present at the workshop said the government will formulate relevant laws to operationalise the IGAD free movement protocol.

The IGAD comprises of Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

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Despite some strides having being made in achieving free movement of persons, the efforts have been hampered by delays in synchronizing travel and identification documents with regional blocks such as the East African Community (EAC) only having adopted a common passport recently.

Kenya launched the EAC electronic passport in August 2017 ahead of the December 31, 2018, target set by EAC member States. The old passports will be phased out by 2019.

EAC heads of governments agreed on the rollout of the new passports during the 17th Ordinary Summit held in Arusha, Tanzania, on March 2, 2016.

Tanzania rolled out the e-passport earlier this month while Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi are at various stages of procurement of the same.

According to a United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA ) report published in March 2016, the African continent is still performing dismally as far as intra-African trade is concerned.

“Intra-African imports as a share of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose from around 2.7 per cent in 1995 to around 4.5 per cent in 2013, but this is low compared with regions such as the Americas (6.7 per cent), Asia (17.9 per cent) and Europe (21 per cent),” the report titled “Assessing Regional Integration in Africa (VII)” pointed out.

“Only the Southern African Development Community (SADC) (from 3.6 per cent of GDP in 1995 to 5.7 per cent in 2014) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) (from 0.8 per cent in 1995 to 1.9 per cent in 2014) have seen substantial increases in the share of intra-regional trade in GDP,” the report indicated.

IGAD, according to the UNECA report lagged behind other Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in intra-Africa trade at 1.8 per cent.

“The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is Africa’s only regional economic community among the highest-performing regional trade agreements worldwide in 2013 (sixth out of 32; Africa’s other regional economic communities fall in the bottom half),” the study showed.

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Comparative statistics place IGAD at the fifth position in terms of population size compared to other RECs.

The block which covers some 5.2 million Km2 and about 6,960 kilometers of coastline with the Indian Ocean, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Toudjoura, and the Red Sea has 187,969,775 persons.

African Economic Community whose membership is drawn from a number of RECs is the most populous with 853, 5290,010 persons, followed by the COMESA, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and SADC at 406,102,471, 349,154,000 and 233,944,179 people respectively.

Maureen Achieng, Chief of Mission to Ethiopia and Representative to the African Union, IGAD and UNECA, said the enactment of a free movement protocol was vital to enhancing economic empowerment in the IGAD region.

Severe famine is among challenges facing IGAD member States with at least seventy per cent of the region comprising of Arid and Semi-Arid Lands receiving less than 600mm in rainfall annually.


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