Kenya will phase out issuance of its national passports from next year and adopt the East Africa travel permit in the quest by the six countries to harmonize business and regulatory processes.
The phase-out period will last two years and the six countries including South Sudan that was this week admitted to the East Africa Community (EAC) expected to only issue the regional e-passport by the start of 2019.
The EAC e-passport launched Wednesday during the Heads of state summit is expected to have additional security features to protect against identity theft and data skimming.
The regional passport comes as the EAC countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, which have already signed a common market and a single customs union, move to progressively converge their currencies and increase commerce.
“The EAC Heads of State launched the new international East African e-passport and directed that commencement of issuance of the EA e-passport takes effect from January 1, 2017; and implement the phase out program for the current East African and national passports from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2018,” said a joint communique issued at the end of the summit.
The presidents further instructed that the six partner states undertake programs to create awareness of the new passports internationally.
This will see regional authorities start writing to different international bodies to ensure that it is a recognized travel document worldwide. The passports were to be launched in October last year but this was postponed.
The e-passport will have an electronic chip that holds the same information in the biometric form as that printed on the passport’s bio data page, including the holder’s name, date of birth, passport number and what the holder does for a living, among other things.
It will also contain a biometric identifier, a digital photograph of the holder and security features to prevent unauthorized reading or scanning, which will in turn reduce cases of forgery.