The East African Community – a regional intergovernmental organization involving Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania – is introducing a regional electronic passport. This will facilitate international travel as well as help the region become more integrated.
Leaders coming together
The 17th OrdinaryA took place on March 2nd. It was hosted by the chairman, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli, and was held in Arusha. Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, and Salva Kiir of South Sudan were all in attendance.
“As one of the fastest growing regional economic blocs in the world, the EAC is widening and deepening co-operation among the Partner States in various key spheres for their mutual benefit. These spheres include political, economic and social,” the EAC website states.
The representatives of each country came together and discussed the launch of the electronic passports for all of the region’s citizens. The new passports will give their citizens more free movement; they will be able to travel across the region as well as internationally. Travelling with the old EAC document was restricted to the five EAC member states. A statement released by the EAC’s Secretariat says that the heads of state “directed that commencement of issuance of the EA e-passport takes effect from 1st January, 2017; and implement the phase out programme for the current East African and national passports from 1st January, 2017 to 31st December, 2018.” The electronic passport will have advanced technology to reinforce national security systems and have a secure e-immigration network. Having a common passport will help increase the region’s integration, which is one of the EAC’s main goals.
“At the moment, the regional integration process is in full swing as reflected by the encouraging progress of the East African Customs Union, the establishment of the Common Market in 2010 and the implementation of the East African Monetary Union Protocol,” the site says.
Other important subjects were discussed
The passport is just one of many important matters the EAC discussed at the summit. According to New Vision, representatives went over “council reports related to the reduction of exportation of used cars into the members states, promotion of textile and leather industries and forge ways of putting a ban on importation of used clothes, shoes and other leather products so that they can boost local leather industries.” The statement from the Secretariat said other issues were harmonising telephone rates, setting up a vehicle assembly plant within the region, and council reports on “The Model, Structure and Action Plan of the EAC Political Federation; Implementation of the Framework for Harmonized EAC Roaming Charges; Modalities for Promotion of Motor Vehicle Assembly in the region and Reduction of the Importation of Used Motor Vehicles from Outside the Community.” South Sudan was also officially admitted as a member of the EAC. Somalia had also hoped to be admitted, but the country had not met the required verification exercise. Somalia was directed undertake the exercise and report to the 18th summit.