Kenya to launch biometric passport
20 April 2015 16:50 GMT

Kenyan officials confirmed over the weekend that the country’s ePassport will be launched in November.

Directorate of Immigration and Registration of Persons, Gordon Kihalangwa, said on a live Twitter chat that tracking individuals’ movements will become easy with the ePassport.

“In Africa, only Burundi has implemented the e-passport. By November, Kenya will be introducing the ePassport,” he said.

Kenya will also be accelerating development of a national database that will encompass ePassports, eBorder, eVisa and “third generation” eID cards, the official said.

“As Kenya embarks on relaxing border restrictions through the East African Community integration process, Nairobi will not allow its borders to be easy targets for criminals,” Kihalangwa said.

In February, the East African Community revealed that it had allocated funds for study into a regional ePassport that would also be used by citizens of member states for international travel.

In November, Security Document World reported that the Kenyan government had confirmed plans for a US$145 mn scheme will see all Kenyan nationals, including children, issued with electronic national identity cards.

An unnamed Israeli firm has won the contract to manage registration for the National Digital Registry Service (NDRS), which will see all data on individuals and their assets stored in one data bank.

Registration for the NDRS will start next February, with eID cards to be issued by October 2015.

The cards will store biometric data including fingerprint, iris scans and a photograph, as well as information on assets, bank accounts, driving licences, and passport and personal identification numbers.

The Kenyan Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service said the project had been motivated by terror attacks, particularly the September 2013 assault on the Westgate shopping mall by the Islamist group al-Shabaab.

“The Israeli company was chosen because of the track record Israel has on security services. The reason for the National Digital Registry Service (NDRS) is the increase in insecurity, especially after the Westgate attack,” said Mwende Gatabaki, director-general of the Kenya Citizens and Foreign National Management Service, during a sensitisation meeting on Wednesday.

However, officials have said in the past that there are also socio-economic benefits expected, including improved services anti-corruption measures.

In September, finance officials confirmed plans to integrate banking into the cards to boost financial inclusion.

While the government has committed $10 million to cover the early phase of registration, it is seeking $35 million from USAid, DfID, the World Bank and AfDB to support a management office, capacity building, change management, communication and public awareness.

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