The Southern African nations of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe are taking different measures to facilitate travel across their borders using digital identity and biometrics. The neighboring nations of Botswana and Namibia recently abolished the use of passports for mutual border crossings and have made their national ID cards the required travel credential. In this light, Botswana says it is working to introduce a biometric digital ID card to be used for that purpose. In Zimbabwe, the government says it is far advanced with work on a project to install biometric gates at border points as a way of smoothing border control processes for people traveling in and out of the country. This, as the country continues to expand its coverage for biometric passport issuance.
Botswana, Namibia leaders hail new consensus on travel ID
After the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed in February to put an end to the use of passports for travel between the two countries, their leaders have hailed the move as an exemplary step towards fostering sub regional integration.
Presidents Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and Hage Geingob of Namibia, as quoted by The African Exponent, say the agreement sets the pace for free travel in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc at bilateral and multilateral levels.
Meanwhile, as part of efforts to align with the new disposition, the Botswana leader dropped a hint that the country would soon introduce digital ID cards for its citizens to render their travel experience to Namibia seamless.
“The Botswana passport is an electronic document that contains the biometric information that can be used to verify and authenticate the identity of travellers through a computer scan. In this regard, the Government of Botswana has also embarked on a process to transform the national identity card to an electronic identity card,” said Geingob after the signing of the MoU, as quoted by The African Exponent.
‘Smart’ border gates in Zimbabwe
The country’s immigration department is implementing the project which will allow owners of biometric passports go through ID checks at the borders without any immigration officer intervening, says Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe.
The Minister made the announcement at the launch of a biometric passport enrolment center in the town of Mazowe, per The Herald, which notes that the new credential constitutes part of Zimbabwe’s digital transformation and innovation ambitions.
Speaking about the new biometric passport center, the Minister said the move is to make it easier for all Zimbabweans desirous of the document to have it in a convenient manner.
He mentioned that before now, the issuance of passports was limited to 10 provincial offices but this proved challenging as applicants queued up for many hours waiting to be served.
The official reiterated the advanced security features of the Zimbabwe new biometric passport, saying they meet standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).