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Ailing passport systems in Africa fails to respond to the growing demand

03.04.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
In several African countries, owning a passport is still a luxury as many deem it necessary to have one only when a traveling opportunity presents itself. Unfortunately, the country authorities are not making things any better as the procedures for obtaining one still remains very time consuming and complex. Passport applicants have to wait for several months and or in most cases pay huge sums of money to have their documents delivered. The reasons for the slow process however still remains uncertain but the population is surely bearing the brunt.

In many if not most countries, anyone who can afford a passport has to be patient. It takes more time than expected to receive a copy of the passport after finalizing all administrative procedures. Authorities have tried on several occasions to provide an explanation which usually falls short of valid reason. The difficulty in getting a passport appears to be felt in several countries.

In Cameroon, the National Passport Production Centre in Yaounde has in countless occasions informed the public of inadequate materials for passport production. Cameroonians are already accustomed to the phrase ‘there’s insufficient booklets’ each time they demand an explanation for the no issuance of passports.

Information from the Douala emigration office revealed that more than seven thousand applications for passports were sent to the production center since November 2018, but just a hand full of them have actually been produced. An inside source at the center noted that Yaoundé alone sends in close to 400 applications but the production center fails to produce half the number. Hence it now takes more than 3 months to get a copy of a passport.

In 2017 the Ugandan government indicated that it was running out of passports as a result of a rise in demand. It revealed that only passports for people suffering medical emergencies, or traveling for government business or to study will be produced.

Africa’s giant, Nigeria, has also had its share of this quagmire. In 2018 there were reports of scarcity of the international passport booklets and applicants had to wait for over four months to secure the document.

Zimbabweans are noted for spending nights outside the passport office to avoid losing their place in the queue. Similarly, the production center in Yaoundé is crowded as early as 4 am for those who hope to finish the process in a day.

AFRICANS ABROAD UNDERGO FACE SIMILAR CHALLENGES

The precarious situation plaguing the passport system is not only felt home, as several Africans resident abroad find it very difficult to renew their passports. The shortage is very severe for Africans who live abroad. Usually, most of them are left with no other option but to return to their home countries to undertake the process partly due to the lack of an embassy where they are found.

Ugandans who live in Congo Brazaville are obliged to cross over to the DRC or in worst case scenarios return home to get their passports renewed. Reports also revealed that Nigeria’s high commission in London is usually crowded with people demanding passports.

A Cameroonian working in the UAE shared an unfortunate incident of him losing his job after several unsuccessful attempts to get his passport renewed. Apparently, this is not an isolated case as some have missed study and other travelling opportunities due to their inability to secure a valid passport on time.

This situation has favored some officials in the production centers who now charge double in order to issue an express passport. In spite of the outcry by many, those who are financially viable now stand a better chance of having the document.

Hence, this makes the cost of obtaining a passport much more expensive. A publication by Jeune Afrique Magazine rated Cameroonian passport as one of the most expensive in the continent. And with people now having to pay twice the price, it makes it higher. Also the cost of getting a passport in the Democratic Republic of Congo is very expensive. It is estimated that it cost close to $185, placing the country among the most expensive in the world.

SOME COUNTRIES UPGRADE PASSPORT SYSTEM

In a bid to upgrade the passport system and deliver effective service to the masses, the Ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration in Ghana launched the Premium Passport Processing Center to ease the mode of application. The system which was introduced in 2017 took effect in 2019 and requires applicants to complete their application forms online and book an appointment with the center.

This could be a workable system for other countries to adopt which can help curb the stressful process applicants go through. With the rapid digitalization of the world, online application systems could be a better way of managing the growing demand for passports.

Summarily, it is evident that the demand for passports in most countries is fast growing and the systems in place are not adequate enough to manage such demands. This however, requires more suffocated and up to date systems to handle the process. Furthermore, administrative bottlenecks should be trim cut and access to required resources provided.

Article from AFRIC Editorial

Credit image : google images

 

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