Some of Ghana’s missions abroad, have completed the installation of equipment for the issuance of biometric passports in their areas of oversight.
They include, London, Berlin, Washington, New York, Abuja with Pretoria; Ghana’s mission in South Africa, issuing biometric passports to Ghanaian citizens in that country.
The rest five, are currently going through the process of installation of software and biometric bar codes and conducting their test runs.
In a Tweeter message last Wednesday, the Foreign Minister, Hanna Tetteh, congratulated Ghana’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Kwesi Ahwoi, and his team at the High Commission in Pretoria for being the first to roll out 60 biometric passports to Ghanaians on the day.
“Six of our missions abroad are to begin issuing biometric passports this month. Pretoria, S.Africa started today. Congratulations to Amb. Kwesi Ahwoi & team for being the first to roll out issuing 60 biometric passports today,” she tweeted.
This makes South Africa the first of Ghana’s 57 missions globally to start issuing the biometric passport from June this year.
This announcement comes on the heel of another major stride disclose in Tokyo – Japan last month, but the Foreign Affairs Minister said that, Ghana was moving away from issuing biometric passports to chip-embedded passports to its citizens, next year.
Once all missions are online, some pressure will be taken off the passport office in Accra, and will allow Ghanaians in Europe and America, Southern Africa and Nigeria the opportunity to obtain biometric passports without having to send their applications to Accra.
Conservatively, it is estimated that there are over three hundred thousand Ghanaians in Nigeria alone, putting a lot of pressure on Ghana’s High Commission for the passports and other consular services there.
Analysts have also suggested that there must plans to bring technology and greater efficiency into the process of births and death registration by the Ministry of Local Government.
It was explained that currently, over 60% of those who apply for passports bring certified true copies of their births certificates that say they were born in Accra, that cannot be true and it should not be so easy for anyone to just be able to get a certified true copy of your birth certificate saying you were born in Accra especially if you know you were not.
The process of ascertaining nationality with birth certificate in Ghana has been described as the weakest link in the passport application and acquisition as it is one of the basic documents required from an applicant, and this problem must resolved, not by Foreign Affairs but the sector ministry responsible for births & deaths registration.
Addressing the Ghanaian community in Tokyo, Ms Tetteh had said that the chip-embedded passport will enable the Ghana meet international standards, as well as make it possible for Ghanaians in the diaspora to acquire passport from Ghana’s 57 missions and consulates worldwide.
This means Ghanaians with the current biometric passport would be required to upgrade to the chip embedded passports which can also be acquired locally from all the 10 Regional Passport Application Centres nationwide.
Ms. Tetteh, was part of the delegation that accompanied President John Dramani Mahama and his wife, Lordina, on their three-day official visit to Japan.
“What we are going to do is not to give u biometric passport but rather to upgrade the system to begin to issue from next year, a chip embedded passport because we are moving from biometric passport to chip embedded passport,” she explained.
This is in line with the International Civil Aviation Organization Regulations which requires member countries to migrate to a chip embedded passport from October this year, she said.
Ms. Tetteh, said international procurement processes, have already began and six companies have been shortlisted to provide proposals for consideration and award of a Build, Operate and Transfer infrastructure for the new chip embedded passport.
“We are going through a procurement process and it is an international competitive tender, to select a partner who is going to help us to on a BOT basis, to build up the infrastructure across all our embassies [57 missions and consulates], the passport office in Accra and 10 regional passport application centre,” she said.
When operational, she said Ghanaian citizens apply for their Ghanaian passports from all the embassies of Ghana, where a data capturing and printing centre will be built.
“We believe we would finish this process in the next three months…we’ve given ourselves a period of a year to role this out,” she said.