• The East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit is set to launch the much-anticipated e-passport that will allow citizens from member states to move with ease within and outside the community.

    The launch of the new international East African e-passport will fulfill one of the EAC’s mandate which is to integrate members of the region for easier and faster movement of people.

    The unveiling of the electronic passport will be done during the 17th Ordinary East African Community (EAC) Heads of State Summit set for February 29, 2016, in Arusha, Tanzania.

    At the beginning of the year, EAC Secretary General Richard Sezibera expressed enthusiasm about the launch of the new generation passports. The e-passports will be availed to citizens in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. The regional electronic passport was set for launching in November 2015 but was postponed.

    The process of rolling out the travel document is expected to take two years. Already citizens from Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda can use national identity cards to travel in these states without the use of passports.

    This new development comes in a few days after the African Development Bank released the African Visa Openness Index report which highlights the need for Africa to adopt a more liberal approach on visa-openness to allow African travelers to access states in the continent with ease.

    According to the report which will be presented at the Africa CEO Forum in Abidjan, on 21-22 March 2016, on average Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other African countries and can get visas on arrival in only 25% of other countries. It added that Africans don’t need a visa to travel to just 20% of other countries on the continent.

    The Heads of State Summit is also set to discuss the negotiations on the admission of the Republic of South Sudan into the Community; Sustainable Financing Mechanisms for the EAC; and the EAC Institutional Review.

    Additionally, the meeting will consider 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; and the Promotion of the Textile and Leather Industries in the region, and stopping importation of used clothes, shoes and other leather products from outside the region.

    The Summit is also expected to deliberate on a report by the Council on the verification exercise for the admission of the Republic of Somalia into the EAC.