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Zimbabwe's digital borders to go online in first quarter

by Staff reporter
08 Jan 2024 at 05:31hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE will start the full implementation of the digitalised border concept this first quarter with a target of transforming all ports of entry into electronic gates by the end of the year.

Once operationalised, Zimbabwe will be among the champions like the United Arab Emirates to have an unmanned border post where travellers enter and exit the country using electronic passports and have fingerprints and faces scanned without having to go through the traditional manually manned border control point.

The system uses biometric data recorded on the passport, such as fingerprints and facial recognition, to verify the identity of a traveller whose face and fingerprints are scanned and compared.

In UAE, most services including ports of entry, transport services, shops and other services are digitalised and there is less human interaction.

Once the traveller's identity has been verified, the boom lifts and they are allowed to pass through the unmanned border post.

Zimbabwe's Immigration Department chief immigration officer, Ms Respect Gono, said the digitalisation process is part of efforts by the department to unpack the National Migration Policy, which was launched by Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe in August last year.

She was recently in Victoria Falls where she toured the Victoria Falls and Kazungula Border Posts, which are primed for development of the One-Stop Border concept, which the Government is implementing.

The visit to the north-western region follows similar visits to Beitbridge and the Robert Mugabe International Airport.

"We know the festive season is a busy peak period where scores of tourists and returning Zimbabweans cross borders. This year we saw a number of people coming because there was no more Covid-19 speculation and restrictions," said Ms Gono.

"We had more than 550 000 visitors across the country and you would know that new terminals at Beitbridge facilitate the movement of people and vehicles.

"The good news is that the Government is working towards a programme starting with busy border posts like Kazungula and Chirundu where there should be a ‘One-Stop Border', which is certainly on the cards.

"We are implementing the online border management system signed by the Minister of Home Affairs with the company that is printing passports and we will be digitalising where people will be able to apply for visa from the                                     comfort of their homes. We will have the e-gate where people can scan and go," she said.

Ms Gono said the digitalisation of systems will help enhance efficiency and reduce corruption due to reduced human contact but will not cause the loss of jobs as immigration officers will still be required for other services.

It will also help reduce congestion and delays.

In the past Zimbabweans returning into the country would return earlier than the festive season to avoid congestion and delays at the borders.

"With an e-gate, there will be no negotiation. We expect the rollout to start in two weeks starting with big ports of entry such as RG Mugabe, Joshua Mqabuko, Beitbridge, Victoria Galls, Nyamapanda, Chirundu and Forbes.

"Smaller border posts will be covered in the second half of the year and you will notice that Mlambapele and Sango borders have been solarised as we want them to electrify so we use computers for the system to work. We expect to be up at all border posts by December 2024," said Ms Gono.

She said the Immigration Department was committed to smooth movement of people at all ports hence her recent tour of Victoria Falls and Kazungula border.

This is part of balancing the National Migration Policy, which at inception went together with Diaspora policy and National Labour Policy and Tourism Policy.

Under the Second Republic, Zimbabwe has been stepping up efforts to digitalise the economy.

Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube recently told Parliament that Zimbabwe wants to modernise its borders and be the first country outside Dubai to have an unmanned border post where one can walk in and use e-services.

Government has since acquired long-range drones for surveillance and patrolling of the country's borders to address security challenges posed by border jumpers and smugglers.

Source - The Chronicle