Ghana’s national identity card, the Ghana Card, has received an international endorsement to be recognized globally as a valid electronic passport (E-Passport).
On Wednesday, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) gave its seal of approval for the Ghana Card, as well as its future biometric equivalents, to be used as official documentation at all 197 ICAO compliant countries and 44,000 airports worldwide.
The ICAO organized a “key ceremony” at its headquarters in Montreal, Canada, Wednesday [February 9, 2022], during which Ghana received the ‘key’ to symbolically indicate its entry into the ICAO family.
The ceremony marked the export of Ghana’s “Signing Certificate Authority” into the ICAO Public Key Directory System.
Although the card has been okayed, its actual usage will become possible by the end of the second quarter of this year, after the Ghana Immigration Service (GIS) links its systems to the NIA architecture for data integration.
By this approval, Ghanaians living in the Diaspora who hold the Ghana Card can board any flight to Ghana without the requirement of a visa or any other travel document, as the process covers all children and people of Ghanaian descent.
Ghana’s High Commissioner to Canada, Mr Ransford Sowah, in the company of a delegation from Ghana, including the Secretary to the Vice-President, Mr Augustine Blay; the Executive Secretary of the National Identification Authority (NIA), Prof. Ken Attafuah, and other officials from the Presidency, received the key on behalf of Ghana.
Also in the delegation were the Director-General of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA), Richard Okyere-Fosu; the Director of Passport, Mr Louis Kwame Obeng, and the Head of Technical Services, NITA, Mr Solomon Kofi Richardson.
The NIA explained that following the key ceremony, the Ghana Card could now be verified internationally and border control authorities would be able to confirm in less than 10 seconds that a Ghanaian biometric e-passport (booklet), as well as the Ghana Card/e-passport, was issued by the right authority, had not been altered and was not a copied or cloned document.
“In practical terms, this means that it will now be faster and more effective for border control authorities to verify the identity of holders of Ghana’s passports.
The key ceremony is the final stage of the implementation of Ghana’s e-passport project,” it said.
The Vice-President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, in a speech read on his behalf by Mr Sowah, said while the passport had no machine-readable features, except scanning, one of the features of the Ghana Card was an electronic machine-readable travel document that contained biometric information on the holder.
It also had a cryptographic digital signature of NITA stored on a chip that could be used to authenticate the identity of travelers, he added.
“This makes Ghana one of the few countries in the world where the national ID card meets the e-passport standards of the ICAO. This means that with this key ceremony, all holders of the Ghana Card have e-passports that are compliant with ICAO standards that can be read and verified at all ICAO compliant airports/border posts across the world,” he said, adding that it could be used for international travel, subject to visa restrictions and bilateral agreements.
Dr Bawumia indicated that Ghanaians living in the Diaspora who held the Ghana Card could board any flight to Ghana without the requirement of a visa, as the country sought to give “an inclusive Akwaaba experience to all children and descendants of our Motherland”.
The Vice-President added that the day marked a significant milestone in Ghana’s goal of digitalizing the economy as a transformational tool for the development of an infrastructure built on trust that met global standards.
Furthermore, he intimated that Ghana had been working with the ICAO over the years to become a member of its Public Key Directory (PKD) Community.
“I am happy to remind you that on 13th October 2021, Ghana officially became the 79th member of the ICAO PKD community. The PKD, a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate e-passports, allows border control authorities to confirm that the e-passport is issued by the right authority, has not
been altered and is not a copied or cloned document,” he added.
Dr Bawumia said the key ceremony was a timely and important event that was consistent with Ghana’s goal of becoming the preferred destination for global travelers, as well as an aviation hub.
He said as the headquarters of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), Ghana’s goal was also to become the business capital of the continent and the preferred destination for investment and tourism in the West African subregion.
He recounted how the country had witnessed a significant increase in travelers passing through its borders in recent times, following the sound policies that had been championed and implemented by the Akufo-Addo-led government.
“Our membership of the PKD community is, therefore, an important milestone ensuring that our borders remain welcoming and yet secure,” he said.
For bearers of Ghanaian-issued travel documents, he said, the country’s membership of the ICAO should lead to a better travel experience for citizens due to the trust and confidence reposed in the authenticity of the electronic machine-readable travel documents, such as the Ghana Card, by border control authorities.
In November last year, the Vice-President said Ghanaians anywhere in the world would soon be able to travel back home using their Ghana cards.
Delivering a public lecture at the Ashesi University on the role digitalization was playing in transforming the Ghanaian economy, Dr Bawumia indicated that apart from
acting as the major source of proof of identity, the Ghana Card would be used as an e-passport for Ghanaian citizens, all things being equal, by the end of the first quarter of 2022.