The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has given its seal of approval for Ghana’s national identity card, Ghana Card, to be recognised globally as a valid e-passport.
Thus, holders of the Ghana Card and its future biometric equivalents can present it as official documentation at all 197 (ICAO) compliant countries and 44,000 airports worldwide and board flights to Ghana.
This follows a “Key Ceremony” on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, at the headquarters of ICAO in Montreal, Canada, during which Ghana, represented by the High Commissioner to Canada, Ransford Sowah, received the ‘key’ to indicate the country’s entry into the ICAO family symbolically.
The ICAO declaration follows an earlier hint, given in November 2021 by the Vice President, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, that 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 digitisation is playing in transforming the Ghanaian economy, Dr Bawumia indicated that apart from acting as the major source of proof of identity, the Ghana Card will be used as an e-passport for Ghanaian citizens, all things being equal, by the end of the first quarter of 2022.
“It is not widely known that the Ghana Card is also an electronic passport (e-passport) that contains the biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers,” Dr Bawumia said.
He continued, “We have been working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) this year to globally activate the e-passport function of the Ghana card, and I am happy to announce that on October 13 2021, Ghana officially became the 79th member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Public Key Directory (PKD) community.
“The ICAO Public Key Directory (PKD) is a central repository for exchanging the information required to authenticate e-passports.”
This announcement was dismissed by a section of the public, especially members of the NDC, as “Impossible” and at best a figment of his imagination. Senior media personality, Kwesi Pratt Jnr, went as far as describing it as a “lie.”
Officials of the National Identification Authority (NIA) say, however, that with the Key Ceremony in Montreal over, the Card can now be verified internationally, and border control authorities will be able to confirm in less than 10 seconds that a Ghanaian biometric e-passport (booklet), as well as the Ghanacard/e-passport, were issued by the right authority, have not been altered, and are not copies or cloned documents.
A statement issued by the Authority read in part, “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 implementing Ghana’s e-passport project.”
In brief remarks, Ransford Sowah explained that the Ghana Card contains the holder’s biometric information with a cryptographic digital signature stored on a chip that can be used to authenticate the identity of travellers.
“This makes Ghana one of the few countries in the world where the national ID card also has an e-passport capability,” he emphasised.
He continued, “This means that with this Key Ceremony, all holders of the Ghana Card have an ICAO compliant e-passport that can be read and verified at all ICAO compliant airports/borderposts across the world.
“It can be used for international travel, subject of course to visa restrictions and bilateral agreements. Indeed, the Ghana Card is already valid for travel in all ECOWAS countries.
“For Ghanaians living or born in the diaspora, holders of the Ghana Card can be allowed to board any flight to Ghana without any visa requirement as we seek to give an inclusive Akwaaba experience to all children and descendants of our motherland.”