GABORONE, BOTSWANA — The leaders of Botswana and Namibia have signed an agreement that will allow their citizens to cross the two countries’ border without passports. Starting immediately, citizens of the two southern African countries will only be required to produce their identity cards at crossing points.
Botswana’s president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and his Namibian counterpart, Hage Geingob, launched the passport-free travel arrangement at the Mamuno border crossing.
Masisi said introducing the use of identity documents for travel is necessary to foster unity between the two neighbors and other southern African states.
“The authorization of the use of national identity documents to cross our national borders, is a clear demonstration of our steadfast commitment to promote relations between our countries and foster social cohesion among our citizens, as well as enhance regional cooperation and integration,” Masisi said.
Namibian President Geingob says the move is a key step toward integration among countries of the Southern African Development Conference, SADC, and ultimately the entire continent.
“We are taking the first steps towards realization of (the) SADC Protocol on the facilitation of movement of persons, not only goods but persons,” Geingob said. “In the same vein, steps like these could form a foundation whose stepping stones may lead to the path in inspiring Africans to attain continental integration.”
Namibia and Botswana, two of Africa’s most politically stable countries, share a 1,500-kilometer-long border with five official crossing points.
Geingob said abolishing the use of passports will not open doors to criminal elements to cross borders without detection.
“Somebody was saying that we are going to allow the criminals to now roam around freely and do what they can do,” Geingob said. “I am telling you, no, that is not the issue. If you are a criminal, we will get you. To the citizens of our two countries the use of identity cards as travel documents is being put in place for the convenience of our citizens. It is your project and its success depends on you.”
Masisi says following the signing of the agreement, Botswana will introduce an electronic identity card.
“The Botswana passport is an electronic document that contains the biometric information that can be used to verify and authenticate the identity of travelers through a computer scan. In this regard, the Government of Botswana has also embarked on a process to transform the national identity card to an electronic identity card,” Masis said.
Botswana’s minister of Home Affairs, Annah Mokgethi, was part of the working group that, starting in 2019, explored the possibility of ending the use of passports between the two countries.
“This is without a doubt a monumental achievement which will ease movement and greatly impact on the lives of the people of our two countries and the region at large,” Mokgethi said.
Botswana and Namibia become the first countries in Southern Africa to abolish the use of passports to travel between them.
Source: Voice of America