The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has given its seal of approval for Ghana’s National Identity Card (GhanaCard) to be globally recognised as a valid e-passport.
Thus, holders of the GhanaCard, as well as 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.
Yesterday, at the headquarters of ICAO in Montreal, Canada, a ceremony was held during which Ghana, represented by the High Commissioner to Canada, Ransford Sowah, received the ‘key’ to symbolically indicate the country’s entry into the ICAO family.
The ICAO declaration follows an earlier hint, given in November 2021 by Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia, that Ghanaians anywhere in the world would soon be able to travel back home using their GhanaCards.
Delivering a public lecture at the Ashesi University on the role digitization is playing in transforming the 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.
“It is not widely known that the Ghanacard is also an electronic passport (e-passport) that contains the biometric information that can be used to authenticate the identity of travelers,” Dr. Bawumia had said.
He continued, “We have been working with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (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.”
However, 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.
Officials of the National Identification Authority (NIA) say 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.
A statement issued by the Authority said: “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.”
In brief remarks, Mr Sowah explained that the Ghana Card contains the biometric information of the holder 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/border-posts 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”.