From March 2021, Cameroonians will be able to have more secure passports produced with the latest existing technology in the art and within the shortest time possible, Cameroon’s police service in charge of passport production has announced.

The passports will be produced within 24 hours for applicants residing in Cameroon and 48 hours for those residing abroad.

A partnership deal to this effect was sealed on 17 September between the Delegate General for National Security (the head of Cameroon’s Police), Martin Mbarga Nguele, and Chief Executive Officer of the German Biometric Technologies company expected to put in place the passport production system, INCM-Augentic, Labinot Carreti. Germany’s Ambassador to Cameroon, Corrina Fricke, sat through the signing event in the capital, Yaounde.

The financial terms of the deal were not revealed.

Cameroon's Police boss exchanges agreement document with INCM-Augentic CEO after penning the deal on 17 September 2020 in Yaounde.

New experience for passport procurement in Cameroon

The deal is expected to revolutionize Cameroon’s passport production experience which many users have described as nightmarish in the past. In Cameroon, procuring an ordinary passport is as difficult as an elephant passing through the eye of a needle. This is due to a string of procedural bottlenecks and the perceived existence of a mafia network involved in the process.

In the central African nation, the official fee for obtaining an ordinary passport is XAF 75,000 (about $ 135), and the period for its delivery is 30 days. But citizens are most often forced to spend three times that amount and have to sometimes wait beyond the official 30-day period.

The hiring of a new firm for the process has thus been welcomed by many as a laudable idea as authorities have given assurances that the document will henceforth not only be produced within a very short time, but also with state-of-the-art technological features which will make the document less vulnerable to the activities of fraudsters.

“Upon instructions from the President of the Republic, we have just recorded a milestone in our efforts to ensure the production of a very secure Cameroonian passport. With this project, the problems that have always bedeviled the passport issuance process in Cameroon will soon be a thing of the past,” Mbarga Nguele said. “This will put Cameroon among the countries with the best passport production services,” he boasted.

Company ready to deploy equipment

Labinot Carreti said the entire production process will be digitized, adding that there will no longer be any paperwork or other manual procedures like was the case with the former system. Carreti revealed that his firm has mobilized the necessary financial resources to install a robust infrastructure in Cameroon to ease the process.

“All our equipment are ready. Very soon, we’ll be laying the foundation stone for the construction of a building in Yaounde which will host our installations,” Carreti said, adding that production centres will also be set up in the headquarters of the all 10 administrative regions of the country. Until now, passports have been produced only in Yaounde.

The new deal means that INCM-Augentic takes over from another German firm, Gemalto, which since 2016, held the contract for producing secure identity documents such as passports and National Identity Cards for Cameroonians.

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