In a recent revelation by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, it has been disclosed that a staggering 97% of Ugandans do not possess passports. This statistic sheds light on the passport ownership landscape in the country, indicating both challenges and potential opportunities, particularly in the realm of labor migration and economic mobility.
Since the introduction of electronic passports in 2018, only approximately 1.3 million Ugandans have applied for passports. This leaves over 43 million individuals without this crucial document, highlighting a significant gap in access to international travel and opportunities for many citizens.
One of the driving factors behind the increasing demand for passports is the desire among young Ugandans to seek better prospects abroad. With limited job opportunities domestically, coupled with a growing labor force, many individuals, especially youth and women, are exploring avenues for employment beyond the borders of Uganda.
Despite efforts to streamline the passport application process, including the implementation of a new system in anticipation of higher application numbers, the actual figures have fallen short of expectations. Contrary to projections of 3000 passport applications per day, the reality stands at less than 1000 applicants per day.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a mixed impact on passport applications. While there was an initial increase in applications during the pandemic’s onset, the numbers have since stabilized, indicating resilience and adaptability in the face of global disruptions. The Ministry of Internal Affairs has responded to this dynamic environment by enhancing its passport issuance system, reducing processing times for both express and ordinary applications.
Express passport applications are now disposed of within two days, while ordinary applicants receive their passports within 10 working days. Additionally, the Ministry has emphasized the accessibility of the online application process, urging citizens to utilize official channels and refrain from engaging with brokers.
Since the launch of e-Passports in December 2018, a total of 1,346,560 passports have been issued, reflecting the government’s commitment to modernizing documentation systems and facilitating citizen mobility. Moving forward, there is a need for continued collaboration between the public and private sectors to address underlying socioeconomic challenges and unlock the full potential of Uganda’s human capital.
In conclusion, the low passport ownership rates in Uganda underscore both the existing barriers to international mobility and the untapped opportunities for economic development. By addressing these challenges through targeted interventions and inclusive policies, Uganda can harness the talents and aspirations of its citizens to drive sustainable growth and prosperity.