By David Lewis
The impoverished Democratic Republic of Congo has introduced biometric passports costing $185 apiece. But most of that money does not go to the state. Instead millions of dollars go to a private company in the Gulf – and sources say it is owned by a relative of President Joseph Kabila.
KINSHASA – One day in November 2015, President Joseph Kabila visited his foreign ministry and smiled broadly as a computer took his photograph and fingerprints. He was there to mark the launch of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s new biometric passport, fitted with a chip to store details of his identity.
Kabila and his aides have extolled the benefits of the passports, saying they will allow freer movement across an increasingly security-conscious world. In private, the organisers of the deal have another reason to celebrate: It presents an opportunity to make hundreds of millions of dollars off some of the poorest people on the planet.
The passport is among the most expensive in the world, costing each Congolese applicant $185. A UK passport costs half as much, and a U.S. passport $110.