Cameroon recently announced an overhaul of its passport application process, rolling out an online process that would take two days to obtain a biometric passport. The new decree came into effect on July 1st, 2021, and it is too soon to tell how efficient the new machines will be. The most contentious issue is, of course, the price.
Huge Price Rise for Travelers
At 110,000 FCFA ($198), Cameroon now offers one of the most expensive passports in the world. To put it in context, the cost of making a passport is three times the minimum wage and about the same as how much the average worker earns every month. It will take the minimum wage employee over 500 working hours and the average earner over 160 hours to get a passport that only accesses 49 visa-free countries.
The further problems are hidden costs usually associated with preparing and receiving official documents, some of which require Cameroonians to have a passport. Judging by how Cameroonians usually obtain a passport, the new procedure doesn’t look like it will rush people to immigration offices.
Some Cameroonians may even cancel their travel plans as a result of the new measures. Passports aren't technically required to enter neighboring countries, but recent trouble at Cameroon's borders makes it safer to have one, discouraging travel and trade for the ones that need it the most.
For small business owners running on small capital, the price rise makes them delay travel, especially when they need proof of a visa before gaining access to certain opportunities outside the country.
For those who don't need to save for months to obtain a passport, this hike from 75,000 to 110,000 FCFA may be good news. In the past, this process has been a chance for middlemen to make profits, but for Cameroon’s upper-middle class, getting a passport in 48 hours could be a real hassle. Travelers and small-scale importers whose first passports expired have to pay the price.
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