All travelers exiting, entering, or transiting through Ethiopia will from today be expected to present a digital proof of negative COVID-19 certificates, the country’s Ministry of Health has announced.
Health Minister Lia Tedesse said the country will, from July 1st, only accept negative COVID-19 certificates obtained from the Africa Union’s Trusted Travel and Global Haven Program, heralding a new dawn in paperless smart test certificates and paving the way to the much awaited Africa Vaccine Passport.
The Trusted Travel (TT) platform pioneered by the African Union in Kenya in January contains information on travel requirements at the destination ports. It also gives travellers access to a list of approved laboratories conducting COVID-19 tests across Africa and beyond.
Tedesse said the move is aimed at curbing increased cases of falsified health documents amid rising cases of COVID-19 in some parts of the world.
“In an effort to address this gap, the ministry of Health has collaborated with the African Union and Africa CDC, with technical support from PanaBios Consortium to implement an online system to authenticate and verify travelers’ COVID-19 certificates in line with international rules,” said the minister.
PanaBIOS relies on machine learning algorithms, testing data and air transit records to power predictive analytics. It was developed as part of a research and development partnership with Koldchain BioCordon, a Kenyan-registered group with a presence in the US. The complementary Global Haven system, backed by the UNDP, uses computer vision, risk ratings and forensic algorithms to flag shady test certificates and speed up investigations by the authorities.
By adopting cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) tools, Ethiopia hopes to validate COVID-19 test and vaccination certificates more effectively without inconveniencing travelers or increasing the administrative burden on airlines.
This is good news for travellers, burdened by slow manual processes and arbitrary screening decisions at some airports. The AU says use of its TT system and the PanaBIOS software ensures travelers can more seamlessly use COVID-19 test results obtained in one country to satisfy port clearance requirements across the continent.
As such, the wider adoption of the technology will remove duplication of travel requirements such as repeated Covid-19 tests. The AU remains “hopeful that digital technologies can play a very powerful role in driving positive cooperation among Member States” even as countries reopen economies to travel and trade.
According to Ethiopia’s health ministry, the new measures “come at no extra cost to travelers”. Further, the ministry says, the requirements are designed to speed up and greatly streamline health-screening measures at the airports.
Ethiopia has already registered approved RT PCR COVID-19 testing laboratories on the AU Trusted Travel (TT) platform. Tedesse said travellers from countries yet to on-board TT system should use a special uploader available through the Global Haven (www.global haven.org).
The Health Ministry also urged all travellers to check the test requirements of transit and destination countries on xchange.panabios.org or www.africacdc.org/trusted-travel to ensure their tests remain valid for the duration of their full trip.
To check validate their test results, travellers are required to enter their test result (TT) code and generate a travel code (TC) before embarking on a journey.
The African Union launched the Trusted Travel in October 202o during a joint ministerial meeting of the health, transport, and information and communication ministers of the African Union Member States.
Kenya was the first country to adopt the use of the AU-backed Trusted Travel (TT) platform for managing travels during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Efforts to promote the adoption of Trusted Travel Pass come at a time when the AU is strengthening the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), an continent-wide trade agreement.
AfCFTA is one of the flagship projects of the First Ten Year Implementation Plan (2014-2023) under the AU’s Agenda 2063. According to the AU, Africa has a combined gross domestic product of USD$3.4 trillion. Implemented in January after years of delay, AfCFTA has created the world’s biggest trade area by number of countries participating.