Getting a passport in Zimbabwe, how can tech help?

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Just happened that one of our team members was at passport office in Harare today to submit their application for an emergency passport (the 24 hour one) and they sent us the photo below. In fact this is their second attempt after failing to achieve anything on Friday despite spending the better part of their day there.

Passport Queue in HarareThis is what they are going through today even after they got there at 5AM. Needless to say, it’s one of the most frustrating queuing experiences you will go through for some time to come.

There are a lot of software engineers and tech entrepreneurs that will read this and we thought we could pick your brain on how tech can solve this problem best. How can the internet solve it? How can the most accessible device, the mobile phone, help? What about those citizens that have mobile phones that cannot access the internet, the so called dumb phones? What about those that don’t own any tech access device at all?

Have any suggestions? Please share in the comments below.

Just some additional notes; there are 3 passport options:
1. A 24 hour one which costs US $318
2. A 3 day one which costs US $253
3. A 1 month one which costs US $53


The $3 is for an application form. We have started a similar conversation on our Facebook page where you can also browse through suggestions by other readers.


  1. Jus' saying says:

    Unstealable concrete benches, concrete slab, and fibreglass sheets from Turnall or steel sheets from Essar for roofing. That’s what will work in Zimbabwe. Can’t have all those people standing in the mud in the rainy season, the whole day!!

  2. Robert Dondo says:

    A SMS/USSD/Web method of checking the status of your application will definitely reduce the length of that queue. Currently, the only way to check is by bringing your receipt and have them check for you.

    1. JamesM says:

      You are on the right track! At the time you hand in your passport the entire process chain until you receive your passport should be automated. But wait, even before you hand in your passport you should fill-out an ONLINE application before trekking to the passport office with your photos. At the passport office they should just pull up your application and verify your details, pay then off you go. You then track the progress of your application online. As soon as collection is ready an email or sms message should prompt you to go and fetch your passport with a huge grin on your face. It sounds and frankly it is simple for some of who make a living out of IT automation. Problem is? resources, the vision to do it, and the right/capable skills to do it.

  3. Dreamer says:

    There is a very simply solution, which is used in 60% of other countries. Use existing Post Office networks to collect required docs, signatures, photo’s and check applications. Post Office retains a fee of say $10 for the service. These are there couriered to a central location for processing and sent back to originating Post Office for customer to collect. Basically equip every post office with the Photography, Signature and fingerprint equipment: – with the high price they charge for the service, the ROI on this will be less than a year, in fact revenue should increase as they will be able to process more passports through the network.

    1. JamesM says:

      Won’t work the resources to equip post offices with that type of equipment are simply not there, unless you are willing to offer a handsome donation!

    2. JamesM says:

      BTW did I mention that in some post offices they are now selling chickens and rabbits? Go figure!

      1. Prosper Chikomo says:

        ha ha. lol. That was a good one!

      2. mabuza says:

        hahahaha. Funny but probably true

  4. KuraiMGT says:

    Your price list misses the $80 for greasing the hands of the procesers. LMAO

  5. tanaka says:

    Simple solution: Setup a telephone/online appointment system where a batch of customers are invited at a specific time and date for passport applications or collection. This will reduce queing. Email or SMS are used for progress notifications.

    1. tinm@n says:

      Your proposed solution wont work. What happens when the batch of 24hr/3day applicants exceed the respective, expected delivery time?

      Return of the queue. And even more confusion as batch count increases.

      First come, first serve.

    2. on whose account is the telephone cost ? Your solution is pretty much interesting but as of 2012 it’s far away from practice. It’s complicated and seems to be digging a hole to fill another hole.

      PROBLEM: Long inconsistent Queues.
      CAUSES?: caused by a lot of factors including social,economic,political & other direct and indirect reasons.Depending on which angle you look at it from

      POSSIBLE SOLUTION:Study what caused the sudden queues. Check history /Statistics etc. Once you have the facts, go back and fix what happened and then we can start applying a solution.Knowing the problem is half the solution. Glue can stick but putting it on a broken bone can cause more harm. Your solution shows your creativity & imaginative mind but we need to look at the bigger picture. Otherwise with your mindset you can do a lot. You need a little guidance and grooming. You’re quite good bro / sistren

  6. Blaz James says:

    Problem is that there are people out there who want it to stay this way. Those who get the $80 fee that you cannot mention.

  7. Hi TZ,why did u choose to ignore the issue in today’s herald about the Passport office going “Digital”??

  8. Nyasher says:

    This also is going to be covered by the widely talked of E-Government project underway

  9. Lethani Madhambi says:

    Why guys we don’t have excess to check passports without being queue

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