AI, digital tech and data to drive border control and management

Officials say the border of the future is going to be secure but contactless. Human interaction will be minimal checks and controls.

In Summary
  • Traditional security hardware will remain crucial for counties in the immediate future.
  • Interior PS Raymond Omollo said the conference seeks to build a culture of collaboration and synergy to mitigate against common challenges.
CS Kindiki addresses the meeting on April 2, 2024.
BORDER CONTROL: CS Kindiki addresses the meeting on April 2, 2024.

Future border control and management will be driven by technology with minimal human contact.

Officials believe, while traditional security hardware will remain crucial for countries in the immediate future, the border of the future is going to be secure but contactless. Human interaction will be minimal. 

The secure flow of people and goods is already improving and more secure due to more transborder inter-agency interaction, better equipment and help from communities.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki emphasised the future of securing the borders lies in technology and artificial intelligence as security threats continue to change. 

“The use of technology, in particular digital technology, is crucial for future border control and management. Future border control management is going to be driven by data,” the CS told the first regional meeting on border control.

He spoke during three three-day inaugural National Border Management Conference in Nairobi on April 2, attended by delegates from Tanzania, Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Uganda.

Kenya's borders are vital conduits for legitimate trade and travel, facilitating exchange of goods, ideas and cultures, not just with the neighbours, but the whole world.

“However, they also present challenges in the form of transnational crime, terrorism and other illicit activities that threaten the safety and security of our people,” the CS said.

“To keep our borders safe and secure for Kenya and neighbouring countries, the government has made significant investments in equipping security agencies with the latest technology and resources. They will combat complex security threats such as terrorism, human trafficking and trafficking in narcotics."

He added Kenya's commitment to border security is not merely about safeguarding her own national interests, but also fostering regional cooperation and promoting economic prosperity locally and regionally.

Inter-agency cooperation is essential for success in border management, the CS said, adding no single agency alone can address the myriad challenges posed by border security.

This will require fostering a culture of collaboration and information sharing among all stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, immigration, customs and intelligence.

Speakers discussed the need to harness technology, use proactive engagement strategies and work jointly to enact positive transformation and bolster border communities.

Kindiki said the concept of the border has changed in the sense that, while physical borders still exist, there's also the virtual border. That virtual border has become even more critical to manage and control, more so than the physical border.

The conference theme was ‘Building on Coordination and Moving Towards Integration’. It sought to address drivers of conflict and strengthen cooperation in trade and the safe movement of persons.

“As we struggle to harness our efforts to control and manage the physical border, we are confronted with the virtual border which is giving us even more complications,” the CS said.

"The traditional way of securing our country will remain relevant and therefore the traditional security hardware will remain crucial for countries in the immediate future.

“The government has recently equipped our security forces with the latest equipment and resources to combat threats to national security,” The modernisation programme includes the National Police Service, National Intelligence Service and the Kenya Defence Forces.”

This will mean more concentration of security efforts on virtual space in the foreseeable future.

He emphasised the need for vigilance and collaborative participation of citizens and neighbouring countries in intelligence-sharing to avert crime.

Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo said the conference seeks to build a culture of collaboration and synergy to mitigate against common challenges.

He said locally, the adoption of a multi-agency approach at the points of entry and exit has improved data collection and analysis, which translate to more effective operations.

“It is now easier to identify and respond to threats of a hybrid nature, including cross-border and transnational organised crimes. We are progressively reducing the use of forged travel documents, illegal migration, human trafficking, smuggling of weapons, trafficking of narcotics, and money laundering among other crimes,” Omollo said.

The PS said clearance of persons at the points of entry and exit has also improved.

Trade volume has increased as a result of the smooth movement of people and goods across borders.

“These achievements have had a tremendous ripple effect on our national security, which is a critical driver and enabler of sustainable development,” he said.

Omollo said Kenya has made remarkable strides in enhancing border security and management through investment in advanced technologies to detect threats more swiftly.

All these measures, he said, are aimed at ensuring consistency and efficiency in border operations across all ports of entry and exit.

Kenya’s decision to abolish visa requirements for all foreign visitors from January 1 this year was criticised as being an avenue allowing criminals into the country.

However, to prevent that, the government implemented an Electronic Travel Authorisation system that visitors must obtain before travel unless they are citizens of eTA-exempted countries.

“We must be able to strike a balance between facilitating trade and movement and vigilance making sure we do it securely,” Omollo said.

Immigration PS Julius Bitok, among others, also addressed the meeting.

The conference was also attended by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the European Union delegation to Kenya, diplomats and government officials from agencies in the sector.

The agencies in attendance were Kenya Maritime Authority, National Counter Terrorism Centre, Kenya Ports Authority, Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport Project, Kenya Revenue Authority, Anti-Counterfeit Authority, NIS, National Police Service and the Kenya Coast Guard Service.

International Organisation of Migration Chief of Kenya Mission Sharon Dimanche said the organisation is committed to working with Kenya to ensure the illicit flow of goods and persons is mitigated with the removal of visa restrictions.

Last year Kenya launched a coordinated border security and control curriculum to complement efforts to secure borders. It hosted the inaugural regional ministerial conference on migration.

“Kenya is a major mobility hub. We see very many people on the move through Kenya and others looking at Kenya as a destination,” Dimanche said.

“The fact that God blessed Kenya with its strategic location along the seaport means many countries are benefitting from you, so besides human mobility, we have goods transiting through the country. This means that the security of Kenya has an impact on the security of the region and even beyond,” she said.

Through the IGAD clusters, Deputy EU Ambassador to Kenya Ondrej Simek said the EU is supporting the Horn of Africa region along the border of Kenya with South Sudan, Moyale border, and Mandera triangle (common border between Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia). The EU addresses the causes of conflict and improves social cohesion in communities in the area.

“Where borders are managed effectively, trade flows and people move with ease and the cost of doing business is reduced. Border communities benefit and the neighbouring countries benefit,” the German Ambassador said.

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