Government lauded over national IDs project

Lilongwe, Malawi government has been applauded for implementing a biometric national identity cards project.

A local human rights media organization, Centre for Solutions Journalism (CSJ) has said the issuance of national IDs to 9 million eligible citizens is a great milestone.

We would like to congratulate the government and its development partners for a job well done. Offering Malawians national identity cards is a milestone, CSJ Executive Director Brian Ligomeka said this in an interview with Mana Monday in Lilongwe.

He said it was pleasing to note that after enduring a long wait of over 50 years after independence, Malawians are finally getting legal documents identifying them as bona-fide citizens of the country.

The national ID cards will offer many solutions to our challenges. Many people in rural areas were struggling to access financial services but that problem is now over, the Executive Director said.

Ligomeka added that, While others may not see achievements of the administration of President Peter Mutharika, we at CSJ state without fear or favour that issuance of biometric national IDs is an achievement.

His comments come after the official announcement of mass registration statistics and handing over of registration campaign and operations to the Malawi Government at the Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe last Thursday on November 30, 2017.

During the official announcement of mass registration statistics, President Peter Mutharika described the whole process historical transformation.

He pointed out that, We made history. For the first time ever, Malawi has a legal identification system. Every Malawian now has a National Identity Card. This is transformation! The National Identity Card was my promise to the people of Malawi. I have always said � I promise what I do; and I do what I promise.

The initiative targeted to register 9 million Malawians but has so far beaten the target, courtesy of the desire of every eligible citizen to have a national identity card.

Despite the end mass registration, bona fide citizens can still register at District Commissioners’ Offices.

Only Malawians aged from 16 are eligible to register for National IDs as those below the age can only register for Birth Certificates.

According to Mutharika, there are many benefits of having the national ID.

With a National ID, every citizen can now access banking services because banks feel secure to deal with legally identifiable citizens. With the National ID, banks no longer have reason to deny services to our farmers, mothers and sisters living in rural areas, he elaborated.

Mutharika added that, The National ID Card is a game changer. With a legal identity of every citizen, we will now flash out ghost workers from the public service. We will save more money for public services.

With every citizen owning a National ID, even the Immigration and Citizenship Services Department, government has warned that there shall be no excuse for issuing passports to foreigners.

Several diplomats have lauded the project.

European Union Ambassador to Malawi, Marchel Germann branded it as a significant achievement that has put Malawi on track to achieve one of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on legal identity for all and birth registration by 2030.

The digital dividend of this project offers a unique opportunity for Malawi to position itself as a modern state on the African map. Technology can be a tool to establish transparent systems and hence underpin reforms. What we are witnessing today is a milestone for Malawi since it holds transformative promise for the country, he viewed.

Germann believes that Malawi, a nation of 17 million people, would enjoy the tangible benefits that ID Cards bring.

For many citizens to benefit from the card, establishment of linkages between the Identification System and government ministries is of paramount importance.

The initiative is a result of the strategic collaboration between the government of Malawi and its partners like UNDP, European Union, United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and United States which together funded the project.

Malawi contributed 40 percent of the project cost while its development partners contributed the remaining 60 per cent.

Source: Malawi News Agency � MANA