Remarks by the EU Ambassador Marchel Germann
on behalf of the National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) Project Development Partners
Thursday, November 30th, 2016; Kamuzu Palace, Lilongwe
On behalf of the European Union and Development Partners, I am honored to witness this moment of pride and expectation in Malawi’s history.
Your Excellency, on 27 October 2016, you presided over the launch of the National Registration and Identification System, making it a priority of your Administration.
Today, you will be announcing the conclusive results of the nationwide Mass Registration Campaign. This is a significant achievement, putting Malawi on track to achieve one of the targets under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) on legal identity for all and birth registration by 2030. Let me congratulate you on this achievement.
Your Excellency, 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. More than two million Malawians have already collected their smart ID cards. Soon, they will enjoy the multiple benefits that these cards will bring.
Your Excellency, these achievements represent a strategic coalition of engagement and commitment between the Government of Malawi, and Development Partners – the UNDP, the European Union, UK, Ireland, Norway and the US- which together have funded slightly more than 60% of the project. The Government of Malawi has been the largest financial contributor to this initiative, showing its commitment to this partnership and the transformation that national registration can bring. The 4,200 young Malawians who were recruited and trained as registration officers, and the staff at NRB, have created a foundation for a National ID.
This is encouraging. However, such achievements are not an end. Now, a new chapter begins as we look forward to the tangible benefits that ID Cards will bring to all Malawians in diverse spheres of life.
Your Excellency, building on the current achievements, Development Partners would like to encourage your Government to ensure that the NRIS, coupled with the ID Cards, will translate into improved service delivery and strengthened democracy. We invested in this project to see improved governance and an increased tax base by efficiently utilizing this system; to see e-health passports, giving instant access to patients’ medical histories, saving time and lives; and to see improved access to justice and social protection becoming realistic goals to aspire to. ID Cards are also expected to usher new opportunities to roll out targeted financial inclusion programs.
For this to happen, there is need to establish NRIS linkages with Ministries, Department and Agencies. As such, we call for strong commitment and leadership across these institutions so that the linkages blossom. We hope that the office of the Chief Secretary will be instrumental in how Government would start the detailed planning on the multiple uses of the new national ID. The first such crucial linkage was made between NRB and the Malawi Electoral Commission, just before the Mass Registration Campaign started at the end of May 2017. We are expecting that this will improve the integrity of the voters’ register and, more importantly, reduce the total cost of the elections. The introduction of ID-Cards should translate into significant cost-savings on the voter registration process and the overall election budget. That will be a first test-case for the returns of the NRIS project and a first opportunity we cannot miss to demonstrate the potential of this investment.
Many other potential linkages exist, for instance with the Malawi Revenue Authority, the Ministry of Health, the Immigration Department and the banking sector, to create an ecosystem that can provide dramatically improved services for the bearers of the national ID.
Now, there is also need to ensure that national registration is sustained as a permanent and continuous system for all Malawians, as they turn 16 years of age. All Malawians must be able to continue to register and obtain a legal identity, at District Commissioner’s Offices and Post Offices all over the country. This, Your Excellency, calls for continued commitment and leadership of your Government to make sure that sufficient resources are allocated to NRB for a permanent and continuous registration system, while ensuring that every Kwacha invested is put to good use.
Your Excellency, turning the ID Cards into an effective tool that enhances service delivery, financial inclusion and democracy for all Malawians should be a development imperative for the country. This can be achieved not through the time-limited intensity of a national campaign, but through longer time planning and cooperation. There is much to be done but the potential of the ID cards is immense and we can fully reap their benefits if we continue working together.
Today, we celebrate success, and I convey my warm congratulations to you, your Government, and to all stakeholders of this project.