Biometrics for better governance

May 16, 2018

Citizens of Malawi will now have easier access to government services, be more included in the country’s economy and society, and be able to exercise their rights.

UNDP is supporting a new system to register all Malawians above age 16 and give them identity cards.

The registration process started on 24 May 2017, and by year’s end the country exceeded its goal of registering 9 million citizens above the age of 16.

The main objective of the National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) is to support the National Registration Bureau (NRB) to have a well-established, functional and sustainable registration and identification system that will support improvements in service delivery, governance, economic and social inclusion.

The project contributes to Government’s efforts to guarantee the fundamental right to identity, entitlement and enjoyment of full citizenship in Malawi. The development of the NRIS initiative is consistent with SDG 16 to: “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. Specifically, the NRIS will address SDG Target 16.9 that refers to providing legal identity for all, and will also facilitate the goal of achieving comprehensive birth registration by 2030.

“Without secure and trustworthy way to prove identity, a person may be unable to exercise a range of human rights. Identity systems improve governance, boost financial inclusion, reduce gender inequalities by empowering women and girls, and increase access to social safety nets for the poor,” said the Honourable Grace Chiuma, Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security.

“We recognize and respect the need to provide legal identity to all Malawians as this is their right. We are committed to work with the government to ensure that this effort successfully and sustainably achieves the desired goals,” reiterated the British High Commissioner to Malawi, Holly Tett, in her speech on behalf of development partners.

The mass registration exercise was carried out in five phases, and just over 9 million eligible Malawian citizens above the age of 16 were registered by December 2017. They were issued National Identity Cards a few weeks after the completion of the phase during which they registered. The first cards are free. 

This vision began with the State President, His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika.

“National ID [is] instrumental for citizens of Malawi in obtaining health care services, such as health insurance, and vaccinations. It [is] key to citizens’ political and legal rights, such as voting, owning property rights or receiving an inheritance. Enrolling children or applying for national or international scholarships, National ID will open the doors of opportunities for Malawians. Gender equality, including prevention of early and child marriages will be achieved through digital identity,” said the Ambassador of Ireland, Ms. Aine Hearns, on behalf of Development Partners at a conference held a day prior to the launch. 

The mass registration project is led by Malawi Government’s National Registration Bureau with technical support from the United Nations Development Programme, or UNDP.