Malawi Begins Mass Registration of its Citizens

May 25, 2017

A Malawian lady getting registered by an officer from the National Registration Bureau (NRB) in Mchinji district

Malawi has commenced the mass registration of its citizens as of 24th May 2017. This activity comes as a result of the National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) project whose main objective 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 will contribute 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 Honorouble 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.

Also in attendance was the Minister of Civic Education, Culture and Community Development, Cecilia Chazama who encouraged religious leaders to support everyone to be registered. 

The mass registration exercise is planned to be done in 5 phases, with the first phase covering the districts of Dowa, Kasungu, Mchinji, Nkhotakota, Ntchisi and Salima and will end on 15th July 2017. The next, 27th June to 18th August is to cover Dedza, Likoma, Lilongwe and Ntcheu. From 31st July to 21st September 2017, residents of Blantyre, Chiradzulu, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Mwanza, Nsanje, Neno and Thyolo are to be registered. Phase 4 should run from 3rd September to 25th October 2017 in Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi, Phalombe and Zomba. Finally, from 7th October to 28th November 2017, Malawians from Chitipa, Karonga, Mzimba, Nkhatabay and Rumphi are to be registered. It is expected that approximately 9 million eligible Malawian citizens, above the age of 16 will be registered by December 2017. They should be issued with National Identity Cards few weeks after phase completion. The first cards are free. 

This vision began by the State President, His Excellency Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, who championed the National Registration Act before Parliament as the Minister of Justice in 2009. On 27th October 2016, he presided over the launch of the National Registration and Identification System. Before this launch, Malawi was the only country within SADC and COMESA without a national ID system.

“National ID would be instrumental for citizens of Malawi in obtaining health care services, such as health insurance, and vaccinations. It would be 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 (UNDP). The Government of Malawi is contributing 40% of the project cost and the remaining 60% is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), European Union (EU), Irish Aid, the Government of Norway, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNDP.