Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi Kikkan Haugen speaking at the press conference.

Speech by Development Partners Representative at press conference marking end of phase one of national registration

Jul 24, 2017

Honorable Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Affairs Grace Chiume, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, friends and colleagues, all protocol observed. Let me begin by extending heartfelt congratulations on behalf of all development partners, to the Minister and her staff at NRB as well as the members of the UNDP team, NRIS project, for the milestone achievements of Phase 1.

There is no doubt that whole team worked hard to make it happen. Their dedication and passion is indeed inspirational. NRIS project team of United Nations Development Program did an exceptional job!

We are pleased because fortunately the results that that will be announced by Honorable Minister of Home Affairs & Internal Security will not be carved in stone. Bio-metric kits have been left behind in Mchinji, Ntchisi, Salima, Nkhotakota, Kasungu, and Dowa,-- all the Phase 1 districts --  so that anyone who could not be registered, will still be counted. This will be the procedure for every phase. Even after the 5 phases are completed at the end of the year, there will be continuous registration for all districts beginning in 2018. No one will be left behind. These numbers will change as Malawi approaches universal coverage for all its citizens. "One person, one identity, one card".

This is a key UN Sustainable Development Goal target, 16.9, which recognizes the basic right of all people worldwide to a legal identity, which we as development partners also see as a cornerstone for Malawi's continuing development. Without a legal identity the citizen misses out on all development benefits of a society. You can’t lift people out of poverty if you can’t identify them. And without these numbers of proven citizens you cannot expect to have good governance. Now Malawi can take better aim at its targets for development. 

This may be why it's become so popular to say the national ID card will be a game-changer for Malawi.  But to be frank, will this card really make a difference for Malawi as an instrument for its development? If you care about technology, the answer is yes. Each card will have a chip carrying the unique bio-metric data of every registered Malawi citizen-- that is really impressive --as many as 9.7 million people with their own unique identity card. That's a technological leap for this country. Malawi will now have the most sophisticated identity card amongst its fellow SADC countries by far.

Norway is committed to Malawi’s long-term development and is already the country’s third biggest bilateral contributor. I am certain that our partners also share this commitment and want to see sustainable and documented results to continue this support. This is where the national ID card system can help make a difference.

A new eco-system built around the ID card can now be created by the Malawi government. Many cost controls can be achieved through this at every level of society, from the village level to the national level. This should be a national initiative that’s part of a reform agenda for Malawi so that it doesn’t rely on donors in the long-term. Malawi can be transformed so that it becomes self-reliant and self-sufficient.

Let me tell you how the exercise can be a game-changer in other ways. Last week my fellow colleagues and I made our 1st visit to the Consolidation Center --- that is the headquarters of the registration. It's really a large warehouse, that's now become the nerve-center for all the operations-- that makes sure the exercise is running, hitting targets, and in the end is successful.

As impressive as it was to see how hundreds of BRKs were lined up to upload data from a million people for consolidation into giant servers-- how a logistics - and call center were running on a 24/7 basis-- you could not help but be impressed by the hundreds of young registration officers gathering in that center--- in all there are more than 4000 officers-- now trained to operate biometric kits-- assembling there for their next assignment in the field.

This is a snapshot of the youth of Malawi-- each with their unique aspirations for the future. I spoke with one of them-- a young woman from Blantyre--- Thandie Chinkhandwe is her name. I asked her about challenges at the center. She explained how people had to be verified if they didn’t have any documents or enough documents and how community witnesses or village headmen were used-- and how rules must always be followed.

And she later talked about her own future-- how she now had new skills that she wanted to use either in future work at a government agency that would need people with skills in bio-metrics, or to even take those skills abroad, maybe to a neighboring country. A dream that’s not unique for any of these people but unique because it’s their own. 

Malawi is seeing the first light  of a new stage in its development - no one is being left behind when everyone is counted and has their own legal identity.  No one is left behind when everyone can now prove they’re Malawian and rightfully claim public services that should be delivered to bona fide Malawians. And Malawi will not be left behind as long as its young people have skills that will help take this country to the next stage.This is the real game-changer.

The conversation has now changed for Malawi’s future:

“Eya ndine mzika ya Malawi. Ndili ndi chitupe cha umzika.”

I can prove I’m Malawian. I have my national ID card.