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I very much welcome this workshop on the integration of the national ID and I would like to extend my gratitude to the National Registration Bureau and the UNDP for inviting the EU to give these Closing Remarks. The introduction of the national ID in Malawi has promoted the recognition of the rights associated with legally and internationally accepted proof of birth, marriage and death, particularly in relation to the promotion of human rights and validation of Malawian citizenship. The National ID will also assist Government in providing evidence–based information for socio-economic development planning.
Since the independence from British rule in 1964 and the advent of multiparty democracy in 1994, Malawi has never had a centralised national register, nor has it had a fully operational Births-to-Death Register. Before the National ID, an adult Malawian had very few documents by which to prove his/her identity, citizenship and personal information. Many people were using driver’s licenses and passports but the cost for these was prohibitive for many Malawians. The Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) voters’ card served then as the default national ID card which was generally accepted by some commercial banks and insurance companies as an authentic proof of Malawi citizenship. This was in spite of a disclaimer by the MEC on its use for purposes other than voting.
In a bid to contribute to universal efforts, the European Union interventions here in Malawi have been aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals and Africa's agenda 2063. Of relevance, here, is Goal 16 of the SDGs which is 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". As such, the National Registration and Identification System also known as the "NRIS" has been a project close to our hearts. Not only does it provide legal identity for all, the use of National IDs creates key opportunities for financial inclusion of every person, the elimination of ghost workers in the public sector, efficient payroll systems, enhanced and effective voter registration, unique patient IDs, and the future possibility of social security consolidation, just to mention a few. The EU and other developing partners have supported the National Registration Bureau ("NRB") in the implementation, management, coordination and maintenance of the NRIS.
For this system to work, ladies and gentlemen, there has been a need for cooperation from both the public and private sector. Unique technical assessments were made on the needs of each institution, on the advantages and opportunity of linking the different institutions with NRB. We are here to witness and commend one of those fruitful integrations.
The financial sector alone plays a key role in promoting the inclusion of people’s economic activity into the financial system by ensuring that first and foremost they are Malawian citizens. As such, it was very important that the sector is included and integrated with the National ID. The reception of the use of the National ID by financial sector has been such a great success story. The Reserve Bank of Malawi has keenly embraced the National ID and taken steps to ensure that all financial institutions understand the need for adopting National ID as the primary identification document for all financial transactions. And this has opened doors to countless financial and economic possibilities.
For this, I would like to commend the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi Dr. Kabambe for embracing this initiative. I would also like to commend the financial institutions, insurance companies and telecommunication companies in the country for adopting the use of the National ID in knowing their customers.
Lastly, I would like to encourage both public and private institutions in the country to take advantage of the unique initiative being undertaken by NRIS; an initiative which is aimed at providing a powerful opportunity to link and authenticate existing different databases against the biometric ID system owned by NRB. This is crucial to building an effective National ID system which provides individuals with legal documents certifying their rights to be recognized before the law and serves as a vital element for progress not only in finance and economic resources but also education, health and other basic public needs. The future begins today.