The government will need about K5 billion to renew and issue national identity cards (IDs) for Malawians next year
The development comes when it has transpired that, from January 1 to December 2021, IDs for 2.9 million citizens would expire, costing the government K5 billion.
Homeland Security Minister Richard Chimwendo Banda has since said the government has set aside K400 million for the procurement of blank national IDs for new applicants and those renewing their documents.
“We, as government, are ready to immediately start renewing all the national identity cards that will be expiring. Treasury has already set aside about K400 million for the procurement of the cards that will be expiring in January next year,” Chimwendo Banda said.
Chimwendo Banda then said the government was already engaging development partners as it sought to find extra sources of funds for the exercise.
“What you should understand is that Malawians will be paying a fee to renew their national identity cards; so, [the issue of] funding is not a major concern now,” Chimwendo Banda said.
Malawians will be paying K2,500 to have their national document renewed.
Since Malawi commenced the mass registration of its citizens in May 2017, the national ID has become one of the most critical possessions for citizens to access services such as banking, voting and farm input subsidies.
Registration and identification of Malawian citizens followed the National Registration and Identification System (NRIS) Project which supported the National Registration Bureau (NRB) to have a functional and sustainable registration and identification system that would support improvements in service delivery, governance, economic and social inclusion, among other areas.
A source at NRB confided in The Daily Times that, annually, NRB issues not less than 500,000 ID cards to new applicants who have just turned 16 years.
“However, not all of them are coming for registrations. After the initial renewal of the first batch of ID cards expiring in 2020, NRB expects to renew about 950,000 ID cards annually but also replace lost and defaced ID cards. To do all this, NRB will require a budget of not less than K5 billion a year,” said the source.
NRIS was also critical to meeting Sustainable Development Goal targets that address issues such as the provision of legal identity to all, apart from facilitating the goal of reaching comprehensive birth registration by 2030.
However, three years down the line, millions of Malawians are facing the prospect of holding expired national IDs.
Information made available to us indicates that the national ID card was designed to last for 10 years, meaning that, in an ideal situation, all the people who got their ID cards during the Mass Registration Exercise in 2017 would have had their ID cards expire in 2027.
But NRB spokesperson Norman Fulatira is adamant that the government did well to allow for the gradual expiry of national IDs.
He said allowing all national IDs to expire at once would have created a logistical nightmare.
“However, this [allowing national IDs to expire at once] will not be an ideal situation for the country because it will result in another mass registration exercise. Therefore, during the design period of the project, NRB and collaborating partners decided to spread the expiry of the cards for 10 years depending on the age of a person while giving a grace period of 3 years.
“All cards that were supposed to expire in 2018, 2019 and 2020 were, therefore, pushed to expire in 2021. So, in 2021, around 2.9 million ID cards are expiring,” Fulatira said in a written response.
Eric Msikiti is a Senior Reporter/News Producer at Times Group. Though relatively young, Eric boasts years of experience in Malawi’s media industry.