By Norman Fulatira
Malawi is the last country in southern Africa to register its citizens and issue national identity (ID) cards.
However, the delay could be a blessing in disguise since Malawi has issued an ID card which in fact is a smart card.
The purpose of the ID card is to positively identify bona fide Malawi citizens aged 16 and above. Other than identification, national ID cards also assist government in enhancing service delivery such as access to financial services; social support services that include farm input subsidies, free health services; disaster management and response and many others. In simpler terms, the national ID card provides for: One ID—One person—One unique number, but multiple purposes.
For the Malawi national ID card to be linked with services other than identification, an expiry date is necessary and also mandatory.
It is important to note that according to Document 9303 of the International Civil Aviation Organisation standards on Machine Readable Documents, an “expiry date” is not just a required field but compulsory. Since Malawi is issuing a modern national ID card, it is necessary to align it with international standards.
“Common sense” is another reason why the Malawi national ID card has an expiry date. Since the card is issued at one’s 16th birthday and renewed after every 10 years, it is scientifically proven that such a period is long enough for one to change biometric features such as facial image. It is important, therefore, for Malawians to be renewing their national ID cards after every 10 years to allow for fresh capture of their facial images.
The Malawi national ID card also has an expiry date in order to allow for the renewal of the card. Even with the best material on the land, ten years is a long time, and in due course the card is subjected to various hazards necessitating to loss of surface quality.
Having discussed the reasons for the expiry date, it is pertinent as well to explain the variations of the expiry dates even if people register on the same day.
The National Registration Bureau tried as much as possible to avoid another national ID cards “mass registration”. Malawians, be reminded that it took the Government of Malawi and development partners about $50 million to conduct the “mass registration” exercise.
We, as a country, certainly cannot afford another mass registration any time soon because it is a costly exercise. In this regard, each national ID card is expiring on an individual’s 26th; 36th; 46th, etc. birthdays. This is in keeping with the fact that all individuals cannot be born on the same date and therefore, will have to renew their cards on different dates. It is important to note that citizenship does not expire, but rather the card.