Dar es Salaam — At last, Tanzania will begin issuing national identification cards (IDs), 50 years after parliament passed the law mandating the programme in 1963.
The first ID was issued to President Jakaya Kikwete at a colourful event held at Karimjee grounds in Dar es Salaam on Thursday (February 7th) to launch the programme.
In his speech at the event, Kikwete said national IDs are important for the provision of services to citizens.
"Banks will easily issue loans, agricultural subsidies will now reach the targeted [farmers] accurately ... literally it eases the process of [the government] offering services to the people," Kikwete said.
The president handed IDs to 50 representatives from various organisations, as well as former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin William Mkapa.
Kikwete said the government would ensure everyone who currently meets eligibility requirements will receive their IDs before 2015. From then on, the process of issuing IDs will continue for all eligible citizens, permanent residents and refugees.
He instructed the authorities issuing IDs to make sure applicants provide accurate information to avoid registering those who are not eligible. He also urged Minister for Finance William Mgimwa to give more resources to the National Identification Authority (NIDA) to achieve the 2015 goal.
NIDA Director General Dickson Maimu said the government has instructed his authority to speed up the process of issuing IDs with the aim of using them in the 2015 general elections.
To reach that target, NIDA will need more funding to increase the number of fingerprint scanning machines from 5,000 to 12,000 by January 2014, he said.
Inspector General of Police Said Mwema said the national IDs will aid border security and criminal investigations.
Tanzania borders eight countries -- Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique -- which made guarding the country's borders difficult without national IDs, he said.
"With IDs, now we have a sound database that can help any time we need to trace security information," Mwema told Sabahi. "Even human trafficking will be history. You can easily intercept any caravan and [verify] their status by using the IDs."
Minister for Home Affairs Emmanuel Nchimbi told Sabahi that the government would connect all available networks in the country to the identification card database.
Some of the networks to be connected include the Tanzania Revenue Authority, police, telecommunications companies, immigration, social security funds, university admissions and the electoral commission. "IDs are wiping out multiple registrations," he said.
IDs aid tax collection, pension funds
Ibrahim Lipumba, a former economic adviser to the president, said the IDs would help the government collect more taxes.
"With IDs, literally you are assured who is doing what and where," Lipumba told Sabahi. "This will help the government monitor who earns what, and hence pay the right tax in time."
Lipumba, who is also a chairman for the Chama Cha Wananchi (Civic United Front) opposition party, said national IDs would also help mitigate vote rigging. "The technology used to take fingerprints to make these IDs, once connected to the electoral commission, will eliminate ghost voters," he said.
Social security fund managers welcomed the national IDs as well, saying they will help enforce compulsory enrolment in one of the seven pension funds operating in the country.
Ramadhan Dau, director general of the National Social Security Fund, told Sabahi he expects the number of registered social security members in the country to double with the issuance of national IDs.
"Currently, we have about one million registered members for all social security funds combined," he said. "I am optimistic that with the IDs, in one year's time we will see the number of members doubling to two million and above."
Director General for the Parastatal Pension Fund William Erio said the IDs would ensure that every worker is enrolled in a pension fund.
"Without IDs employers and employees are managing to cheat [and lie] they have registered with this fund or the other, but with IDs that opportunity is gone," Erio told Sabahi. "The system will be centralised and will tell at once who you are, whether you are employed or not, and whether you are registered with any social security fund or not. Simple."