Malawi is among the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa that have witnessed significant improvements in terms of democratisation while struggling to eradicate poverty and unleash economic development.
The transition from one-party rule to democracy in 1993 opened a floodgate for the enjoyment of numerous human rights and theoretically opened up opportunities for the citizenry.
However, over 25 years since the winds of change blew away gags on human rights, the nation is still stuck in under-development.
The current government led by President Lazarus Chakwera faces a daunting task to reverse that trend; create jobs, diversify the economy and stamp out corruption that can wipe out any gains.
To achieve that, the key ally for such success might as well be the young tech-savvy population which is not only a huge labour resource and the majority of the country’s population, but also a powerful political constituency, ever-demanding progress.
It is a restless demographic that was crucial to the push for Chakwera’s rise to presidency—through protests, courts and a rerun election—and whose loyalty is only guaranteed by success in the areas highlighted above.
That success will also depend on strengthening democracy, transparency and accountability in the country’s civil service offices.
Since he was elected into office in June 2020, Chakwera has demonstrated frugal leadership to the battle against mismanagement and abuse of public funds and improving delivery of public services.
Although it is still too early to make conclusions, firing and arresting top officials implicated in corruption has sent right signals to would-be offenders and usual culprits in public service.
The next step must be making right investments in key development sectors such as education, health, water access, infrastructure and sanitation while sustaining the fight against corruption and wastage.
However, without fast implementation of this, the Chakwera administration could be voted out at the next polls in 2025 by voters tired of unfulfilled campaign promises, particularly the dissatisfaction of the youth who are the most unemployed.
All this will have to be achieved against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already weakened growth estimates for mayn least developed countries.
As the chairperson of the Southern African Development Community until August next year, Chakwera will have to lead not only the country but the whole region in the fight against the pandemic.
Again, this has to be achieved in context of waning donor aid. The country appears caught in conflict of donor reliance and its recent increasing rallying call for self-sufficiency.
The reality is that the country needs both.
As a nation, we still need donor money in short term and need to slowly and gradually start implementing self-reliance policies.
The donor fatigue will not go away either. Occasionally, the donors find flimsy or genuine reasons to suspend aid, chief among them, human rights violations and corruption. The reality is that donor fatigue is the major contributing factor.
To reach the proverbial Canaan—a reference to the aspirational levels of economic and developmental achievements espoused by the Tonse Alliance administration Chakwera represents—the present administration needs tostrengthen democratic and economic governance to make political and administrative authorities more responsive to development needs.
It ought to also consider characteristics of successful implementation of public policies and the effective and timely delivery of basic services in public services, increased citizen participation and dialogue with local government authorities, institutions that enable civil society organisations to hold political and administrative officials to account; and better utilisation of academic research for improved evidence-based policy formulation and implementation.