The Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Smea), a grouping of local entrepreneurs, has implored the newly constituted High Level Development Council to be inclusive in its dealings and not to be scientific about development.
President Joyce Banda on January 9 this year, formed the council which is touted as a multi-sectoral body to deliberate and advise on national social and economic development.
At a meeting held with the 23-member council chaired by Professor Matthews Chikaonda, who is also group chief executive officer of Press Corporation Limited (PCL), President Banda said institutional development plans have lacked institutional ownership to remind government to remain focussed on the long-term perspectives as planned.
“Our national development agenda needs to be re-organised in order to strike a strategic balance that will harness our development aspirations. We must change the way we do business. There is need to define the architecture of our development agenda as a driver of socio-economic transformation for our country,” she said.
But Smea interim president James Chiutsi in an interview yesterday said the council is not supposed to be superficial about development.
“Everyone knows what we all need to do to develop. Most of the times, it is walking that talk that fails,” he said.
Chiutsi urged the council to ensure that agriculture, which accounts for a large chunk of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), takes centre stage because there are competitive advantages in the sector.
“Malawi, despite boasting about being an agricultural-based economy, our behaviour is not testimony to this. We have no infrastructure after 50 years of independence to prove this,” he said.
At the meeting at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, Chikaonda described the council as independent and non-partisan, and asked for support from all Malawians to fulfil its mandate which includes nine terms of reference.
He said the council will have challenges, but argued failure is not an option.
The newly-formed Smear is set to complement efforts by other existing groups despite differing on the emphasis and ways to achieve their goals.
The grouping, according to Chiutsi, will emphasise on capacity building as bedrock for SMEs development and that its members will undergo leadership and entrepreneurial management skills before its launch on January 31.
He said SMEs have the potential of turning around Malawi’s economy within the next 10 years, stressing that there are other countries endowed with less natural resources than Malawi, but have managed to leap-frog into the fold of the so-called developed world.
He said Smea intends to take a leaf from those countries and make Malawi a regional economic power house by harnessing the “sleeping potential” lying idle in SMEs.