Honourable Folks, ever heard of Agenda 2063? It’s a developmental framework for the African Union for the next 50 years.
Like Malawi, many African countries wasted a greater part of their first 50 years of independence, reeking abject poverty in the abundance of sweet-smelling natural resources. The continent was better known outside for its civil wars, rampant corruption, dictatorial regimes and gross under-development.
For the greater part of our post-colonial history, Africa has contributed to the world trade about two percent only, much of this coming from South Africa, the largest economy so far on the continent.
Now the turnaround has already happened and Africa is relentlessly reclaiming its space in the sun. It’s in Africa that investors realise highest returns on their investment. If the West ignored Africa, China, Japan, Brazil, India and other emerging economic giants are desperate suitors, promising the sun and moon together if Africa could say, yes to them!
In turn, Africa, too, has moved on. There could be remnants of tinpot dictators or leaders rising through coups here and there but generally the continent has democratised and most of its leaders rise through the ballot and cherish the values of accountability, transparency and respect for human rights.
In short, Africa is in a wealth-generating mode and Agenda 2063 just might turn the world’s poorest continent into the next economic superpower.
Shall we, Malawians, be counted among the continent’s successful nations or, as some British scholars recently extrapolated, remain in abject poverty for the next 65 years?
Maintaining the status quo means perpetuating poverty. If we trip and get entangled in more macabre acts such as the cashgate scandal or the July 20, 2011 massacre, then our economic situation may get worse with time and, God forbid, we could end up worse off 65 years from now!
Only change can yield success. The question is: What kind of change? Elections have enabled us to change leadership. In the past 50 years, we have had Kamuzu Banda, Bakili Muluzi, Bingu wa Mutharika and now, Joyce Banda. In May, the electorate will again choose their president, MPs and councillors—the first local polls in 14 years—for the next five years.
Such a periodic change brings a breath of fresh air in the presidency and help tame the temptation by elected leaders to relax too much in their comfort zones and take people for granted. To ensure the presidency, which is entrusted with sovereign authority, is kept on a short leash, Parliament included impeachment procedures in its Standing Orders as stipulated in Section 86(2) of the Constitution.
What remains is to bring back the Recall Provision (repealed Section 64 of the Constitution) to ensure that MPs, just like the President, exercise their powers strictly in line with the Constitution’s fundamental principles as stipulated in Section 12.
The private sector needs good policies. The political environment in democratic Malawi has remained the major threat to investment, and growth of the private sector, since 1994. Apart from the impact of bad laws and economic policies, business opportunities with government are given as a reward for loyalty to the President and the party in government. Those perceived to be pro-opposition are sidelined, if not deliberately squeezed out of business as is the case between the JB administration and Mulli Brothers Limited.
But the major point of focus is rural areas where 85 percent of the estimated 15 million Malawians live, most of them in deprivation and abject poverty. There’s something terribly wrong when leaders do very little, if anything, to improve agriculture, then shamelessly exploit the resulting hunger by distributing branded bags of maize or flour at political rallies to gain cheap political mileage. Spare the Santa myth for children!
Farming in Malawi is mostly done by poor villagers. Nothing much has changed in the past 50 years—they still use the hoe to till the land, they still largely depend on the rains and, despite the introduction of hybrid varieties, their farming is characterised by low productivity.
Agriculture officials know that Malawi tobacco is produced in the least efficient manner in the Sadc region. How about maize? Farm input subsidies are too costly for our economy (already Fisp costs 10 percent of National Budget yet it doesn’t help us achieve food security). What will the poor farmers do when Fisp is abandoned while the inorganic fertiliser has had a negative effect on the soil?
Why can’t government make a commitment to ensure that 80 percent or more of the food products sold in supermarkets and other outlets in urban areas are sourced from Malawian villages? This could be achieved by ensuring increased productivity in a sustainable manner and establishing an appropriate rural-based industry to process and preserve the surplus and generally minimise waste through, say, the public private partnership (PPP).
I believe the supplier of such food products would no longer be called poor village farmer.