A professor of Public Policy and Administration from the University of Delaware in the United States (US), Professor HARVEY WHITE, visited the country alongside other professors and scholars ahead of a Consortium for International Management, Policy and Development (Cimpad) conference that is to take place next year. White believes Malawi has great potential to develop in all sectors pointing to high youth population as a key driver. He talked to our reporter JACOB NANKHONYA in this interview. Excerpts;
What is your mission in the country?
Our team comprises professionals from US, Botswana and other countries. We are here to learn as much as possible and share about public administration. We are also here because next year, Malawi will host the Consortium for International Management, Policy and Development [Cimpad] conference which will be a big boost to Malawi as an economy.
What is Cimpad all about?
We are a non-partisan and non-profit association that includes academicians, practitioners, students and institutions with the mission to inspire and promote collaborative working relationships towards the advancement of knowledge in public administration, public management, and public policy, among practitioners and academicians, and to enhance capacity building for good governance and sustainable development with civil societies.
One area of good governance has been empowering of the youth as a priority policy issue. Do you think such a policy shift would work to the advantage of Malawi?
Yes, we have to engage the youth. The youth are not something to be done for they are to be done with and we need to ask them, what can we do for you? What should we do? They need to be at the table with elders helping to make decisions. The bigger problem is that we, as adults, are accustomed to making decisions for the youths, but if we make a transition to the things such as technology and talent management, you will realise that the young people have a lot to offer— that’s the next generation.
I think that we also need to appreciate what they can bring to the table and invite them and ask them how they think we can transform this society, how can we create jobs and how can we help them not only to envision life itself but turn that vision into a reality? We need to engage them as part of us not in the way of ‘I know what’s good for you’ mentality. We have to create an avenue that they can express their creativity to make improvements for the society. We have to create incubators where the youth can come and start a business. Let us as adults, take the spark that’s already there in the youth and help it shine and help transform the society.
Are you saying the youth bulge is an opportunity?
Of course, if you look at Europe and other Western countries you will realise that their population is largely the adults, over 60 years old, whereas in Africa, the continent has the youngest population. While generally the youth may be looked upon as a threat, I see a lot of potential. The youth, to me, don’t represent an inherent threat, they represent a potential opportunity and we have to develop that into a reality and talent management is going to make that possible.
How do we tap into that potential?
We need to give the youth opportunities to take up leadership roles and let them make mistakes and they get corrected because that’s the way they are going to be given a chance to be as good as we would want them to be. As adults we are supposed to think of how we are going to solve their problems—but it’s time to let the youth learn to solve their problems.
Can taking such a route create wealth for Africa?
Truth of the matter is that wealth is in Africa, the rest of the world knows that this is a place to come and make money, but it seems Africa doesn’t know that. You have the people, you have the market and you have the resources and that’s all you need to make money! So I will be happy if we impress upon our African youth that they don’t have to go abroad—Europe or USA—to make money, they have to look right here in Africa.
What is your last word?
You can build things right here, actually the youth are already doing it and we don’t just need to recognise that but actually support it. The Cimpad conference that is coming next year  shall also play that role, I believe that these young entrepreneurs in Malawi can become a source of inspiration to the youth from the US because we shall also have with us other youthful participants from the US in this conference. The US youth will be like ‘look at these youths from Malawi with few resources and what they are able to achieve!’ That in itself is enough motivation.