National Planning Commission (NPC) chief Thomas Chataghalala Munthali is already talking about Vision 2063 after Vision 2020 promised a lot and delivered too little. Our Staff Writer JAMES CHAVULA catches up with him to unpack his dream for the country’s youth-dominated population.
: Why target 2063 when Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require countries to end poverty by 2030?
: SDGs will still be part of our national vision because these are very important commitments Malawi made and they are universal. But we are targeting 2063 for three reasons. First, we needed to come up with a plan that looks at future generations. We do not want anyone asking: What is there in it for me? Through the new vision, we want people to ask: What is it in it for our children and their children; so long enough—40 years plus. Second, the Agenda 2063, which is an African social economic development transformation plan, has aspirations that also resonate with us as Malawians. The aspirations of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent are also applicable to us and we are party to them as well.
The last and yet another important point is that in 1963, this country set on a journey for self-government. By 2063, the nation will have clocked a hundred years of self-government. We should be asking ourselves that now that we are politically independent, by that time, will we be self-reliant economically? Will we have created the necessary wealth to prevent us from continuing to bow to the international community?
The new vision will give us a gauge of what we want our children to be. Will our children be economically independent?
Q:Where are the youth in all this planning process?
:They are central to all this. Actually, in this visioning process, we have put together core advisory panels comprising seniors—the expert sons and daughters of Malawi that have actually made it in life so that they can help us to visualise what we can do for the country to make it as well.
However, we also have what we call the youth core advisory panel. The whole idea is that the youth will be the future of this country. They need to be thinking about what kind of Malawi they want to see.
Combining these two panels then brings together ambitious youthful Malawians who know what they want to see in future and seniors who have experience drawn from where the nation is coming from. The two panels are advising on where we want to be and what we should be mindful of so that we do not step on some landmines from our past. Through such a set-up, one can see that the youth are basically taking a central role to drive this agenda.
Beyond envisioning agenda, we are ensuring that all committees the commission forms has adequate youth representation in the relevant sub-committees. The idea is that they should be party to the formation of the future we are talking about.
Q:Elsewhere, the youth have become a vibrant force or movement for social change. Are young Malawians adequately demanding the best for their generation?
:I do not think so. At the moment, I would not say so. I feel a lot of the youth in the country have a lot of energy, but their energy is misdirected. Most of the times, the energy is not really going to where we need it to be. This is why in this wealth creation agenda, we want to define priority areas where we can push the energy that these youths have. The private sector is therefore very central into this discussion because it can help us to define market-based solutions that the youth can really tackle. We are trying to ensure that ICT issues become central. Similarly, all the other science-driven wealth creation interventions should become pivotal.
: Are they getting a fair deal?
: I do not think that at the moment we have given them that much. That is why in this whole new envisioning process, we have got to make deliberate steps of ensuring that the youth are central to this visioning process to define the agenda with us, including holding key positions at decision-making level.
: Based on the lessons from Vision 2020, what do we have to do differently for the youth to get a fair deal?
:We need to give the youth the skills that will be needed in the wealth creation agenda. So far, the skills and education we have been giving our young people have largely remained irrelevant. There is a disconnect between what is needed on the job market and what we are giving the youth in school.
For example, over 75 per cent of the courses that are being taught in universities are social sciences, yet what is needed by the industry—if you ask me—are in the engineering-related aspects. We are talking of issues to do with the technical aspects. That is why we have many graduates just loafing at home simply because their skills, though important in terms of literacy levels, but are not really required on the job market now.
So, as a nation, we need to begin to look at creating the kind of such skills that are needed.
We first have to define our vision and the wealth creation agenda will need to ask: We are providing education, but education for what? We are teaching skills, but skills for what? This is what doing things differently for positive change would entail.