As Malawi prepares to come up with a second national long-term vision to replace the Vision 2020, I would like to propose a few issues. As an agriculturalist who understands the importance of agriculture in development processes, our next long-term vision should aim at transforming agriculture in its first 10 years.
It is written that “without a vision people perish”. Any institution that does not have a vision will go nowhere. Malawi has a vision 2020 which was developed to guide our planning and investment priorities to achieve the status of a middle income country.
However, with less than four years to go to the deadline of the vision, very little has been achieved. As a matter of fact, it is all, but certain that the Vision 2020 will not be achieved.
The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MDGS) I and II, which have been medium-term frameworks for achieving the vision, have not been so comprehensive enough with MGDS II failing on almost all areas except one, that we have been a peaceful country.
This, therefore, calls for the country to start thinking of a new vision or extend the period for the current vision, but at the same time, do soul-searching as to what made the current vision, which was launched with pomp and great enthusiasm, to flop.
The current Vision 2020 is comprehensive enough and was formulated through a robust consultative process, but l feel that the document failed to provide a clear roadmap on how such a vision was to be attained.
Furthermore, among the challenges l see to have contributed to the failure of the Vision 2020 was poor political leadership both in terms of strategic thinking and execution of the development strategies.
Over the period the vision was being implemented, the country was so obsessed with poverty alleviation and much of the resources were geared towards such programmes as opposed to strategic sectors that could spur development like education, energy and infrastructure, among others.
Since the Vision 2020 did not have a clear roadmap in itself, the MGDS tried to provide some direction. However, the targets we set were somehow not in synchrony with the achievement of the Vision 2020. The agriculture sector, which is the backbone of the economy and upon which development take off was supposed to be entrenched, was in some sort of a disorder.
We have spent billions of kwacha on rain-fed agriculture through subsidy programmes such as Starter Pack and Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) and very little on agriculture markets development, research and development, value addition and infrastructure development.
Today, with less than four years to reaching the year 2020 and to being a middle income country, we are still a country, as in the words of one Chinese diplomat, “that has not yet started to exist”. Poverty is still widespread and deep. This is a sad reality.
As we look forward, I contend that Malawi needs a total rebirth, a renaissance that will make us start existing. However, for this to happen, the starting point will be to have strong leadership and a national vision as a rallying point. Malawi needs leaders who know where they are taking the country to and are able to articulate the same.