As the country will be preparing to come up with a second national long term vision to replace the vision 2020, CISANET National Director Tamani Nkhono-Mvula proposes a few issues, as discussed in this article.
As an agriculturalist who understands the importance of agriculture in development processes, our next long term vision must 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.
Our country of 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 4 years to go to the completion of the set period to achieve that 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 (MGDS) 1 and 2 which have been medium term frameworks for achieving the vision have not been so comprehensive enough with the MGDS 2 failing on almost all areas except 1, that we have been a peaceful country.
This therefore calls for the country to start thinking of a new vision or extend the time period for the current vision but at the same time do a soul searching as to what made the current vision, which was launched with pomp and a great enthusiasm, to fail to be achieved. The current vision 2020 is comprehensive enough and was formulated through a robust process but l feel that the document failed to provide a clear roadmap on how such a vision was to be achieved.
Furthermore, among the challenges that l see to have contributed to the failure of the vision 2020 was poor political leadership both in strategic thinking and execution of the development strategies.
Over the period the vision was being implemented, the country had been so obsessed with poverty alleviation and much of the resources were geared towards such programs as opposed to strategic sectors that may spur development like education, energy and infrastructure development 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 supposed to be the backbone of the economy and upon which the development take-off was supposed to be based was in some sort of a disorder. We have spent billions on rain-fed agriculture through subsidies programs like starter pack and FISP and very little on agriculture markets development, research and development, value addition and infrastructure development. Today with less than 4 years to reaching 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 need leaders who know where they are taking the country to and are able to articulate that.
Leaders who are in touch with the realities of the common Malawians and who understand what needs to be done to get the country out of the current situation. We need leaders who can inspire Malawians to start believing in themselves, inspire them to action rallying behind a common vision and purpose.
It has to be noted that no institution is above its leadership, the situation of Malawi is to a larger extent a reflection of the type of leadership we have been having. Since the dawn of multiparty in 1994, most Malawians have lost the sense of patriotism that to a greater extent has been fueled by institutionalized corruption and collapse of institutional frameworks in sectors like education, security, industry among others. Malawians saw and are seeing what their leaders are doing and are emulating them.
Today Malawi is suffering from a tragedy of commons with a free for all plunder of national resources. The environment which made Malawi a beauty is on a downward spiral, chikangawa and Dzalanyama are no longer the marvel they used to be. We need leaders with a high moral ground to control and bring all this madness to a stop.
Malawi needs leaders who can bring a sense of discipline on the nationals, who can inspire the youth to understand what allegiance to the national anthem and the flag of the nation means, Malawian to be people who should jealously own and protect this country and its resources. In the past we used to stand still when the national anthem is being played, we used to work on youth week.
All these instilled in the youth a sense of nationalism. However others came and said this is abuse of human rights. The drastic change from the right to the left by most Malawians has been so drastic to the detriment of national development.
As we revise the vision 2020 and with agricultural transformation at the back of our mind, I would like to propose that the roadmap to achieve that vision should consider the following: In the first five years, we should consider increasing electricity generation and distribution by a minimum of 300% the current capacity, this will solve a whole lot of challenges in as far as agricultural processing and industrial development is concerned.
Additionally, in preparation for agricultural industrialization we should do a complete overhaul of our financial, industrial and trade policies, privatization, foreign bank borrowing and direct foreign investments, domestic financial regulation, exchange rates and monetary policies and Government expenditure as they relate to agriculture. These have been among those that have choked agriculture development in Malawi. Corruption has been the cancer that has eroded the inner fabric of development in Malawi in the past 20 years as such going forward, corruption crimes must increase in profile to be at par with murder, treason and rape.
We need to seriously invest in education at all levels especially in the higher education. Currently the combined enrolment of the current four public universities is lower than 15,000, we propose a massive infrastructural development in Universities like LUANAR, UNIMA and MZUNI to increase the combined enrolment to 40,000 in the next five years with a progressive increased enrolment to around 500,000 in the next 30 years.
This will help in creating a middle class that will create demand for agricultural products but also labor force for the agricultural industry. Increase levels of education will also help in changing the landscape in the field of agriculture as the current status of our agriculture is also largely due to illiteracy levels. Additionally the first five years should see an increase in infrastructural development for market access.
Prioritizations and construction of roads must be strategic to boost agriculture production with a good access to market for strategic crops. One other important thing that we must seriously consider in the first five years is to come up with a good population policy to check the current worrisome trends in population growth. The next five to ten years, we should spend our energies on reconstituting the industry, creating PPPs in agricultural processing and state owned enterprises if possible.
Agricultural clusters and rural growth centers must be reinforced with large processing plants that can help spur rural development and check rural-urban migration. During the same period we should also invest in the Green belt initiative to the full to supplement the raw material for the industry. I also would like to propose that Government should invest in R&D for agriculture production and industrial technologies and create strong links between the industry and the Universities.
I believe that in the first ten years of the national vision a strong foundation for development has to be set by ensuring the wellbeing of the agriculture sector because no country has ever developed without firstly sorting out challenges facing agriculture and access to food.