By Professor Augustine Chingwalu Musopole
President Professor Peter Mutharika, has recently admitted that while Malawi is good at planning, it is bad at implementing according to Nyasa Times (November 22, 2019) and hence the failure for the country to undergo the desired transformation for the better. He said this to the members of the National Planning Commission (NPC) led by its Director General Dr. Thomas Munthali when the Commission presented an audit report on Vision 2020.
The Commission was partly constituted on the impetus of Agenda 2063 of the African Union adopted in 2013. It is an agenda “rooted in Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance [that] provides a robust framework for addressing past injustices and the realization of the 21st century as the African Century. For Malawi, it means moving into a middle-industrial progressive nation. With a development that is human-centred. Agenda 2063 encourages states to engage transformative leadership that would be held accountable to consciously and deliberately nurture and drive that agenda.
To have an audit of Vision 2020 is the right way for the new Commission to start its work of envisioning the development of the country towards Vision 2063, but there are other concerns that it needs to address. Here below I will mention some of them.
(1) The first concern should be the development of the human person for whom that development is undertaken. What kind of human beings should we be and continue to become? This is the critical question. It has to do with a self-definition and self-understanding of who we are locally and globally. Plato said that we were rational animals, but unfortunately, we have been messed up both as rational and as animals. Actually, we are not animals in spite of sharing much of our genome with primates since we are made in God’s image and they are not.
Aristotle said that we were political animals. Political, yes, but animals, no. Our politics too is so messed up. Humanity belongs to a class of its own, but which also got messed up in seeking autonomy from its Creator and seeking to be like God. The result was utter indignity. However, in Christ that original humanity has been restored to being godly, full of grace and truth (authenticity) (John 1:14-16). It is this authentic humanity, that is, one of integrity that is needed, there is need for a spiritual basis for holistic transformation. Malawi needs not just development, but rather blessed development.
(2) The vision has to be embraced by the entire population as their own and not simply for a government in office. This means that each person should develop their own personal vision, so too each family, each community, each school, each village, each ward, each area, each constituency, each district, and so forth. It is the sum of these visions that are going to transform the nation.
(3) It should not limit its planning to those in government only, but rather adopt a national view to involve all stakeholders, namely, subsistent farmers, business, industry, faith communities, women, youth, rural and urban entrepreneurs since each has a critical role to play.
(4) A vision requires a philosophy for its foundation otherwise it remains an elusive dream. A philosophy has to do with a people’s self-understanding and relationship to their environment with a view to living wisely. Therefore, a vision cannot simply be about money and resources. Such a vision reduces humanity to a thing, hence, a human resource. Resources are consumables, but human beings are the custodians and users of the resources and can never be a resource themselves. This capitalistic language has to change if humanity is to be at the centre of development. Malawi is in need of a national philosophy just as Africa does and uMunthu (Ubuntu) should be that philosophy.
(5) There is need to harness individual initiatives and efforts to a common national philosophy. This is why leaders of national liberation, for instance, Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Kenneth Kaunda, and Leopold Sedar Senghor to name a few provided some philosophical perspectives for their political action. That task is not complete as yet. It is a task that African intellectuals need to engage in for Africa to achieve an identity of its own. It cannot continue to depend on other people’s philosophies and expect to be authentic. Currently, we are captive to foreign ideologies, be it individual or state capitalism, socialism, democracy, individual or personal human rights.
(6) The vision needs to be divided into three interrelated parts for its realization. There has to be an immediate, intermediate, and long-term periods dovetailed to each other for easy monitoring and implementation. In Taiwan, one of the Asian tigers, the government, industry, and academy meet in conference every two years to plan development in terms of priorities. Once they have agreed on priorities, the government makes money available to universities for research in the prioritised areas, and the universities pass their findings to industry to make goods for the market. The result is that between 2003 and 2014 the per capita moved from USD15,000 to USD20,000. This does not mean that all other players stop doing their research and development since they too can have access to government funding should their proposals be accepted.
(7) The persistent communicating of the vision is very critical to its realization. The media needs to be committed to it so that each and every person and entity is reminded of it on a daily basis as to how they were fulfilling their vision. They should be waking up to it and going to bed on it. This is what was absent when it came to Vision 2020.
(8) Research and development have become the mantra of industrial development globally. Many discoveries that now dominate the market started in individual home-garages as individuals tinkered with designs instead of wasting time making noise at a pub in the evening or weekend watching overseas soccer matches on screens. Each field of study is full of problems that need solutions. One wonders as to how many lecturers are involved into serious research on their own beyond their reading for teaching?
(9) The Vision needs to promote quality products. There are products on the market that are substandard in quality. Quality is what creates the needed wealth because it makes a product marketable and sold at a much higher price.
(10) It is pleasing to note that the new Commission on national planning has moved emphasis from poverty alleviation to wealth creation. The poverty alleviation concept was too negative to inspire innovation. The document on it was too government-centred leaving other sectors to wonder as to what their role was in the whole scheme. Now it needs to be understood that wealth is not simple money, but involves knowledge, wisdom, spirituality, social relationships, and being at peace with all, that is, political stability. This is what I would love to call blessed development. People can live in beautiful houses, but be miserable on account of bad relationships; have good jobs, but be dissatisfied on account of bad working conditions and relationship. Therefore, there is need for a holistic view of wealth creation since a health bank balance is but only one aspect of it.
(11) There is need to understand global markets and their trends so as to work with contingencies and sudden shocks. People in Misuku have not received their money for 2018 coffee because it has not yet been sold and it is sitting in containers in Mzuzu. The Mzuzu Coffee Association is owing banks a lot of money such that they cannot borrow to pay the farmers. They were still delivering their 2019 crop to the Association. Had it not been that coffee is only a cash crop since they have other crops to live on, they would have been facing a catastrophe in terms of food security. Since they have beans and bananas to eat and sell, they still have some money circulating around. However, the farmers need to be educated on these market forces playing out in the global market and their chief executives need also to be thoroughly educated as global players.
*Professor Musopole is a regular contributes to The Lamp Magazine