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‘Malawi’s pathway to prosperity uncertain’

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BRIEN— We have looked at improving the productivity of agriculture

A report by London-based international economics think-tank Legatum Institute has said the pathway to prosperity for Malawi is long and uncertain.

The report, ‘Pathways to Prosperity: Malawi Case Study’, released in Lilongwe on Tuesday, rates Malawi’s challenges as significant.

According to the report, Malawi is highly reliant on rain-fed subsistence agriculture driven by a monoculture production mentality and remains highly donor-dependent, with a strong tradition of tied political and economic development benefitting few.

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“Malawi has a weak democracy captured by competitive clientelism, whereby the economy has created and distributed rents to mostly urban elites and specific ethnic groups to the detriment of the rest of the country, mainly the rural population.

“The stable but low-level equilibrium of the political economy, based on rent-seeking and vested interests, has been and remains the most significant impediment to real change—primarily because of the resulting political marginalisation of most of its population— particularly [those] in rural areas,” Legatum says.

It notes that the challenge of reaching a Malawi that is prosperous for all by 2063 is a substantial one.

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According to the think-tank, with a history of being a peaceful nation with an elusive development path, the Malawi Government is at a unique decision point to either continue with the current stagnation or change the country’s trajectory.

Legatum Institute Director of Policy Stephen Brien said Malawi’s progress over the last 20 to 30 years of its democracy has been slower than the promises of democracy.

Brien said the report was keen to find the need to change that trajectory.

“So, we have looked at improving the productivity of agriculture, we have looked at the need to enhance rural transport. The big part of this is to make sure that the needs of the rural communities are met and that they have a voice within the political system of Malawi; so, too, farmers, artisanal miners, subsistence workers [ensure that they] are all at the heart of policy making within Malawi,” Brien said.

Delivering a keynote address during the launch of the report, National Planning Commission Director- General Thomas Munthali said any State or non-State actor that helps define the quick wins to achieving Malawi’s inclusive wealth creation and self-reliance agenda will be given space on the high table.

“Truth be told, Malawi is developing, but at a worrisomely slow pace. The lack of haste is apparent in the implementation of our development plans. We have to run and stop walking because we have a lot of catching up to do.

“Africa is rising and we have to make sure that Malawi is among countries in the frontline in the continent’s development. Within Africa, until Covid, over 15 countries have consistently registered GDP [gross domestic product] growth rate of more than five percent. These are considered the ‘Rising Economies of Africa’. Malawi could, and should, emerge as a candidate of the rising Africa narrative,” Munthali said.

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