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Southern African leaders found wanting

Malawi has failed to transform its infrastructure owing to the nature of its leadership since independence, contends a new book titled ‘Towards Democratic Developmental States in Southern Africa’.

The book, which was a project by the Open Society initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), has evaluated five countries in the region which are Malawi, Botswana, Namibia, Angola and South Africa by taking stock of developments since their independence up to 2014 when the project started.

It was recently unveiled in Lilongwe where stakeholders discussed the arguments presented in the book and the future of Malawi, in view of its political and economic landscape.

In the Malawi Chapter titled State of the State in Malawi, it is highlighted that the country has failed to transform, other than between 1964 and 1979 and again between 2005 and 2009 when the state demonstrated ability to develop and execute national plans.

“The reason for this includes the neoliberal assault on the state from 1980 to early 1990’s, which pushed it away from its earlier active and interventionist role. In the 1990s the new leadership conflated democracy with economic liberalization, due to which the state was further weakened, a trend repeated in 2012 when the People’s Party took over leadership and adopted neoliberal policies,” reads in part the Malawi chapter in the book.

Co-author of the Malawi chapter who is also a development specialist and a

faculty member at the Malawi Institute of Management, Shawo Mwakilama, stressed that unless different key groups such as women and the youth are part of the development and democratic processes, the Malawi nation will not attain any meaningful development.

“When you look at the market based policies, they are pretty much giving space for companies to be at the centre of the policy instead of the government intervening and making sure that there is a level playing field, making sure that the policies take into account issues that affect everybody,” Mwakilama said.

Chancellor College Dean of Research, Mangani Katundu concurred with Mwakilama, saying there is need to empower people at the grassroots to advance development and poverty alleviation.

“For instance in the agriculture sector, there is need to empower farmers to move from subsistence farming to commercial farming, develop more value addition chains so that the farmer actually reaps the benefits and we should make use of students that are graduating in our colleges to close the gap,” Katundu said.

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