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Thinking Development

By Christopher Guta, PhD:

My thoughts on Malawi’s development in the next few entries will be inspired by opportunities that are going to arise progressively as Africa’s Agenda 2063 unfolds. Africa’s Agenda 2063 articulated the vision of African leaders regarding development of people on the continent. Thus, it is important to not only synchronise our development agenda with that articulated in Agenda 2063 but to act on what we have undertaken to do in it.

Since 2006, Malawi’s development agenda has been articulated in the Malawi Growth Development Strategies (MGDS). We now have the third version, MGDS III.

Strategy is an ancient concept. In the Bible, kings who often waged wars, benefited from the role of strategy in their victories. I have a more direct reference to strategy in the scriptures: Proverbs 24 verse 6 which, in the Bible version I have in hand now, reads: “For by strategy war is waged, and victory depends on many counselors.”

Indeed, Malawi is at war with poverty and a robust development strategy is a must-have. My point in today’s entry, however, is motivated by yet another proverb recorded in Proverbs 14 verse23.

It reads: “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”

Strategy is the process through which organisations create prior awareness of their future positions. It entails determination of long-term organisational goals and objectives, thereby enabling adoption of related courses of action and allocation of resources. Organisations have boundaries which define their internal and external environments. Consequently, either by themselves or through consultants, organisations make effort to scan their internal and external operating environment in an effort to identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as their opportunities and threats. The reason for this, in part, is that all environments, internal or external to the organisation, are subject to the realities of stability and change. Strategy, therefore, enables organisations to achieve three intermediate objectives. The first one is attainment of consistency of their internal environment. Inside any organisation, there are different interests. For actors to pull in one direction, organisations create a shared vision. The second objective is to align internal and external environments. Organisations can be derailed in attainment of their goals if powerful agents in the external environment, especially when they are also disinterested, exert influence on their operations. The third objective is to exploit their distinctive competences so that competitive advantage is attained. When these intermediate objectives have been met satisfactorily, organisations are able to create frameworks which guide choices regarding actions and allocation of resources that ultimately determine their nature and direction. Whatever is true for a business organisation above is equally true for a nation State such as Malawi.

As Malawi aligns itself to the Africa’s Agenda 2063, mere talk will lead us into deeper poverty as there will be no profit to show off for our toil. The question that needs to be answered, therefore, is: How is Malawi positioned to translate the talk in MGDSIII, whose priorities have been cleverly mapped, not only on to the aspirations of Africa’s Agenda 2063, but also those of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into reality? The answer lies in how we, as a country, are going to fill the huge gap that often lies between strategy and operational implementation. It is in this regard that I return to

Proverbs 24 verse 6 which, to repeat reads: “For by strategy war is waged, and victory depends on many counselors.”

There is need for the various centres where actions needed to transform MGDS III into reality to call upon inputs of knowledgeable and committed counsellors to support bridging the gap between MGDS III and implementation in both the public and private sectors. I am hoping that the counsellors chosen by the National Planning Commission, under the able leadership of Dr Naomi Ngwira, will do us proud in this regard. Dr Ngwira lends support to my assertion above regarding the need to fill the gap between strategy and implementation when she, as reported by The Nation recently, notes that Malawi’s Vision 2020, which MGDSs have been feeding into, did not achieve the desired results over the years because of “implementation deficits”. I also hope that, collectively, the counsellors selected by the commission have adequate understanding of how Malawi can leverage science, technology and innovation to propel growth and development forward. I offer no apology for asserting that Malawi’s low development is highly correlated with poor application of science, technology and innovation in its productive systems.

I will be pointing to issues of science, technology and innovation in Africa’s Agenda 2063 and how MGDS III maps on to them in the next entry.

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