MaSP CEO, Vera Kamtukule, reports on the Annual Symposium held in Lilongwe on 23rd February 2018 and the results of the debate: will Malawi always be donor dependent?
The Malawi Scotland Partnership (MaSP) symposium is an annual event bringing together Scottish government grant recipients to connect, network, share, learn and plan for the year ahead. Organisations and MaSP members gathered at Bingu International Conference Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe for this year’s meeting under the theme “Malawi beyond Aid: harnessing locally driven solutions”. An amazing 170 participants attended, signifying the impact the Scottish government is having in Malawi and the ever growing reach of the Malawi Scotland partnership in the coordination of civic links between Malawi and Scotland.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Corporation Hon. Emmanuel Fabiano, MP presided over the event as the Guest of Honor and the Scottish government was represented by the Head of International Development Joanna Keating. The British High Commissioner to Malawi H.E. Holly Tett was also in attendance alongside senior government officials from the ministries of Finance, Energy, Education, Health and Justice.
In her remarks, MS Keating emphasized that the Beyond Aid agenda must take a holistic approach if sustainable economic development is to be realized and that this will call for active participation of all stakeholders involved. Addressing the gathering, Hon. Fabiano welcomed Ms Keating to Malawi and thanked her for attending and confirming commitment to the cooperation between Malawi and Scotland. He added that the symposium is an opportune time for the two nations to discuss the new cooperation agreement to be signed in April 2018. It is his wish that Malawi’s members of parliament can be involved in the partnership using the unique ‘people to people model’.
The climax of the day emerged during the debate under the topic ‘Malawi shall always be donor dependent’, with both sides arguing passionately.
The proposers asserted that Malawi cherishes dependency and celebrates poverty. There is leadership failure and current leaders like to keep our people poor so they can keep giving empty promises. The NGO sector is highly dependent on donations and we do not understand our own policies. We have a growing number of graduates who are unemployed and our culture, education and religious systems do not promote independence. Malawians are generally not entrepreneurial and as such are unable to harness anything from the funding they receive to achieve financial freedom. Leaders are corrupt but do not invest in the country. Donors are creating employment for people even though their investments in social services do not make profits. However the role of civil society and NGOs was celebrated as they play a vital role in filling gaps and holding government to account.
The opposers on the other hand argued that government is doing everything possible to move people out of poverty. Malawi has what it takes to develop and this will require a change of mindset from beggars to fighters. We have more universities now than we had 20 years ago which means in the next 20 years Malawi will have more educated people who will be innovative. The population may double in the coming years and this shall have its own challenges but with challenges there will be opportunities and a growing need for locally driven solutions designed by Malawians themselves. Young people are more enterprising than ever before. We have seen a growing shift from aid to trade in the past few years and we need to export locally produced things more to generate forex, create employment and grow the economy.
The moderator invited questions and comments from the audience, 80% of which sided with the opposers of the motion; hence it was agreed that while Malawi still requires aid at the moment, there is need to channel that aid towards building our capacity to enable us scale up locally driven solutions which will catapult us to financial independence.
So in conclusion, Malawi actually does have hope beyond aid; there is coming a time when trade will be the order of the day and a basis for bilateral partnership development!