(HN, 4/7/12) - Chief Justice Lovemore Mulo is set to swear in new Malawi President Joyce Banda after President Bingu wa Mutharika died suddenly of a heart attack Thursday. Banda will make herstory by becoming only the 2nd female president in Africa alongside Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia (2005) & the first woman president of Malawi. She previously was Malawi's first female Vice President when chosen in 2009. There was some speculation about whether the deceased President's brother Peter Mutharika, the country's Foreign Affairs Minister might take power but the Chief Justice told them it was impossible not to give the post to Banda. The next general election is scheduled for 2014. It appears Banda will be sworn in soon. (Read more at the Nyasa Times)
Entries in Malawi (7)
(HN, 4/6/12) - On Friday it was announced by hospital and government sources that longtime Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika had died after having a heart attack and collapsing at the nation's State House yesterday morning.
The Nyasa Times, the nation's state newspaper has said that Vice President Joyce Banda will be sworn in as Head of State and is expected to address the nation shortly, though the ruling DPP party has already endorsed the former President's brother Peter Mutharika as their choice for President.
The constitution says the Vice President is to take over as head of state and even though Banda was booted out of Mutharika's ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession; though analysts said there would be a smooth transition of power with the army and police respecting the law of the land.
If Banda takes the Chief Executive spot in the nation she will be only one of two African female leaders - on a continent of 54 nations - along with Liberia's Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Sirleaf was first elected to her nation's highest office in 2005 and has since won re-election in 2011; a year she also was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work" along with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen.
Malawi, located in Southeast Africa is a landlocked country formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi.
The 78-year-old Mutharika had been rushed to Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday but is now said to have been dead on arrival. State media had previously said he had been flown to South Africa for treatment.
Mutharika was the President of Malawi from May 2004 until April 5, 2012. He was also the president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which has a majority in Malawi's parliament as a result of the 2009 general election.
Mutharika's administration presided over a seven-year economic boom that made Malawi one of the world's fastest-growing economies on the African continent - but also led to more authoritative and oppressive rule according to many in the country.
As last night's news broke, few were found to be upset about the President's death.
Many Malawians blamed Mutharika personally for their economic challenges, which stemmed ultimately from a diplomatic spat with former colonial power Britain a year ago. The cause of disagreement was a leaked diplomatic correspondence that claimed Mutharika was being "autocratic and intolerant of criticism" - after which Britain, Malawi's biggest donor froze millions of dollars of aid - exacerbating an already acute struggling economy leading to shortages of fuel, food and medicines.
Malawi's diplomatic isolation worsened in July 2011 when the United States cancelled a $350 million overhaul of the country's antiquated power grid after police killed 20 people in a crackdown on an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests. Mutharika hit back combatively, telling his supporters last month to "step in and defend their father rather than just sit back and watch him take crap from donors and rights groups".
Joyce Banda's career has not always been political. She is an educator, and a grassroots gender rights activist who turned to politics serving as the Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009, as a Member of Parliament and Minister for Gender, Children's Affairs and Community Services. Additionally she is the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation and of the National Association of Business Women (NABW), Young Women Leaders Network and the Hunger Project. She came to the country's Vice Presidency in 2009 and is currently the head of the newly created People's Party.
Banda had been thought to be planning a run for the Presidency in the next general election to take place in 2014 - but she might just get her wish now.
Malawi is among the world's least-developed countries with an economy heavily based in agriculture, and a largely rural population. The government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000 forcing the nation to face challenges in building and expanding the economy, improving education, health care, environmental protection, and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.
With progress the nation continues to be plagued by a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was tribal conflict in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had begun to form. Malawi has a culture combining native and colonial aspects, including sports, art, dance and music.
There was no official announcement of President Mutharika's death though state media said a statement would be made at midday.
by Simone D'Arbreu
In 2005, President Bingu Wu Mutharika of Malawi embarked on an innovative five-year solution to promote Malawi’s agriculture sector by increasing farm subsidies and allocating 10 percent of the national budget to the agriculture sector to help promote infrastructure and farm training. Despite concerns from the World Bank and the UN, President Mutharika promoted Malawi’s agriculture sector and decreased poverty from 52 percent to 40 percent while turning Malawi into a food basket not only for its people but also for export. Malawi produced 1.1 million more ton of maize than the country requires annually and now exports this excess to neighboring countries. Malawi was also able to provide over 200 metric tons of rice to Haiti during the disaster relief.
In 2004 Malawi experienced a famine that threatened one third of the country’s 13 million people -- half of whom live in poverty. Malawi found the solution to its own problem by ignoring pro-privatization advice from experts from the World Bank, the World Food Program, and other international aid organizations. The World Bank also advised Malawi’s farmers to shift to growing cash crops for export and to use the foreign exchange earnings to import food. Starting in 2004, Malawi launched the nationwide Agricultural Inputs Subsidy Program that has provided coupons to roughly half of Malawi’s small farmers to buy fertilizer and seed at a rate below-market prices. Because of its subsidy program, Malawi managed to put aside a supply of food in case of emergency while boosting crop yields and decreasing the cost of food.
Malawi showed the world that it too, like Europe and North America, can effectively subsidize agriculture. Joshua Kurlantzick, author of "The Malawi Model," says Malawi’s approach is worth imitating as a model for agricultural development because it has actually worked compared to the failed privatization models upheld by international aid economists trying to find a “universal response” for a diverse range of countries.
Malawi’s subsidy program has potential drawbacks. Farm subsidy programs have the potential to force farmers to leave the agriculture sector because of decreasing crop prices. On average, Sub-Saharan countries lose 10-15 percent of total agricultural incomes due to farm subsidies. Mutharika’s plan might just be focusing on the short-term impact rather than the long-term. Then there are the political criticisms of Mutharika's authoritarian tendencies. Finally, even if the Malawi model has worked for Malawi, can it work for the many diverse countries of Africa and in such a short time frame?
Exporting the Model
President Mutharika has now proposed a five-year plan to make Africa independent of foreign food assistance. This five-year plan, also known as the African Food Basket project, focuses participating African countries and all cooperating partners on improving agriculture and food security through subsidies, increased budgetary allocations, and affordable information and communications technology. In Africa, only one-third of arable land is cultivated. Mutharika believes that increasing the land cultivation and government spending in the agricultural sector can reduce hunger and poverty by half by the year 2015.
Mutharika’s plan also promotes social development along with infrastructure building. Investments in women, youth, education, and infrastructure development can help build the agriculture sector. In Africa, women provide over 70 percent of agriculture labor, particularly in the production of crops. Yet, women lack the access to information and markets, which can provide them with land, resources, fertilizers, farming technology, and financial support. Because of the influence of traditional cultural roles, men still make the majority of decisions. As a result, women, who do the majority of agriculture labor, do not have say in the decision making despite being more involved in the production.
The African Food Basket project plans to resolve this disparity by empowering women to have control over land, what crops to grow, what farming systems to follow and how to use the income that accrues from farming. This plan relies heavily on education. By educating women, especially in the rural areas, literacy rates will increase, which will directly improve women’s access to information and to markets that promote an increased production of crops. Even though Malawi did not initially use women empowerment during the earlier years of agriculture reform, research has shown that by developing farming skills in women will directly promote sustainable growth. Women generally control the agriculture market and contribute significantly to the informal sector, which is the most booming and vibrant economic sector.
Young people, too, are a key to agricultural success. According to the African Food Basket project, youth will undergo structured non-formal training on model farms, with graduate students linked to micro-finance institutions through funds like the Youth Enterprise Development Fund (YEDF) in Malawi. YEDF attracts and facilitates investment in enterprises from market stalls to industrial parks beneficial to youth. An increase in farms will lead to an opening in the labor market, which will attract the young and the old to the agricultural sector while increasing the food supply.
Transportation is a third element in improving food security. Approximately 20 percent of crops are spoiled during transport. By improving methods of national and cross border transportation, like roads, railways, ports, harbors, and air transportation, African countries can ship food more effectively and avoid a significant loss in crops. Mutharika is strongly promoting the building of a greenbelt along the Nile River, the Niger River, Lake Chad and the Shebelli-Juba basin in northeast Africa to promote irrigation. Only 7 percent of arable land is irrigated compared to 29 percent in South America and 41 percent in Asia. A Grand Green Belt, connected throughout the continent, could raise the level of irrigation and, by extension, agricultural productivity.
A Feasible Plan?
Malawi’s success and Mutharika’s ambition to solve hunger and poverty show the world that Africa has the potential and ability to improve its own food situation. But not all African countries are alike. Some countries are in massive debt. Somalia’s deficit of $3 billion in 2001, for instance, made it difficult for the country to allocate additional funds for agricultural development and continued budget shortfalls continue to plague the country. But outside actors could help countries in deficit. Even Malawi received substantial financial assistance for its agricultural turnaround. Britain’s Department for International Development in Britain contributed $8 million to the subsidy program in 2006.
More challenging, perhaps, are the countries that are not motivated to increase government spending on agriculture. The government of Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, for instance, is infamous for corruption and government mismanagement. It recently spent more than $830 million to construct a luxury complex for an upcoming African Union summit to be held outside the nation’s capital in hopes of attracting foreign investment. This sum could have gone a long way toward creating food security in the country.
Even for countries that are willing and able, the five-year timetable of the African Food Basket will be challenging. It took Malawi approximately a decade to establish food independence. Achieving even a measure of that success for the continent as a whole in five years is simply unrealistic.
Daniel Gustafson of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Liaison Office for North American say that the FAO supports the idea of the African Food Basket Project. A 10 percent increase in African countries’ national budget allocations to the agriculture sector is a wonderful idea and there is no reason why Africa would not be able to see advancement on a larger scale. Countries like Ghana, Nigeria, and Malawi have done exceptionally well at becoming independent and investing in food production.
The political situation in Malawi, meanwhile, has become considerably murkier. The government cracked down on anti-government protests in July, killing 19 protestors. The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government agency that provides countries that practice good governance with developmental assistance, has placed a hold on its five-year agreement to provided $350 million, among other things, to improve Malawi's agricultural productivity. Despite its agricultural success, Malawi continues to face poverty, illiteracy, and governance issues.
The African Food Basket, in other words, requires not only investments in the agricultural sector but good governance as well. If Malawi can achieve both these goals, then it can really show the way for the rest of the continent.
- Simone D'Arbreu is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.
- This article was originally published by Washington, DC: Foreign Policy In Focus and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.
(HN, July 22, 2011) Malawi’s embattled President Bingu wa Mutharika toured the town of Zomba on Friday, one of several riot-struck towns in Malawi this week.
Ministry of Health and police officials have confirmed 18 deaths, many severe injuries and 250 arrests since protests began on July 20 against high fuel prices and against what many Malawians believe is poorly run government by President Mutharika’s administration.
The deaths have occurred all over the country suggesting that the protests against the Mutharika administration are widespread – nine deaths in the city of Mzuzu in the north, six dead in the capital of Lilongwe, one in the northern town of Karonga and two in the town of Blantyre.
The President has blamed civil society groups and opposition parties for the violence, saying the protesters were provoked to loot and create chaos.
During a state function in the southern city of Zomba, while presiding over the commissioning of police officers, President Mutharika warned that he had had enough of unfair criticism and sabotage by the opposition and civil society. Mutharika warned of a harsh government reaction going so far as naming key opposition figures such as Vice President Joyce Banda as being behind the violence.
“Even God knows I have been the most patient president on the continent, said Mutharika. “Enough is enough. You want to take government by force, which is against the laws of the land. This time I will follow you into your homes. I will smoke you out.”
His reactions are in contrast to the message he delivered to the nation yesterday, appealing to the opposition and the civil society to come together and discuss the problems affecting Malawi.
Civil society leaders today say they will focus on burying the dead before deciding whether or not to begin a dialogue with Mutharika or continue the protests.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and the Committee to Protect Journalists have been critical of the president’s handling of the crisis so far, including the harassment and beating of journalists
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced his concerns yesterday – In a statement by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban said he was “saddened by the loss of life and reiterates his call for all differences to be resolved through peaceful means.”
- HUMNews Staff
(HN, November 2, 2010) -- The US-based World Bank said in a study released on Tuesday in Maputo, Mozambique that gender disparities in African labour markets are caused by jobs scarcity and not discrimination while highlighting that investments in education and job creation are key to fostering gender equality.
The study analyses household survey data collected in the early 2000s in 18 countries across Africa, looking into gender dimensions in employment, unemployment, pay gap, as well as the role of educational attainment.
The survey shows that women’s participation rates in the labour market range from under 40 percent in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda, to 80 percent and above in Burkina Faso, Burundi, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
For Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, women’s employment ratio over the survey period is 25 percent lower than for men, respectively at 53 percent and nearly 70 percent.
“We found little evidence to support the idea that labour market discrimination is a key explanation for gender gaps in underdeveloped economies, especially those whose job markets are small and can only supply formal employment for a minority of the population,” says World Bank Senior Economist Jorge Arbache, one of the book’s editors.
Arbache added that disparities are indeed greater in countries that have few job opportunities to begin with and, conversely, countries with the highest job rate for men are also those with the least gender disparities.
Another co-editor of the survey, Ewa Filipiak, project manager at Agence Française de Développement, said “ensuring women’s access to jobs is essential to the fight against poverty and reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)... because it has been shown that well-paid jobs empower them to redirect spending on essential needs, notably in favour of children’s health and education.”
Survey data shows that on average the male-to-female earnings ratio is as high as 2.8 among individuals with no education, and as low as 0.9 among those with post-secondary education.
The authors therefore recommend that policy-makers adopt targeted measures that facilitate women’s access to education, such as conditional cash transfer programmes, that encourage families to enrol girls in schools.
The 18 African countries surveyed are Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Zambia.
Case studies were conducted in the Congo Republic, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania while cross-country studies were done in Benin, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Senegal and Uganda.
- African Press Agency /APA-Maputo (Mozambique)
As Vice-President and Managing Director of the foundation, the Briton, Lane, has at his disposal a healthy bank account, the freedom to do targeted, long-term interventions - and a crack team of professionals that are able to develop and monitor projects in developing countries with a business sense.
What's more, Lane says, he isn't encumbered with the branding side of Nike - or having to squeeze PR points out of the foundation's projects around the world.
"We've really been given the space to address the issues surrounding adolescent girls. We're not about building markets….We're really free to work where the greatest need is for adolescent girls and not to be driven by a marketplace approach," said Lane.
The six-year-old Nike Foundation is obsessed with the so-called `Girl Effect' - empowering adolescent girls to take better care of themselves, become active and energize other girls so that they can protect themselves from scourges ranging from HIV and AIDS to sex slavery. In many parts of the world, girls are forced into early marriages, have children before they enter adulthood and are seen as little more than assets by family and community members.
Lane cited as an example of what Nike gets back from the foundation's work is learning a lot about social networking - or about specific markets - and that knowledge gets pushed back to colleagues on the brand side. "There is transfer of learning going in from across two very different worlds," he said. And for the Foundation - access to a pool of top professionals from one of the world's most successful and widely-known brands.
"Our advantage, in some ways, is that we are actually small, and the whole concept of the foundation is to really work with multiple partners and agencies and individuals interested in this area to help move the whole agenda forward. We can get very entrepreneurial and leveraged obsessed when we do our work," Lane said in an interview with HUMNEWS following the Clinton Global Initiative summit in New York, where the foundation premiered the fantastically compelling three-minute `Girl Effect' video.
Lane, himself a veteran of the international business world - he has an MA in Chemistry from Oxford and a MBA from Harvard and before heading Nike's global running business worked with Roll International and Bain and Company - says he collaborates with "a balanced team that combines professionals from brand management as well as knowledgeable people with field experience from the development side". The foundation tries to maintain very close relationships with its programme partners in the field, spending as much time with them as possible. The nimble nature of the organization allows it to easily shift course mid-stream if evidence shows the need for adjustments.
The foundation, which is supported by Nike Inc. and the NoVo Foundation, is unique in the sense that it has an exclusive focus on adolescent girls in the developing world. They define the `Girl Effect' as: `improving a girl's life in order to improve the lives of those around her; her brothers, sisters, parents and beyond. As an educated mother, an active citizen and an ambitious entrepreneur, or prepared employee - she can break the cycle of poverty.
The Foundation cites stark statistics that underpin its focused mission: nearly half of girls in most developing countries are married before they turn 20, and about half bear children while still children themselves. Half of sexual assaults are against girls younger than 15 and young girls disproportionately carry the burden of HIV and AIDS; in Sub-Saharan Africa 76 percent of infected youths are females.
Keeping girls in school pays incredible dividends, the foundation says. With just seven or more years of education, a girl customarily marries four years later, and has 2.2 fewer children. An extra year of primary school boosts future wages by as much as 20 percent, and an extra year of secondary school by as much as a quarter.
Lane knows better than many how to achieve results against a ticking clock: he was a competitive runner in high school and a college rugby player and rower.
Lane credits the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), which this year incorporated a plenary session on girls and women, for placing issues related to adolescent girls front and centre. "There was strong recognition that the power of adolescent girls could actually have impact on the many issues that face the attendees of CGI - whether it be health, education, peace and security, or economic growth. Girls were emphasized as a tremendous resource for positive change."
When asked what project he is particularly proud of, Lane points to the foundation's support of an initiative to address the issue of child marriages in the Amphora region of Ethiopia. In less than two years, families are seeing the value of keeping girls in school longer. "We've been able to show people the value of the girl," said Lane.
Lane says more emphasis is being placed on his foundation and others in the development field on results-oriented programming. "The real shift in development is coming with people that are very much focused on outcomes than on inputs: you can distribute a certain number of (anti-malaria) bed nets, but making sure that the outcome of those bed nets being used effectively to control malaria is really an outcome-based orientation."
Asked whether the message to invest in girls is getting through to African leaders, Lane says he is seeing a shift. "We are very much at a tipping point: there are some real visionary leaders in Africa that have recognized this already. There is programming and agencies and people are working very hard to continue to tell these stories (of success). " He pointed to a conditional cash transfer programme directly to girls in Malawi that has had a tremendous effect on the reduction and prevalence of HIV infections among girls there.
--- Reporting by HUMNEWS' Michael Bociurkiw.
(HN, May 19, 2010) In the northern Nigerian state of Kano, it's not difficult to spot the extreme wastage and inefficiencies that plague small farmers. Power outages, lack of water, gouging by middlemen and poor harvesting and distribution methods are among the challenges the average farmer faces.
The scenario is repeated across the African continent, compounding the poverty spiral that keeps millions poor and hungry.
A UN report released today warns that "ineffective farming techniques and wasteful post-harvest practices" have left sub-Saharan Africa as the region most likely to miss the Millennium Development Goals on poverty and hunger.
Produced by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the report say per capita food production in the least developed countries (LDCs) has declined continuously over the past 40 years – dropping by one-fifth between the early 1970s and the mid-2000s.
The report argues that nothing less than a "Green Revolution" for Africa is required, built on technology and innovation aimed at the needs and capabilities of millions of smallholder farmers and at coping with the continent’s varying climate conditions. The continent's smallholder farmers can benefit from new technologies such as low-cost drip irrigation and plastic water tanks to store runoff, as opposed to modern irrigation systems which can increase crop yields but are designed more for larger farms.
The report cites a successful policy of “smart subsidies” to ease access to fertilizers which has led to “staggering” increases in maize production in Malawi, as well as alternative technologies in the areas of pesticides, tilling and post-harvest technologies.
Smallholders make up the bulk of Africa’s farmers, many of whom live at or below the poverty line.
Separately, UNCTAD reported this week that unemployment levels in Africa is "unacceptably high." In 2008, unemployment rates registered at 10.1 percent, and is likely to remain in the "double digits" for 2009. Most of the unemployment is among the young and women, said Magdi Farahat, the Geneva Representative of the UN Economic Commission for Africa.
Staff, UN, files