Minerals sector blurred in MGDS III
By Chiku Jere
Mining gurus have taken a swipe at the government for ignoring the minerals sector as one of Malawi’s Key Priority Areas (KPAs) in the recently-launched Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III).
The MGDS III is anchored on five KPAs namely: Agriculture, Water Development and Climate Change; Education and Skills Development; Energy, Industry and Tourism Development; Transport and ICT Infrastructure; and Health and Population, which government says were chosen on the basis of their strong linkages among each other as well as other sectors of the economy.
However, mining experts argue that the sector still retains proven potential to turn-around Malawi’s economic fortunes hence it deserves to be highlighted as one of the KPAs in the development strategy.
Grain Malunga, Coordinator for Chamber of Mines and Energy, expressed dismay over the exclusion of the mineral sector as a KPA in MGDS III saying it will likely slow down progress that was gained in MGDS II which embraced mining as a KPA and saw generation of geoscientific information necessary to trigger exploration activities.
He said inclusion of the sector among KPAs would have enriched MGDS III as the sector could complement rain fed agriculture whose contribution to the economy is dwindling due to unreliable and unpredictable weather pattern.
But in his foreword address during the launch, Mutharika described the strategy whose theme is “Building a Productive, Competitive and Resilient Nation” as having been prepared in response to multiple shocks, such as floods, drought and financial leakages that have been experienced midway through the implementation of MGDS II.
The Malawi leader said the cycle of food deficit and surplus has kept the country preoccupied with fighting disasters instead of focusing on the development agenda, which has propelled the government to come up with such a theme for the blueprint.
With this theme, Government undertakes to continue with efforts to be a productive nation that competes on the global scene while ensuring that the nation builds systems that can best deal with natural shocks and disasters,
The President said based on the comprehensive reviews and results of the consultations on the implementation of MGDS II, the successor strategy has departed from the formulation of multiple thematic areas by going straight into the choice of fewer KPAs chosen on the basis of their strong links among themselves, with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the AU Agenda 2063 and with the rest of the economy.
Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe said the development strategy which will be implemented from 2017 to 2022, is the fourth medium-term national development strategy formulated to contribute to the attainment of country’s long-term development aspirations as enshrined in the Vision 2020.
The Minister explained that the MGDS III is the final strategy that will take Malawi to the expiry of Vision 2020 following implementation of other development strategies that were developed to implement the same vision such as the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP), and the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) I and II.
Unlike its immediate predecessor, the strategy is built around one theme that aims to improve productivity, turn the country into a competitive nation and develop resilience to shocks and hazards,
Gondwe also said the strategy which is the outcome of a year-long process of consultations, brainstorming, and validation meetings with different stakeholders both within and outside government also consolidates the efforts that Malawi is undertaking to reposition itself as a global player.
But in his Technical File column that appeared in the April edition of Mining & Trade Review, Malunga wrote:
Mining plays a big economic role in promoting market availability for agriculture produce and triggers skills development in the areas of welding and fabrication, automation, environmental health and infrastructure development.
He said overreliance on rain fed agriculture means being at the mercy of unpredictable weather pattern.
He argued that for Malawi’s economy to register tremendous growth, there is need to include the minerals sector as a KPA because the sector offers an opportunity for economic linkages, growing local content and creating employment for the youth both skilled and unskilled.
Malunga cited African countries where the minerals sector remains the driver for economic development including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and Angola.
The former minister further wondered why the country continues to dwell much on social development and not economic development, stating that economic development comes from private sector growth whose revenue to government should meet the needs of social development.
Sustaining his critical observation on Chamber of Mines and Energy’s Facebook page Malunga suggested an addendum that will ensure that the significance of the mining sector is highlighted in MDGS III for attention of development partners and investors.
Many of the page followers, among them former president of Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) Martin Kansichi Banda seconded the sentiments.
Kansichi Banda wrote:
I was very surprised that this sector was not included as a priority. The people responsible for economic plans should have just looked around us to see the great contribution to GDP derived from the Mineral Sector in neighbouring countries.
Common analysis describes the extractives sector as a primary industry which supports all the economic and social sectors such as agriculture, education, health, infrastructure development, among others.
Earlier on, Mutharika’s administration had touted the sector as key in the quest to diversify from over-dependence on agriculture sector as a driver of the economy but subsequent State of the National Addresses have seen mining relegated to the periphery.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 61 (May 2018).