By Dyson Mthawanji
As a developing country in Southern Africa, Malawi is implementing its latest development blueprint, called Malawi Vision 2063, as one way of attaining both economic and social prosperity in the country.
Malawi has had several development visions in the past, each with a specific focus and timeframe. These visions include the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) I (2006-2011) which focused on poverty reduction and economic growth. It aimed to achieve sustainable economic growth of 6% per year and reduce poverty by 50% by 2011. Then, there was the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) II (2011-2016). This was a continuation of the first MGDS, and its focus was on consolidating the gains made under the first strategy, as well as accelerating economic growth. Its key priority areas included agriculture, energy, and social protection. Then there was the Malawi Development Vision 2020. This was a long-term development vision developed in 1998 with the aim of transforming Malawi into a middle-income country by the year 2020. It had four main pillars: sustainable economic growth, social development, environmental management, and good governance. Another framework was the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (2002-2005). This was a poverty reduction strategy developed in response to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other international development initiatives. Its main focus was on reducing poverty through improved access to basic services such as health, education, and water.
These policies did not, however, bring about the much-desired success and prosperity that Malawi strives for. However, this is all water under the bridge now as Malawi has a new policy, Malawi Vision 2063. This is being spearheaded by the National Planning Commission, an institution which was established by the Malawi Government to champion development policy in the country.
Malawi's Vision 2063 is a long-term development plan that aims to transform the country into a prosperous, resilient, and self-reliant nation by the year 2063. The vision was developed by the government of Malawi in 2020 and it is aligned with the African Union's Agenda 2063, which seeks to accelerate Africa's economic and social transformation over the next decades.
The slogan for Malawi's Vision 2063 is An Inclusively Wealthy and Self-reliant Nation. The use of the word ‘inclusively’ echoes Sustainable Development Goal 4, which seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This goal calls for the inclusion of Adult Learning and Education (ALE), which is a key component of lifelong learning. With each additional year of education, the likelihood of finding gainful employment and improved earnings increases. The link between adult education and enhanced livelihoods is well-established. It is a key contributor to wealth creation, self-reliance, and development both in rural and urban areas.
This fact points towards the powerful contribution that ALE can make to the realization of Malawi’s Vision 2063. The Vision aims at developing a diversified and competitive economy that is driven by innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship. While the general understanding of this objective may be that the country should champion innovation in businesses, ALE also has a key role to play through education in areas such as life skills, where adult learners develop their critical thinking and problem-solving, which empower and enable them to be innovative when tackling social and community problems.
Malawi is an agricultural country, with agriculture being the mainstay of the country's economy. More than 80% of the country's population relies on agriculture for their livelihoods. The agriculture sector in Malawi is dominated by smallholder farmers who grow crops such as maize and tobacco. Through approaches such as Integrated Adult Education, which DVV International is promoting in Malawi, people are trained on how to practice crop diversification as part of resilience towards the effects of climate change. This is another example of adult education’s contribution to reaching the goals of Vision 2063.
Addressing skills gaps
Skilful people are the architects of development. ALE can help address skills gaps in the labour market by providing individuals with the skills needed for the available opportunities in their communities. This can help increase productivity and competitiveness, and support economic growth. There are several ways in which ALE can address skills gaps in Malawi. For example, ALE programmes can begin by conducting needs assessments to identify the specific skills gaps that exist in the country. This will inform the design of programmes to address the most pressing skills gaps and ensure that the skills acquired are relevant to the needs of the workforce. ALE programmes can develop curricula that focus on the skills that are needed in the job market. This may include vocational skills training in areas such as agriculture and entrepreneurship as well as soft skills such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. In short, ALE programmes can play a critical role in addressing skills gaps in Malawi by providing relevant, flexible, and accessible learning opportunities that enable adults to acquire the skills they need to succeed in the informal job market.
ALE also promotes entrepreneurship and self-employment by providing individuals with the skills and knowledge needed to start and run successful small-scale businesses. This helps to drive personal and community economic growth.
Malawi Vision 2063 encourages citizens to be innovative in whatever they do as innovation is key to entrepreneurship. ALE programmes encourage adults to think creatively and explore new ideas. This can help them to identify new business opportunities and to develop innovative solutions to business challenges. There are many innovative approaches that adult education uses to address social problems in Malawian communities. For example, ALE provides community-based education through programmes designed to target specific communities that are most affected by social problems, such as poverty, unemployment, and illiteracy. By working closely with local leaders and community members, adult education programmes tailor their curricula and outreach efforts to the unique needs and challenges of each community. It is important to recognise that the realisation of Malawi Vision 2063 will come from successful efforts and strategies across communities throughout Malawi.
Many of Malawi’s social problems are rooted in a lack of economic opportunities and access to job training. Adult education programmes provide vocational training and skills development that helps individuals and communities to become more self-sufficient and economically empowered. Through Community Learning Centres in selected districts of Malawi, DVV International in partnership with the Ministry of Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare is already providing tailoring skills to community members. However, it is essential that the government and other stakeholders scale up the provision of vocational skills such as these as one way of strengthening the informal sector, which has been insufficiently supported in recent years.
Health and the environment
Adult education programmes are also being used to raise awareness about health issues such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, cholera, COVID and others. By providing education and resources, adult education programmes help individuals to take preventative measures and to access necessary medical care. Healthy citizens are the ones that will effectively contribute to Vision 2063.
Regarding the environment, which is a critical area, ALE provides education to mitigate environmental degradation and educate people on climate justice. Malawi faces many environmental challenges such as deforestation, soil erosion and extreme weather events. Adult education programmes promote sustainable practices such as conservation, reforestation, and eco-friendly farming methods, which are essential for a sustainable future.
Malawi needs to recognise the role of adult education as a key tool for the success of sustainable community development in the country. Adult education is a hub for all development at the community level. While Malawi Vision 2063 may sound like a dream for the macro level only, the contribution of adult education at all levels, especially in communities, will enable citizens to play an active role in making this vision a reality.