Speech by Marchel Gerrmann, Ambassador of the EU Delegation to Malawi at the occasion of the SDG Fair on Tuesday 24 October 2017 in Mtsiliza Primary School, Lilongwe
Muli Bwanji? (How are you?)
Ndilibwino, zikomo. (I am well, thank you.)
I am very glad to be here today at this fair to celebrate and showcase the SDGs.
As European Union, we are very glad to see numerous displays showcasing the efforts of a broad range of players implement the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development and achieving the SDGs. As EU, we are investing close to 700 million EURO in the period to 2020 mainly focusing on Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition, corresponding to SDG goal no 1 and 2; followed by Secondary, Technical and Vocational Education relating to SDG no. 4 and Governance, referring to the SDG no.16.
To give you concrete examples of what we are doing:
- Under EU Social cash transfers programme 270,000 extremely poor people are benefiting from regular payments to secure their livelihoods (in 7 districts)
- In Secondary Education, we are rehabilitating 21 Community Day Secondary Schools, training teachers to upgrade their skills, and are providing teaching and learning materials. Also, 33 technical workshops will be rehabilitated and equipped.
- In Technical and Vocational Training we are rehabilitating and equipping 4 Technical Colleges, 10 Community colleges and 10 Community Skills Development Centres and as well as the Polytechnic and 3 trade testing centres.
We are also supporting Malawi in other SDG relevant areas like providing safe drinking water to 1.5 million Malawians; rehabilitating about 2,450 km of rural roads and 220 bridges, providing over 40,000 jobs and we are continuing to add another 1,200 km in 12 selected districts.
And on top of these efforts, we are also partnering with the investment bank of the EU, the EIB, as well as other development banks to rehabilitate the M1 road and interconnect the Malawian electricity grid to the SADC power pool.
We believe strongly that Malawi can accomplish the targets set under the sustainable development goals. The EU will be a reliable partner in this journey. The SDGs are a common endeavour and I am glad to see today the commitment of so many of our partners to deliver change on the ground.
However please also allow me to add, the road to fulfilling the SDGs is not without challenges. In some areas, it can be a steep up-hill journey which will require continuous and relentless efforts to maintain the progress and not roll back. In other areas, there might be difficult obstacles to be circumvented.
Allow me to illustrate. The Government is about to finalise the new national strategy to achieve growth and development for Malawi. The new MGDS III will facilitate the implementation of the SDGs. But I would like to stress four very important areas which in our view need to be addressed in order to move development further, accelerate sustainable growth and jobs and achieve the SDGs.
1) Malawi has the reputation of being policy rich and implementation poor. Malawi has to take care, that actual implementation and changes on the ground will happen. If the SDGs shall be achieved, this mantra of “good policies, bad implementation” has to change! Progress is not a one shot effort. If you enthusiastically start climbing a hill but halfway different priorities are popping up, motivation is fading and resources are being redirected….. you risk not only stopping progress, but that you stumble down the hill to end up were you started from or even worse. So once we start, it is important that we keep focused with the same commitment and energy to achieve our results.
One good way is to focus on a few possible routes where all strength can be focussed to move forward, rather than trying to explore all possible routes equipped with minimal resources due to the sheer number of routes to be covered. We know resources are limited and the needs are huge and diverse. But we need to prioritise and focus where our investments will have the highest impact.
2) Secondly, I would like to caution, that major infrastructure projects, as foreseen in the MGDS III, on its own, will not achieve the aspired development, particularly regarding SDGs. Infrastructure is important. As EU we are ourselves supporting major infrastructure investments in irrigation, roads, the power grid, schools, etc. But we need to simultaneously focus on the enabling environment for investment and development to happen beyond the pure investment. SDG No.8 Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, is absolutely critical, but cannot be achieved only through investment. If Malawi does not create a more predictable and transparent environment for business, more investments and more jobs may not materialise, even if the roads are good and irrigation schemes built. For example this season we have seen very low maize prices that are directly linked to export restrictions. Do you think that commercial farmers and potential investors will be keen to invest in growing maize next year? Without certainty that products can be exported, and without clarity under which conditions, investment will not materialise. This is just an example: the ease of starting a business, the availability and cost of credit, the skills of the labour force, etc. are all factors critical to investment and the creation of decent jobs. I am encouraged that the Government is determined to table the Control of Goods Act in Parliament next month. It is important that this law meets the expectations of private sector.
3) Thirdly, I would like to draw your attention to one of the main challenges Malawi is facing over the coming years –population growth. Population growth if not addressed, could render all efforts fruitless. Let’s say we want to increase the number of nurses, the teachers per student, and grow enough food to feed the population. All these efforts will in the end not bring us very far if the population grows faster than what Malawi can provide. So what is needed is a two-prone approach. Not only focus on the production side and maximise the service delivery within the given constraints. But also zoom in on population growth and try to limit the growth of the population so that more and better services can start to reach more people and that scarce resources will not be depleted.
4) Finally, it is essential that the available resources fully reach their intended purposes. There are too many reports of misappropriation of resources at all levels, troubling audit findings, unfinished or substandard development projects, etc. A sustainable improvement of the delivery of services for ordinary Malawians will only be possible if corruption is clamped down and the amounts of public money that vanish are significantly reduced. The Government organised a high profile conference on corruption in April this year, where we discussed interesting proposals on how the issue could be addressed. As of now, we are still waiting for the formal report of this conference. Given the urgency to address corruption in Malawi we call on Government to share the report and recommendations as soon as possible so that we can all start working on the follow up.
Finally, in concluding, I would like to stress, that Malawi has many prerequisites to make this journey to meet the SDGs a success. Malawi has sufficient land, vast water resources, a climate conducive to many different crops, an entrepreneurial population and a history of democratic transition of power. Those factors that still hamper development, like implementationof relevant policies or reduction of corruption, can and should be addressed. It is possible for Malawi to be a positive story of SDG achievement and for Malawi to turn into a positive example of sustainable development and equitable growth.
Malawi can become a place where no one is left behind.
Zikomo kwambiri. (thank you.)