As I write this column in Oslo on Tuesday evening, millions of Malawians have participated in a much-anticipated election process, the outcome of which promises to be exciting in the days and weeks ahead. What is clear is that whoever wins must work closely with the bureaucracy that was not up for election. The…

  I have, in recent columns, discussed the intrinsic value of freedom and democracy and potential reforms of the electoral system. Of late, I have also been thinking about what a newly-elected executive and legislature ought to prioritise in Malawi’s pursuit of development. Here are two very broad suggestions: Strengthen state legitimacy: Upon assuming office,…

A new round of elections inevitably promises an opportunity to further strengthen civil and political freedoms, ensure greater accountability of powerholders based on performance and promises, and increased responsiveness of the State in delivering public services. There is growing interest among scholars, policymakers and citizens on understanding how, when and why elections are “successful”. The academic…

Recent reports by Freedom House indicate that there has been a decline in global freedom for the 13th consecutive year. When confronted by corruption, populist movements, discrimination of minorities and breakdowns in the rule of law, many democracies –including some in the West—have regressed. So, how is Malawi doing? Despite many challenges, democracy has survived.…

Recent reports by Freedom House indicate that there has been a decline in global freedom for the 13th consecutive year. When confronted by corruption, populist movements,discrimination of minorities and breakdowns in the rule of law, many democracies –including some in the West – have regressed. So, how is Malawi doing? Despite many challenges, democracy has survived. Indeed, Malawi is widely considered to be a successful…

Most people believe that there is an intimate relationship between ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’. Indeed, it is largely assumed that democracy possesses the capacity to promote, protect and further strengthen basic human freedoms. Thus, the freedoms of assembly, speech, expression and opposition are essential in order for elections to be meaningful. The argument is that checks…

In the past few decades, many African countries have engaged in so-called South-South Cooperation (SSC) with major powers like China and India. While China highlights its impressive achievements in lifting over half a billion people out of poverty within a couple of decades, India showcases the successes of its Green Revolution and advances in information…

Since the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and its accompanying 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over three and a half years ago, a recurring topic in many discussions on global development has concerned financing this ambitious agenda that is estimated to cost $5 to 7 trillion. And businesses all over the world—from China to Norway—are…

At an event convened in Oslo,Norway last week, I had the opportunity of discussing issues related to capacity building with the well-known economist Lant Pritchett. In a fascinating book titled Building State Capacity: Evidence, Analysis, Action (2017), Pritchett and his co-authors Matt Andrews and Michael Woolcock argue that despite good intentions aimed at strengthening capacity…

This weekend, I finally got to watch The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, the Netflix feature film based on William Kamkwamba’s inspiring and bestselling book on how he helped bring water and electricity to his village near Kasungu, which in turn greatly benefited both his family and the local community. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s directorial debut is…

Like millions of people all over the world, I love coffee. And after numerous visits to Malawi over the past decade and a half, I have become a huge fan of Malawian coffee. Last week, following my most recent visit, I returned home to Oslo, Norway with several packets of Satemwa Espresso and Mzuzu coffee,…

Like millions of people all over the world, I love coffee. And after numerous visits to Malawi over the past decade and a half, I have become a huge fan of Malawian coffee. Last week, following my most recent visit, I returned home to Oslo, Norway with several packets of Satemwa Espresso and Mzuzu coffee,…

There are growing concerns among Malawians regarding the country’s fast-growing population—soon expected to surpass 18 million. The typical complaint is that unrestricted population growth is a challenge for a resource-constrained economy and impedes the Malawian State’s ability to feed its citizens and provide quality social services. Some argue that the population “problem” has been exacerbated…

A little over a decade ago, I was in Addis Ababa studying legal empowerment and speaking to a well-known human rights lawyer in my hotel lounge. Around 15 minutes into our conversation, a stranger approached us, greeted me by name and sat down at a nearby table without hiding his interest in eavesdropping on our conversation.…

There is considerable debate in academic and policy circles on the type of leadership and managerial capacities required for overall economic and social development. Successful leaders are often able to combine a set of personality traits such as drive and desire to lead, integrity, self-confidence, intelligence, adaptability, assertiveness and emotional stability. A particularly common distinction…

I have been travelling in India for the past week. Although it faces numerous challenges – a huge population, rising unemployment, growing environmental vulnerabilities – almost everyone I spoke to agreed that, despite many odds, democracy has not only survived but is now firmly entrenched in the social and political fabric of the country.  Scholars…

A most interesting success story in the realm of health comes from Uganda, which in 1982 was the first African country to identify Aids. By the mid-1980s, Uganda had one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the world, which continued to rise in the next decade and a half. In the 1990s, however, remarkable…

At the start of the New Year, I was giving a set of talks in Beijing on poverty, foreign aid and sustainable development. It gave me an opportunity to renew my interest in better understanding China’s impressive achievements in lifting more than half a billion people out of poverty within two and a half decades.…