A few days ago, I attended the launch of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2019 (SOFI) report in New York. The report does not make for pleasant reading. More than 820 million people in our world suffer from daily hunger and this number has been slowly increasing in the past…

The world has achieved numerous developmental successes in the past few decades. Poverty has been eradicated in some parts of the world and drastically reduced in others (e.g. China and India). Impressive results have also been achieved in global health and disease prevention as well as in many other areas of development. However, in a…

Large parts of the African continent continue to face an acute shortage of energy. Hundreds of millions of people do not have any access to electricity. And the few that do enjoy access to the grid, are often not guaranteed continued power supply throughout the day. As governments struggle to boost power generation, they are…

 Food security features high on the international development agenda. Two global initiatives in the past decade have reiterated the policies and programmatic actions required to spur urgent action to prevent malnutrition. First, member States of the World Health Organisation (WHO) unanimously endorsed in 2012 six ambitious and global targets to be achieved by 2025 aimed…

I recently had the pleasure of riding the Madaraka Express—a Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project that connects Nairobi to the port city of Mombasa. It gave me a first-hand experience of how a Chinese “mega project” works, and how it is being financed, maintained and expanded to other parts of Kenya. The Nairobi terminus, where…

When government agencies struggle to provide efficient and reliable services, an important group often steps in to provide some form of relief to affected citizens. These are the middle-men, variously known as “brokers”, “fixers”, “touts” and “dobadobas”. For a fee, they help facilitate various tasks—application for a driver’s licence, authorisation for building construction, settlement of…

  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.…