Malawi’s former President Joyce Banda has said that the main challenges to development in Africa are poverty, lack of opportunity and lack of income. She said because of poverty, most families go hungry and are food insecure, which in turn impact on child development and growth.
She was speaking on Wednesday, October 8, 2014 at the Women and Global Development Forum at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, in Chicago, Illinois.
The Forum seeks to increase public awareness of global women’s issues. The forum works with local, national and international partners to bring practitioners and thought leaders to Chicago for a series of discussions.
Through open dialogue, the forum increases awareness and understanding of emerging local and global challenges, successful development initiatives, and notable examples of leadership featuring women in the United States and from around the world.
Banda’s presentation was on: “By protecting and investing in children, fighting corruption and empowering women, Africa may be able to solve many of its most endemic problems and fully engage in the global economy. What priorities do African leaders need to set in order for their continent to thrive? How can the international business and civic communities support these efforts?”
Addressing the forum, she noted that the 20th Century was a difficult one for Africa, saying although independence from colonial rule in the 1950s and 60s brought hope and enthusiasm, it did not necessarily correspond with the socio-economic independence that the majority of the people had aspired for.
“Too often, Africa failed to harness the talent of the people and the wealth of her countries, especially its youth and women. Undoubtedly, the history of Africa’s independence cannot be complete without mentioning the role women and youth of the continent played during the struggle for independence. Most of the founding fathers of the African countries were young men and women of their time,” she said.
After decades of political and economic experimentation with our development partners, the African development agenda went seriously wrong, she said.
“As the continent could not protect and invest much in her children, the prescriptions by the IMF and World Bank did not help either. They further slowed down our growth. The reforms did not focus on Africa to develop her own industries but continued to be provider of raw materials,” observed Banda.
Tackling corruption, she said it prevalent in all sectors of society; in Government, private sector, civil society organizations and “it is prevalent among development partners”.
She said therefore when addressing corruption, holistic approach and a globalized mindset are a prerequisite.
“Leaders must put people first and as hard as it is to fight corruption. We must continue with the fight for the benefit of ordinary people. As we know, corruption is an impediment to economic growth and development and the main victims of corruption are women and children,” she said.
On children, Banda noted that over 40 percent children are stunted and malnourished in Africa due to poor feeding. Africa did not invest enough in her children, she said.
But Banda said the situation was now improving. The child health days campaigns and provision of Vitamin A to women and their new born babies six weeks after birth and up to five years of age including nutrition support, are showing positive impact, she noted.
“It is very essential that we invest in the first 1,000 days of a child and promote early childhood development programs if we have to bring up healthy adults. Despite that our local community set-ups do provide protection for children, most families fail to adequately protect and invest in children because of lack of income. As a result, they fail to send their children to school because of poverty and lack of income,” said Banda.
“Is it fair that our children do not go to school? Is it fair that women, who constitute the majority of our population, stay on the sidelines of our economies? Is it fair that young children bring up their fellow children? Or is it fair that the poor should look after the poor? How long will Africa wait?
“We need to commit ourselves to help influence creating opportunities for women in the informal sector, market places, small and medium businesses to earn income through deliberate policies and programs that are inclusive, participatory and equitable,” said Banda.