Scenarios, outlooks and challenges in the next 30 years
There are two categories of driving forces namely “certainties” and “uncertainties” that shape plausible scenarios. Certainties are drivers that can be reasonably predicted and one can, with a certain level of ease, point out how they might play out in the future. They are the ‘given’ and they form the rules of the game and used to enrich the story lines or plots. Key uncertainties are the literally that – the driving forces that are uncertain. They can include the so-called ‘known unknowns’, risks, possible trend breaks and wild cards. It is their impact and lack of knowledge about them that are the vital for developing a better understanding of how the future might unfold.
During the workshop, certain factors were identified in increased population growth, greater climate change impacts (i.e. natural scarcity, deforestation, land degradation, etc), lower contribution of agriculture to national GDP, urbanization and inadequate energy sector. On the other hand, issues related to governance and Issues related to the structure and nature of the economy were identified as key uncertainties, and featured as key drivers of four possible scenarios:
1. The Mkaka Ndi Uchi scenario
Mkaka Ndi Uchi is a Chichewa word meaning “a land of milk and honey”. This is the possible future of a Malawi where politicians are altruistic and take decisions for the greater good, especially keeping in mind the poor, where the economy is growing and diversified and where public finance management has made the system more transparent and efficient. In this scenario safety nets have replaced consumption subsidies and women and youth are actively participating in the labour market. Economic and environmental concerns are taken into account in policy decisions, although natural resource exploitation is still a challenge.
2. The Mbombo scenario
Mbombo is a Chichewa word meaning “greedy”. This is the future of a Malawi where politicians are in it for themselves (and their handful of supporters), yet the economy is growing and diversified. The economy is mainly driven by foreign companies, which invest in the country and provide jobs for the young people but due to weak policies and their implementation, pose a serious threat on natural resources and the environment.
3. The Wotsalira scenario
Wotsalira is a Chichewa word meaning “backward” or “not progressive”. Is the future of a Malawi where politicians are in it for themselves (and their handful of supporters) and the economy is stagnant and one-dimensional – not having different, diverse sectors. In this scenario corruption is diffused at all levels, the demand for energy is high and overexploitation of natural resources results in loss of biodiversity and threatens food security.
4. The Wokankha scenario
Wokankha is a Chichewa word meaning “struggling”. This is the future of a Malawi where politicians are altruistic and take decisions for the greater good, especially keeping in mind the poor. Land reform policies are formulated to address land fragmentation and climate change policies are put in place and implemented in the context of the National Agricultural Strategy but without the necessary investments needed to support them. Consequently, despite the good will, the economy is stagnant and one-dimensional, food insecurity is high as well as unemployment rates.
What do you think are the main drivers of and obstacles to development for Malawi in the next 30 years?
Keeping in mind that each scenario represents an extreme future, how plausible do you think the scenarios for Malawi are? What would you like to add/change in each scenario to make it more plausible from your perspective?
What solutions would support the drivers of the best scenario and help overcome obstacles encountered on the way? How about overcoming the challenges of the worst scenarios?
What are the key first steps needed to get a change process in motion, and who needs to be involved?