Understanding the New Alliance Initiative with Victor Mponda-Banda
Updated: Apr 20, 2018
In an interview with The Times, our Associate Consultant, Victor Mponda-Banda discusses the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition project.
Some members of the private sector have raised concerns that the government is not doing enough to enact policies and legislation that would enable the private sector to thrive. Victor Mponda-Banda is the coordinator of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development. In this interview with Grace Thipa, he highlights some of the policy reforms under the New Alliance initiative that will spur private sector development ;
Malawi is once of the 10 countries under the New Alliance Partnership. Given is a background to this initiative and the role of the compact in driving private sector growth.
The beginning of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition can be traced to the G8 Camp David Summit of May 2012, where G8, under the American leadership in the Obama administration and African leaders, committed to the next phase (hence New Alliance) of shared commitment to achieving global food security. That was the start of the New Alliance and they made a shared commitment to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth with a target of raising 50 million people in Africa out of poverty between 2012 and 2022. They basically agreed on three things:
i) to increase responsible domestic and foreign private investment into African agriculture
ii) to take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity
iii) to reduce the risk borne by vulnerable communities.
Malawi joined the compact in June 2013 alongside Benin and Nigeria. The other countries are Ethiopia, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Ivory Coast. There are currently 15 policy commitments for Malawi. On the other hand, development partners have made commitments towards supporting the policy reform process.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development is the lead ministry and the EU is currently the lead development partner in Malawi. The private sector companies have expressed investment intentions through Letters of Intent - currently there are 22 companies according to Grow Africa, a Nepad institution, who were charged by the African Union Commission with the responsibility of mobilising private sector.
It has ben five years since Malawi joined the New Alliance Partnership, has there been any impact?
Indeed, we are in the fifth year, and we have made progress against challenges as the journey continues. We notably have the National Agriculture Policy, the Industry Policy, the Trade Policy, the new Land Law, the Contract Farming Strategy. Other Important pieces of policy reforms are at advanced stages of the review process eg the National Fertiliser Policy, the Seed Policy and legislation. The real work, however, is in the implementation of these instruments but a stage has been set to move forward.
Are there unique challenges that you have had to deal with, then in what way has these affected progress?
The policy reform process can sometimes be protracted and complicated. This does not augur well with the private sector who value a sense of time and predictability in their investment planning and execution. Private sector players loathe bureaucratic red-tape. We, therefore, have to deal with loss of interest and confidence in the Compact owing to slow progress on some reform areas. Another aspect has been the weaknesses in the design of the Compact for instance, the mode of engaging private sector through Letters of Intent on their investment intentions.
It has proven to be weak as it is not legally binding, hence, problematic in monitoring progress. This is an issue which runs across the rest of the New Alliance countries. On the organisational side, owing to current dynamics in international cooperation, the New Alliance Secretariat at the African Union Commission was closed at the end of 2017. This, to a certain extent, dampened the spirits but individual countries have the right to embrace and further the New Alliance agenda in as far as it is relevant, as is the case for Malawi.
There have also been misconceptions about the Compact. It is not a traditional project arrangement rather, it is a shared tripartite commitment within which progress can be pursued. There have also been questions from the MDAs regarding the targeting of direct development support towards the specific commitments. Having cited these issues, there is always room for improvement. There have been concerns that government, is, perhaps not doing enough to enact policies and legislation seeking to address the needs of the private sector. In what way is this partnership helping to enact reforms that enable business operations and investments?
The New Alliance remains a very relevant platform in at least three major ways: 1. A Platform for pursuing policy reform, 2. A framework for programming for both the development partners and the government. Thirdly, 3. it accords an opportunity for bringing the private sector to the table in the policy reform discourse. Through the work of the partnership, some progress is being registered.
You may wish to refer to Malawi's performance on the World Bank's Doing Business Index in the last three years. Interventions under the partnership, with support from the active G7 members in Malawi, have been executed and have sustained the momentum of the Compact: The European Union, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom through the Department for International Development and United States of America through USAID have played a role by honouring their resource commitments. For instance, with support from USAID, the New support from USAID, the New Alliance Policy Acceleration Support Project has played a critical role in supporting agricultural-related reforms.
It is also being argued that commercial laws are obsolete. Is this something that has been considered in the compact?
Certainly, the idea of the New Alliance Compact is to institute policy reforms towards an enabling business environment to enable responsible investments. There are 15 policy commitments undergoing reforms. I can give examples of the Land Law which was recently reformed, the Seed Policy (under review) and the Control of Goods Act which is at n advanced stage of review and due for parliamentary process. So the New Alliance compact has relevance in providing a platform for initiating policy reforms of obsolete pieces of policy and legislation and will continue to, going forward.
What is the time frame for the New Alliance Partnership and what should stakeholders expect when complete?
As pointed out, the Compact is 10 years from 2012 to 2022. The expectations for Malawi is that, through the initiative, we have more private sector investment particularly in the agriculture related value chains and to graduate to million people out of poverty.
Are there any additional comments?
Going into the fifth year in the Compact, we have achieved some commitments and others are at an advanced stage in the reform process. We are, therefore, in the process of reviewing the current set of policy commitments. As I speak to you now, a new generation of policy commitments have been proposed and are undergoing consultation so as to reflect the real needs of the private sector. But you will appreciate that policy instruments alone are not enough; there is need to implement them otherwise we run the risk of ticking the boxes and halting.
The direction is, therefore' towards implementation of what has already been achieved. Once that is said, you would also wish to strengthen the institutional capacities of the custodian MDAs. As they say in international development, institutions matter!