By Yamakani Simutowe
State President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika says Africa needs home-grown and evidence-based policies to directly confront and address its deep rooted challenges such as poverty, inequality as well as corruption.
He was speaking on Monday when he opened the third Africa Cabinet Secretaries’ round table workshop at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe.
“Without evidence as the basis, policies are bound to be theoretical and impractical. Such policies simply end up on book shelves, left to gather dust. Therefore, policy makers must sift through these factors with evidence and analysis in order to make informed judgement. It is, therefore, important that a rigorous evidence-based approach should be followed when developing public policies,” said the President.
The Malawi leader called for wholesome engagement and inclusion by policy makers in coming up with plans meant for the public.
He said cabinet secretaries fulfil a very critical role in the policy-making process. He reiterated that if Africa is serious about moving forward, it cannot tolerate haphazard policy development.
“We cannot accept policies that do not listen to the people, to the procedures, and to evidence. But we must also consider building institutional capacity as well. It is, therefore, imperative that staff who work in Cabinet Secretariats and line ministries are equipped with the right skills,” he said.
He further told the gathering that Malawi, just like other countries in Africa, is doing well in enhancing policy-making process. Government of Malawi recently launched a Public Policy Research and Analysis Project whose aim is to strengthen the development and implementation of policies that are based on evidence.
He also noted that another notable achievement made in this area is the development of a Policy Manual called ‘Guide to Executive Decision-making Process’.
The manual is a reference tool for all those who are involved in policy formulation and implementation. It lays down the processes and procedures that must be followed by government ministries, departments and agencies when developing public policies.
Dr. Ernest Surrur, President of the Council of the Africa Secretaries said despite that the council was in its developmental stage expectations were high for a greater and positive change in the execution of government business.
Dr Surrur said, through the experience and knowledge sharing, quality and delivery of service as well as mutual understanding between politician and Cabinet secretaries in the implementation of decision and policies would be enhanced.
“I would like to echo with the President that African problems can be well discussed and solved by African countries without the pressure from the outside. We are geared to use this Council to impact our countries,” Dr Surrur said.
Malawi’s Chief Secretary to the Government, George Mkondiwa said as country, Malawi has used the Network as a forum for sharing experiences, knowledge and good practices around the improvements of decision making in government.
Mkondiwa said from 2014 when the Network was established, five senior cabinet officers from the country’s cabinet office participated in the two training courses.
“The effect of these courses in Malawi is manifest in the quality of the policies that are being developed now and also in the production of the guide to the executive decision -making process to be launched soon,” he said.
The workshop, which will proceed for the next three days, will among things discuss various topics including: Evidence-Informed Policy Making, Change management strategies, Strategies to improve quality of Cabinet proposals, Measuring results, Building policy capacity in Government Ministries, Role of Cabinets in implementing Sustainable Development Goals and E-Cabinet.
Delegates to the workshop include Cabinet Secretaries or their representatives and other senior officials from Cabinet Offices of Botswana, Ghana, Lesotho, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Somaliland, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zanzibar and Malawi.
The workshop is an initiative of the Africa Cabinet Government Network (ACGN) which was established in 2014 as a voluntary organization for Cabinet Secretaries. The ACGN, whose headquarters is in Freetown, Sierra Leone, serves as a platform for cross-country collaboration on evidence-based decision making and Cabinet procedures. The theme for this year’s Workshop is “Enhancing Governments’ effectiveness through Evidence informed Policy-making”.
The African Cabinet Government Network (ACGN) is a voluntary organisation of Cabinet Secretaries established in 2014. The network was created out of necessity to provide formal and informal opportunities for the collaboration, mutual support and sharing of practical experiences.
The network was as well established to provide technical assistance to the cabinet secretaries and others involved in managing the cabinet processes in Africa in order to facilitate evidence informed collective decision making by governments and effective implementation of their decisions.