Malawi ‘delivery labs’ for fast-tracking President Chakwera’s transformative agenda

Edited by Chikumbutso Mtumodzi:

In a bid to strengthen the government’s ability to deliver genuine social and economic growth thereby improving Malawians’ lives, President Lazarus Chakwera’s administration will be implementing the ‘Malawi Delivery Labs’ concept, which aims to establish joint accountability between the public sector and the private sector, to shoulder the responsibility of the development of Malawi.

According to an official government ‘synopsis’, Labs are an iterative process that focuses on tackling issues faced by an entity through a recursive trouble-shooting process.

Labs are problem solving tools, designed to tackle complex challenges, by bringing together all stakeholders, facilitated through a structured process of identifying the root cause of the challenges and crowd-sourcing ideas and resources to solve them.

It is an inclusive process for addressing difficult issues and accelerating solution development in selected areas such as to attract new investments and the delivery of government’s priorities.

The major outputs of Labs are detailed implementation programmes, with the required funding from both the public and private sectors, and selecting persons responsible and accountable for the line item, and timelines attached to each and every one of the implementation plan.

STRUCTURE OF THE DELIVERY LABS

Core working groups (CWG) will be established for each Delivery Cluster, to ensure that necessary data and information is available, technical insights and support are provided, institutional capacity is strengthened, and sufficient authority is present to drive decision making. The CWGs will consist of an average of 20 persons per cluster; and each of the delivery clusters is co-chaired by the respective sector heads.

FAST-TRACKING TRANSFORMATIVE AGENDA

The idea of adopting the Labs is fast-tracking the attainment of the strategic objectives of President Chakwera’s Transformation Agenda. It is prompted by the desire of the President to achieve accelerated, coordinated delivery of the government’s priorities.

The labs focus on delivery and implementation through getting strategic direction and alignment amongst the senior leadership cadre to fashion out a strategic direction and then conduct a mass crowd sourcing of ideas as well as mobilising resources into focused areas. For President Chakwera’s Transformation Agenda, it is to further drill down our economic transformation efforts in the initial focused areas of Agro-Industrialisation, Infrastructure, Human Capital, Digitalisation and Governance.

The Delivery Labs are billed to hold for about four (4) weeks and will be attended by key public and private sector stakeholders to identify critical areas where growth can be accelerated, through the identification of Anchor Projects that will unlock and catalyse private sector investment into core focus areas.

Conversations and discussions will primarily be focused around mobilising private sector investments into the focus areas. Participation of both the private and public sectors is therefore critical to ensure that deliberations inside the Labs are well represented by both sides.

According to the synopsis, during the course of the preparation of the Delivery Labs up to October 25, 2021, when four (4)-week Delivery Labs will commence, key stakeholders shall be invited and encouraged to an expression of interest, to help identify catalytic Anchor Projects that will spearhead the country’s economic transformation.

This is because anchor project promoters such as private sector operators are the most critical stakeholders that will shape the future of Malawi’s economy, while the Government will support and facilitate through policy and regulations.

TONY BLAIR INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL CHANGE

The Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) is working closely with the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, which has used a similar approach in fast-tracking the achievement of government’s priorities in a number of similar African countries with relatively similar antecedence as Malawi.

The Tony Blair Institute is providing technical assistance and sharing Delivery best practice and building capacity of the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU) to independently conduct future delivery labs and drive implementation of the government’s priorities subsequently.

The PDU will be piloting the first phase of Delivery Labs and will leverage and adopt the experience obtained through the collaboration, to assist the country in achieving the aspirations and target.

WHY DELIVERY LABS

The overall programme is to be coordinated by the Presidential Delivery Unit (PDU). The labs will serve as an effective tool for ensuring robust engagement between the public and private sectors to resolve challenges within a specified sector.

Government says the Labs are intended to bring all the relevant stakeholders in the public and private sectors into weeks of intensive working sessions to brainstorm on practical steps to overcome any identified challenges in the selected areas, through breaking down of silos. They are also meant to identify quick delivery with impactful outcomes within the Government Priority areas, to mobilise and to fast-track private investments and delivery in these focus areas, and to provide an interactive environment for enhancing both local and foreign direct investments

The Delivery Labs are not meant to replace existing sectoral roadmaps and plans but to identify anchor projects to restore confidence to citizens and partners. Labs are expected to unlock investments that are stalled or stranded to tap into the potential of private sector resources to drive the economy, while government creates a conducive environment for businesses to thrive.

FROM POLICY TO DELIVERY

The administration of President Chakwera is focused on agro-led industrialisation, recognising that this is where the greatest scope for sectors that can drive inclusive economic growth and economic transformation lies. It is focusing on three strategic objectives – Wealth Creation, Job Creation, and Food Security.

The thinking and the development of the Plan was driven by several fundamental principles, including, focusing on tackling constraints to economic growth; leveraging the presence of development support and the power of the investment community to drive sustainable growth and development; and promoting national cohesion and social inclusion.

To achieve the objectives of the President’s Transformation Agenda, the key priorities are Agro-Industrialisation (Trade, Investments and Food Systems); Infrastructure (Energy and Roads); Human Capital (Education and Health); Digitisation and Governance.

DELIVERY LAB SECTORS

Ministries were selected and prioritised to pilot the first phase of the Labs. The sectors represented by these ministries are adjudged to be the highest contributors to the Malawi Transformation Programme based on the priorities of the government. The ministries were then grouped into four (4) lab sectors.

The Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Industry and the Minister of Trade, will co-chair the Agro-Industrialisation cluster. The Minister of Energy and the Minister of Transport will co-chair the infrastructure cluster; the Minister of Education and Minister of Health will co-chair the Human Capital Cluster while the Minister of Information will co-chair the Digitisation and Governance Cluster.  The Delivery Labs will focus on mobilising private sector investments into the Four sectors of the Lab areas. The lead Ministers for the Priority sectors shall then cascade the targets and responsibility of delivering the results down to the Permanent Secretaries of the respective lead ministries and KPIs will be developed for the respective Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to enable tracking of implementation and performance throughout the implementation.

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