Malawi’s population is predominantly young. In 2014 it was recorded that two thirds of the population were under 25 years of age. Despite this, the demographics of the Parliament of Malawi reflects that of Africa as a whole, where the average age of the population of Africa is 19, but the average age of politicians is 65. There is a high turnover of MPs in the National Assembly, but few young people – under the age of 40 - standing for seats.
In November 2016, CPA UK, in collaboration with the British High Commission and CPA Scotland delivered a programme for a selection of young Members at the National Assembly of Malawi and aspiring politicians. The programme explored good parliamentary practice and procedure and addressed topical areas of issue-based campaigning and barriers to youth engagement in politics.
In 1994 Malawi passed a new constitution and established multi-party democracy. In this relatively recent political history, Malawi has witnessed the establishment of a number of new political parties, as well as the amalgamation and secession of different sections of political parties. Political parties are still evolving, creating a somewhat shifting environment in terms of political priorities and allegiances. As such, political parties hold a great deal of power, including shaping media engagement and shifting Members between committees. As a result, there is often a lack of institutional memory of parliamentary practice and procedure.
With this in mind, this initial workshop held in Lilongwe from 7-10 November sought to provide introductory cross-party training on the responsibilities of parliamentarians. The delivery of this programme by a cross-party delegation from the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament separated the responsibilities and agency of parliamentarians from political party powers and processes.
This programme, also served to discuss and document the key challenges facing parliamentarians in Malawi, notably regarding the customs around elections and expectations of politicians and how those differ from the expectations of British politicians.
The programme engaged with diverse topics: the responsibilities and practices of candidates during elections; barriers to youth engagement as candidates and as voters; structural and financial constraints to effective parliamentary practices in the National Assembly; and community engagement and media relations. In each of these areas, the key challenges were outlined and, where possible, innovative ideas and improvements were proposed and discussed.
So what were the outcomes and the resolutions made from this workshop?
I will share these in the next post!
See you soon
Dennis Imaan is a Global Citizen born and currently staying in Malawi. He loves to share his experiences and lessons with others. Travel, Tourism, Innovations, Media and Youth development are close to his heart.