JB delivers powerful UN address: Malawi on a journey for real change

  • Malawian president makes first-ever UN address

Malawi President Mrs Joyce Banda gave her maiden speech to the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly, outlining her vision for Malawi.

Banda told the global leaders about her ascendancy to power when late president Bingu wa Mutharika died in office on April 5, 2012, saying a “peaceful and constitutional transition of power was not inevitable when my Presidency began.”

Monitored on UN live webcast, she said the people of Malawi have made a decisive choice: “They have chosen democracy, they have chosen peace and they have chosen to work together to realize their destiny. It is my people’s courage and determination that has taken me into the Presidency, and which we will now apply to our national development.”

Malawi President Joyce Banda addresses UN General Assembly

Style and substance

President Banda looking composed on the UN podium for the first time wearing waxed embroidered outfit with her trademark draping matching  sash on her shoulders (Chi-Joyce)  said Malawi is on a journey “to change its trajectory”, and to make “real change happen.”

“A journey to foster private sector growth.  A journey to be an integral part of the global community,” she said.

In her speech, President Banda said Malawi” is ready to take its turn to grow.  To grow not just the wealth, but the opportunities, hope and freedoms for all the Malawian people. “

But President asked for “support” and also pointed out that her government will engage the global community.

“Malawi will continue to need global support in the short and medium term. We need this support to protect the rural poor from food shortages caused by prolonged dry spells in some parts of the country,” she said.

President Banda said Malawi is looking for partnerships to build its energy capacity.

She also said Malawi needs support to attract private investment “for the rich potential we have in agro-processing and mining”.

“We are looking for partnerships to support the development of our transport and communications infrastructure in order to improve the market access to markets,” she added.

 Vision for Malawi

The first female Malawian Head of State told the UN general assembly that she has a vision for the southern African “to eradicate poverty through economic growth and wealth creation.”

“Malawi aims to create wealth by transforming the structure of the economy, promoting the private sector in order to achieve economic growth, accelerate job creation and protect the vulnerable and the excluded within a decentralized and democratic environment,” said the Malawi leader.

President Banda said her vision is specifically to transform Malawi “to become one of the fastest growing African economies in the next decade.”

She said: “For me, growth is not merely GDP growth.  Growth is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all.

“Growth is also about growing the number of children in school, and young people in jobs.  Growth is about increasing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital, and of growing the number of families who have plenty of food.”

She told the global leaders that for the past three years Malawi faced severe economic and social challenges brought on by poor political and economic governance under the late president Bingu wa Mutharika.

Banda said she has put in place an economic recovery programme to restore macroeconomic stability in the country, to address “immediate macroeconomic issues but also secure Malawi’s ability to meet the MDG targets.”

She expressed confidence that Malawi   will be able to achieve five of the eight MDGs by 2015.

“But we will continue to strive to achieve our goals for the remaining three MDGs – universal primary education, promoting Gender Equality and Empowering Women and improving maternal health. Coincidentally, these three MDGs are on issues that I have worked on throughout my life and I will personally ensure that Malawi redoubles her efforts to make improvements in these areas,” she said.

 Plan of action

President Banda said her vision is “not just hopeful words”.

“Our willingness to take tough decisions does not end here. Our plans need to be translated into action,” she said.

Banda   said her government has narrowed down five priority sectors within its medium term national development framework, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS II). The five priorities are: Energy, Tourism, Agriculture, Mining and Infrastructure Development.

She pointed out that central to these priorities is the emphasis on delivery through partnership with the private sector.

“We will facilitate this by making changes that improve the business climate,” said Banda, disclosing that cabinet has identified three specific projects within each priority sector and translated this into an implementation plan for the next two years.

“These projects range from completion of essential roads and rail lines, to setting up alternative energy sources, undertaking business climate reform to attract investment into agro-processing and mining.”

Banda said these will set Malawi on a path of fulfilling its full potential.

Presidential initiatives

The President also informed global leaders that she has   In launched two Initiatives; the Presidential Initiative on Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood; and the Presidential Initiative and on Poverty and Hunger Reduction “to fast-track the interventions needed to address the social needs of the disadvantaged groups especially women and youth.”

President Banda told the UN General Assembly that it is “unacceptable that a mother should die while giving birth because the nearest health center is far away.  Or that thousands die of diseases that we have answers for.”

She also said is unacceptable that the youth who represent the future of our world have few opportunities to realize their potential.

International Politics

On international politics, President Banda addressed the issue of the reform of the United Nations, saying Malawi fully supports the expansion of the Security Council in both permanent and non-permanent categories.

She noted that Africa makes the single largest region within the UN and a very significant proportion of issues discussed in the Security Council concern the African continent.

“It is for these reasons, therefore, that Malawi joins the rest of African nations in demanding at least two seats in the permanent category and five seats in the non-permanent category as stipulated in the Ezulwini Consensus. “

Banda said “Africa has to lead its own development” saying this will be a step in ensuring it can.

While she was addressing the speech, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was conspicuously seen sleeping.

The Malawi leader concluded her speech inviting applause from the General Assembly.

Mugabe: Dozing as President Banda addresses the UN General Assembly

Malawi delegation in the UN General Assembly as President Banda addressed world leaders

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