The thrust of the work programme of the SAIER is to examine fundamental development policy issues in order to recommend appropriate overall and sectoral development strategies. For this purpose, the work programme integrates gender, environmental, poverty and other issues in the analysis of economic policy. The work programme of the SAIER consists of three related components: the research programme; contract research and policy dialogue.
The Research Programme
The research programme focuses on the following themes: Environment and economic concerns; gender and cultural issues in economic development; poverty, employment and income distribution; small-scale and informal sector economic activities; macroeconomic policies; savings, investment and other financial sector policies; external sector policies; regional economic co-operation and integration; and population issues.
The major collaborative research project that SAIER has been involved in is “Deepening Integration in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – Macroeconomic Policies and their Impact”. This project was sponsored by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation Botswana Office. It started in 2004 and was completed in 2006. It had a desk research component and a field survey component designed to obtain the views of business and non-state actors on regional integration. Prof. C. Chipeta was the lead researcher. The other researcher was Mr. W. Kachaka. Apart from Malawi, the project was conducted and successfully completed in nine other SADC member countries.
Contract research is undertaken on a selective basis depending on relevance and administrative feasibility. Priority is given to themes that are related to the work programme so that the resulting consultancy and advice are research-based and therefore more informed than otherwise. For contract research work-load beyond the human resource capacity of the SAIER, collaborative effort is sought from outside the Institute, and its founders already have good working relationships with several other experienced economists/consultants in Malawi and outside the country.
SAIER has conducted three major contract research projects. The first was on “Millennium Development Goals: Achievements and Challenges in the Anglophone World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Region”. This was carried out between 2006 and 2007 and was sponsored by the Brazzaville Office of the WHO. Prof. C. Chipeta was the principal investigator. The other investigators were Mr. W. Kachaka and Mr. S. Kanyanda.
The second major contract research project that SAIER has conducted was on “Drivers of Regional Integration in Southern Africa: Implications for Poverty and Development”. This projected was sponsored by the Southern Africa Trust and implemented between 2007 and 2008. It investigated regional, continental and global factors that impinge on the process and pace of regional integration in Southern Africa under SADC. Prof. C. Chipeta was the lead researcher. The other researchers were Mr. M.L.C. Mkandawire of SAIER and Prof. H.K.R. Amani and Mr. D. Rweyemamu from Tanzania.
And the third contract research project was on “The Role of Regional Trade Integration in Poverty Eradication in Southern Africa”. This project was also sponsored by the Southern Africa Trust and carried out in 2010. It conceptualized and investigated the links between regional trade and poverty eradication, partly focusing on four case study countries. Prof. C. Chipeta was the sole researcher.
Making a Difference
SAIER takes the initiative to promote and stimulate dialogue between academic researchers, policy makers and practitioners, the donor community, the private sector and NGOs. This dialogue takes place in seminars, workshops, symposia, conferences and round table discussions and will aim at: promoting the exchange of views by different actors on policy issues; facilitating discussion of topical policy issues; enhancing awareness of policy issues and generating ideas for further policy research and eventually leading to dialogue on the implications of research findings for policy analysis and policy action. Specific research project proposals may be identified through such discussions.
While SAIER fosters dialogue between researchers and all shades of economic policy makers and practitioners, emphasis is on: policy makers and practitioners in crucial policy making establishments such as the central bank, ministries of finance and commerce and industry, ministries responsible for crucial sectors/areas such as small scale enterprises, agriculture, environment and gender; the donor community; representative bodies of the private enterprise sector and the NGO sector.
The involvement of policy makers and practitioners (especially those who are also economists) at workshops etc. is as much as possible at all critical stages of a research project, beginning with the discussion of the proposal. This helps in sharpening the policy focus of a project. Otherwise involving them only at the final stage of the project may produce some questionable policy conclusions and recommendations because they may be based on weak/questionable methodology and analysis, which can be avoided if some policy makers and practitioners are involved right from the proposal stage. This approach is particularly the case with research projects being carried out by research teams that do not include policy makers and practitioners, existing or former.
SAIER disseminates research results primarily from its own programme, but may disseminate any other research output on relevant topical issues from other institutions and individuals.
As much as possible executive and other summaries of policy research papers are in non-technical language to facilitate understanding by policy makers and implementers, some of whom are not economists.
At least two types of publications are being put out:
Working papers: a research paper may be published in its entirety as an individual monograph, or a few papers on a common topic based on case studies of different countries may be published in one volume.
A regular popular journal/review along the lines of the former East Africa Journal and the current Southern African Political and Economic Monthly (SAPEM): this will cover, inter alia, summaries of research papers sponsored by SAIER and others, as well as articles/features on topical and other issue
On behalf of SAIER, Prof. C. Chipeta attended a research planning workshop held in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 2005, and a work-in-progress research workshop held in Livingstone, Zambia, in the same year. Both workshops concerned the Friedrich Ebert Foundation-sponsored research project. The Stellenbosch workshop was attended by both researchers and policy practitioners. Before the finalisation of this project in 2006, SAIER organised a national policy dissemination workshop. This workshop was held in Blantyre and attended by Malawian policy practitioners, researchers and academics.
With the support of the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC), SAIER has held two other major policy dissemination workshops. Held from 22nd to 23rd August, 2003, the first of these workshops was on “Aspects of Policies for Promoting Economic Growth in Malawi”. The second workshop, which was held from 1st to 2nd October, 2009, was on “Domesticating Alternatives to Neo-Liberalism in Southern Africa in Malawi”. Each workshop was attended by policy practitioners from government ministries, other public institutions, and representatives of the private sector, civil society and academic institutions.
Indigenous Economics Society of Malawi (IESM)
Stirring important debates
Conventional economics may be less relevant to sub-Saharan Africa and Pan-africanists and Substandivists favour the teaching of a different kind of Economics, which has been described as ‘Indigenous Economics’. Pan-africanists call for the teaching of this particular subject, based on recent local research, combined with the teaching of Economic Anthropology. This would require the training of lecturers in the subject of “Indigenous Economics”, (including the study of Economic Anthropology and Economic Sociology), and the inclusion of the subject in the syllabuses of economics courses taught in universities in sub-Saharan Africa and examined by local bodies. This association is an activity supported by SAIER and is here to stir debate on this important subject.
Key Outputs and Outcomes
The outputs from SAIER are expected to benefit the Government of Malaŵi, public and private enterprise sectors, NGOs and the donor community. In many cases the effectiveness of government economic policies and strategies have left a lot to be desired because of not being based on results of serious research/analysis; a major weakness that needs to be addressed, towards which SAIER would like to make some contribution. More specifically the outputs from the Institute are:
1. Local capacity building: enhancing local capacity for policy research and analysis through, inter-alia, increasing the numbers of serious researchers and the quality of research output.
2. Closer and stronger linkages between policy makers and implementers and academic and other researchers/analysts, as well as among researchers themselves.
3. Publication Unit including both in-house publications and contributions to local and international journals.
4. Resource Centre/Library: a data bank and documentation mainly in the field of economic policy.
Below, we highlight the main programmes and outputs.