The Catholic University of Malawi (Cunima)

CUNIMA conducts staff seminar on growing inequalities in malawi

Lecturers from the Catholic University of Malawi on 4th April, held a staff seminar to discuss the state of inequalities in Malawi. The seminar was in response to the two awakening reviews that were done by the Roman Catholic Bishops in their April 2018 Pastoral Letter and Oxfam Malawi's 2017 report on the growing inequalities in the country. CUNIMA like other global universities is motivated to contribute to research solutions to the growing inequalities across the globe.

The seminar was inspired by the video of Professor Danny Dorling, who was delivering a public lecture at the International Inequalities Institute, at the London School of Economic. Professor Dorling derived the public lecture that was based on his book title 'The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone' on 18th May, 2017. In his book, Professor Dorling revealed evidence that more equal countries enjoy better outcomes, with their populations being happier, healthier and more creative, producing less waste and committing fewer crimes.

Professor Dorling noted that the impacts of inequality are explored across three main areas, including impacts on children's health, education and wellbeing; differences in environmental harm; and impacts on population and housing.

In all the case studies that he presented, it was revealed that income equality is associated with positive social outcomes. One key example that he presented was of the skills of individuals within countries. He observed that numeracy in young adults is highest in countries with smaller differences between the incomes of the top and bottom 10 per cent of people. ''Numeracy skills, along with other forms of knowledge, are extremely important for individuals to have a greater understanding of the way the world works and to make better decisions in a democracy. On the societal level, the acquisition of skills allows the country to perform better economically and allows for more innovation within sectors'', he argued.

'The Equality Effect: Improving Life for Everyone' lecture however, offered an optimistic view of the future. Professor Dorling said though stark inequalities are observed globally, overall the majority of countries are becoming more, rather than less, equal.

Commenting on the Dorling's lecture, CUNIMA lecturers observed the presentation lacked statistics and facts from developing countries including Malawi. The lecturers noted that the state of inequalities in the country is far from falling as evidenced by the state of the country's economy. The majority of the population have no access to basic necessities of life. There was a consensus that as a country, Malawi needs to start embracing academic research when formulating its development strategies.

CUNIMA academicians also pointed that though most Malawians are becoming aware if the absurdity of growing inequalities, they are comfortable with the status quo. It was noted that most wealth Malawians do not try to better lives of others as they are egocentric.

The take home message from the staff seminar was that whilst it may take some time, greater equality is attainable, and it is within academicians' powers to accelerate this process.