Back in the summer I asked Malawian economist Frank Kamanga, our long-term supporter and member of our International Advisory Board, why he supports universal basic income.
“I was motivated to join the global UBI movement because of the inequality that I observed in the world, especially between the Northern and the Southern hemispheres,” he explained. “It’s a radical approach to do away with poverty at the global scale.”
Fast forward three months, and Frank, his colleague Joseph Fatch and me (Laura Bannister, Campaign Director at World Basic Income) are pinging over-excited texts back and forth. We can’t quite believe our luck.
We have found an organisation, ImpactMarket, who will work with us to fund and deliver a unconditional basic income to a community in Malawi. We can start within a few months. Every recipient, adult or child, will receive a dollar a day, every day, for at least two years. If it works, we can expand to more villages and then to more countries, creating a network of UBI communities all over the Global South.
To Frank and Joseph, it’s a chance to push their UBI campaigning in Malawi to a new level. They already run a project, the Goats Pass On project, which gives breeding goats to women on low incomes. It’s made a real impact, not just on livelihoods but on recipients’ outlook too. “If people are going to demand a basic income, they need to see that they really can get something ‘for free’,” Frank explained, when I first asked him about the rationale for the project. Frank’s organisation, UBI Malawi Chapter, gave goats rather than cash because they didn’t have cash to give. Goats breed and produce more goats, so they could generate their own resources to reach more recipients.
The Malawi UBI project is a huge leap for us at World Basic Income too. Our goal is to ensure that everyone in the world gets a basic income, so making that happen even for a small group of people is an exciting step forward. The bigger it gets the better.
It’s also a key way to build grassroots pressure for universal basic income. When it’s really happening, it prompts all kinds of big conversations. Could it be possible on a larger scale? How would our lives change? Might we even be entitled to this, as a dividend from natural and social wealth?
Finally, it gives us a basis for conversations in high places. Countries that want UBI but can’t afford to provide it* can be brought together to demand global UBI funding. From reparations to ‘levelling up’ there’s no shortage of justifications for global funding of UBI, but it has only recently got onto the table as a policy idea. These on-the-ground projects will give us an ‘in’ with governments and international organisations that can help to build momentum.
For these reasons and more, we can’t wait to get the project started. Frank and his team have chosen a village in Chiradzulu district as our first project site. ImpactMarket are finalising the technical details. At World Basic Income we are developing a research plan along with our Malawian colleagues and our new Academic Advisory Board. If everything goes to plan, we should be ready to start in February or March. Watch this space...
*All countries could and should pay some level of UBI from their national budget, but our recent research shows that the level of feasible UBI in many countries would be only $1 to $18 per person per month without international redistribution.