Scholar Lewis had his take on stages of development or better growth. The statistics are, however, very worrying and do not paint that picture any dreamer wishes for. Neither do sentiments nor the psyche give you a feeling that the conditions of a take-off are close by. The only positive thing one feels is that we have known no war, but the annoying part is the inability to build prosperity on a foundation solid in peace. Ironically, war-torn countries have moved on and their progression to prosperity is enviable. What is it that other countries do right? Or what wrong is it that we do?
Trending every month is the Malawi kwacha, water shortages, electricity cuts and the list can go on, but we can still look up. There is peace and tranquillity and a functional judicial system and our strong commitment to securing property rights. A land bill was assented to though it calls for massive civic education. All ingredients necessary to attract foreign investment. Should we hope for anything? I would rather look at the glass as half full.
There is some hope of course. I do not want to sound too pessimistic. Influential British newspaper, The Telegraph just run an eye-catching article recently. Malawi could be the next big thing regarding safari tourism. It narrates the beauty of Liwonde National Park where civil wars involving elephants, hippos and crocodiles are a beauty to watch. They end well of course and one feels the value of the dollar spent. The reality, however, with our capital controls, the money spent never comes to Malawi as most of these tours are pre-packaged and paid outside the country.
So, there is some hope but we need to crack the puzzle that our nation appears eternally entangled in. The finger loves to point at the politician, but I reckon that most of us bear the blame somehow. Though not directly linked, a collection of individual personal decisions culminate into what becomes a national whole. All I am saying is maybe as individuals we are not doing enough.
For a moment, DNA tests have just proved that Lilongwe Water Board is related to Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom). Both are now load shedding their hotly sought after products. Whispers has it that both assumed zero population growth of their respective markets. Overwhelmed? Well the kind of word that scares the hell out of anyone trying to lay down their hard to get capital for profit. The kwacha business adds to the condrum.
Water tariffs have gone up by some staggering 35 percent in Lilongwe. To those tasked with selling this country, it is a stab in the back. Businesses and would be investors rate this as a cost anywhere. Something like this adds into the cost of doing business in an environment saturated with chronic inflation. Prices or tariffs should rise once in a while, but there should be a strategy. If I was manning the water boards of this country or running the ministry responsible for rainfall and rivers, I would take notice that our population is rising. Similarly, if I was in charge of generating electricity I would take the same cognisance.
This way, I would do a great favour to the guys tasked with selling this country as investment destination. By recognising that Malawi has close to three million households, with an average household size of six, I would do my maths and think of how many megawatts need to be generated at a minimum for each home to have electricity. I would also pay attention to the current power needs for businesses. I would do similar maths if I was needed to think of water needs for all households and businesses. That way, I would not focus my business strategy on raising tariffs to pay bonuses that my staff require at the end of each year.
Maybe I am being simplistic, but great ideas begin with crafting a basic model. Otherwise, I don’t envy the job of the Malawi Investment Trade Centre (Mitc). It requires one to master the art of mumbling if confronted by obvious questions from would be investors on reliability of utilities such as water and electricity. In the business world, there is no mumbling. The language is so blunt, straight simply because entrepreneurs invest millions and take huge risks on their investment. For sure, the risk they take is never lack of water or electricity to run a machine, but something else. You can call it basics of investment promotion. It is not surprising that investors sometimes flock to countries that appear volatile and less peaceful than ours.
As we march on and crack the puzzle, I am still trying to solve the puzzle. Simple and blind decisions to start building our generating capacity beyond the current demand oriented at future generations should underpin our minds to strategic investment in public infrastructure. While utilities was a classic case, we can replicate other sectors such as hospitals, universities and roads that are failing to cope with our rising population.
The potential is there but how can we get to grips with basics? n