In life, it is not often that people give credit where it is due, taking time off to pat one on the back for a job well done.
Even in the workplace, very few superiors take time to motivate their subordinates with a simple verbal appreciation such as: “Well done!” or ‘Keep it up!” Yet, in many cases, it is such “small things” that matter and encourage many to do even more and rise to greatness for the benefit of the organisation and the economy at large.
In today’s entry, I would like to celebrate some achievements by some of our businesses in recent years. There have been several innovations that set the pace and demonstrated that despite the problems facing our economy, there are still some good things that can come out of Malawi.
Sometime in 2012, I shared complaints by readers who wondered why they should ‘Buy Malawian’ when, in most cases; many local products are substandard and seem to lack strict quality checks.
I recall giving an example of the literally ‘burnt’ potato crisp produced by Universal Industries Limited served to passengers on most trips of the luxury coaches between Blantyre and Lilongwe. That time, I did not mention the company, but what I liked was the response from Universal Industries which indicated they felt they were “the subject” and said they were developing a new range of products and promised to improve.
True to their word, the company introduced a new range of potato chips or crisps that is of international standard. Bravo. That is the way to go.
In the financial sector, many of us have dreaded the long queues, both in banking halls and on automated teller machines (ATMs). In many cases, the deposit queues have been a source of frustration for bank customers. In the course of 2013, government-owned Malawi Savings Bank (MSB) introduced deposit-taking ATMs that allow customers to make their deposits 24/7. Well done MSB.
During the same year, National Bank of Malawi (NBM) joined Indebank Limited, Ecobank Malawi Limited and Nedbank (Malawi) Limited in introducing user-friendly deposit slips that are self-duplicating, thereby saving customers’ time. These forms come in handy and, in a way, minimise congestions as a customer does not have to fill-in the same forms twice or more.
I do not want to brag that NBM changed its forms after my article, but suffice to say that I still marvel at the coincidence between publication of the article and the time of the bank’s reaction.
The past two years has also seen the growth of mobile money services, an initiative that has simplified transactions such as bill payment as well as sending and receiving money to one another.
For example, today, courtesy of Airtel Malawi Limited’s ‘Airtel Money’ (Kutola Chikwama) and indeed TNM’s ‘Mpamba’, one does not need to travel to a bank to send money to a friend or relation in a distant place. Personally, I have found convenience in the Airtel Money service as, for example, I no longer have to walk to a vendor to buy prepaid airtime or indeed prepaid electricity units as I make such transactions on my phone from any corner of the country, saving time and transport costs.
NBM and First Merchant Bank (FMB) have also gone an extra mile with their mobile banking services. For example, NBM’s MO626Ice enables individuals to send each other money just at the click of the button 24/7. It is the same with FMB’s Zirim’manja where, besides sending money, customers are able to pay bills. The beauty with FMB’s Zirim’manja mobile money is that one can encash the money at any FMB ATM using a secret code, without having a bank account or ATM card.
Blantyre Water Board (BWB) also deserves the kudos for pioneering the online bill enquiry which has simplified consumers’ lives as they are able to check water account statements anytime. I noted the Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) followed suit, but there is always a pioneer, as it were.
Further to the online bill enquiry innovation, thumbs up to BWB and, of course, the Northern Region Water Board (NRWB) for leading the way in introducing, on a pilot phase, pre-paid water billing in Blantyre and Mzuzu cities. Now this is what I call progress.
Finally, but not least, for once, I would like to commend the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) for giving Malawians “power all day, everyday” during the festive season. In fact, Escom itself seemed “surprised” that it made a statement “justifying” why there was uninterrupted power supply. That is the way to go. My prayer is that in the New Year, Escom will continue with the “good planning” of the festive season to give businesses and individuals “power all day, every day.”