Hon. Folks, the credibility of the multi-party system as a game-changer in the development of Africa is beyond question. The continent is now a place where investors can arguably get highest returns on their capital. Consequently, the modern day scramble for Africa is not for partitioning it into smaller administrative colonies but rather in getting the most out of the continent by way of trade.
We see initiatives to “demolish” country barriers and create larger regional, and ultimately, a continental market. The ongoing process to turn Southern African Development Community (Sadc), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and East African Community (EAC) into a common trade area is an example of a home-grown initiative for attracting big foreign capital into the region.
Likewise, the Trade Africa concept US President Barack Obama brought with him when he visited his fatherland a couple of weeks ago is an example of an external initiative to help Africa gear for trade with the US supported by increased trade among African countries themselves.
Truly, when it comes to the development model for Africa going forward, aid is a term which has become hackneyed and superfluous.
Not that it’s gone completely but donor countries are less eager to babysit small economies on the continent by putting their taxpayer’s money into corruption-torn kitties where much of it is stolen.
Instead, it’s multilateral programmes such as the one embarked by the US to improve access and use of electricity by sub-Saharan Africa that are gaining currency obviously because of the reduced accountability risk by spreading “ownership” among the beneficiary countries.
There’s also the advantage of improving infrastructure across a wider market area or economic regional bloc as opposed to giving aid for infrastructural development of a single country with less economic significance to giant western multinationals.
A decade now, we shall probably be talking about Africa’s contribution to international trade growing from the two percent at the dawn of the century to double digits!
Even China wants to trade with Africa and its aid (which bad African leaders prefer for the mere fact that it’s given without strings attached) is some sort of a “social responsibility”. The focus is definitely trade.
So trade is the way to go. Why? Africa has something to offer and investors like what they see.
I was pleasantly surprised, though, at the beginning of the week when Vice-President Saulos Chilima was quoted by MBC tv as having said it is the policy of the President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika to make Malawi a country that depends on its own resources.
Surprised because I do not think the APM administration has much choice now to depend on anything other than its own domestically raised revenue. It’s not a secret that serious diplomatic blunders of the Bingu administration coupled with massive theft of public revenue dubbed Cashgate exposed in 2013 made us lose donor goodwill.
We are pretty much on our own. Not even the devastating floods that hit the country earlier in year could make donors put their emergency aid funds in government’s Account Number One. They used NGOs such as World Vision, instead!
The question still remains: what exactly is APM doing to back up the so-called policy for Malawi to depend on its own revenue.
When I get out of the house and dare drive on the city roads in Blantyre I see traffic police manning virtually every kilometre of road, fining on the spot motorists for anything ranging from overspreading to any petty fault they may dream about. Obviously making the roads safer is a minor reason for their presence. The major one is revenue collection.
The passion and efficiency brought into revenue collection by the police, Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) and other institutions through which government taxes its citizens are unmatched by the ever deteriorating public goods and services that government provides in turn.
But the one sensitive area that the APM administration is oblivious to is the growing poverty and the crumbling of the middle class due to the heavy taxation coupled with ever rising cost of living. Well, what do you expect when State House fund-raising functions can attract a crowd that affords a meal at K100 000!
Still, the majority are chocked when the kwacha keeps on losing value while their miserable changes are statistic in nominal terms. We all know that our biggest challenge is that we do not have much, other than tobacco, to sell to other countries.
Interestingly, this was the problem for the entire 30 years Kamuzu was messing up with his one party dictatorship. It remains the same problem more than 20 years after embracing the multi-party system of government.
Only that now, with the donors changing heart on aid, the pressure is on our leaders to ensure the economy survives and grows with less aid. If APM’s policy won’t give us that, the 2019 elections might again turn out to be a game-changer.n