What will happen, for example, when tobacco, which provides 60 percent of the countryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s foreign reserves, is banned world over?
No one can pretend not to know the World Health OrganisationÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s hostility towards smoking of cigarettes.
All the three regimes that have ruled this country have spoken of the need to diversify our economy to find a substitute for tobacco. But not much progress has been made on diversification.
The last marketing season has seen tobacco performing badly as if to say Ã¢â‚¬ËœI am giving you the last chanceÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
But whose responsibility is it to promote diversification of the economy?
The most plausible answer is everybody. But how far can such a response take us?
In 1924, there arrived in Malawi, then Nyasaland, a commission on African education in eastern Africa called Phelps Stokes Commission.
The best remembered member of the commission was Dr James Emman Kwegyir, also known as Aggrey of Africa.
Kwegyir came from the Gold Coast, now Ghana.
The commission, while appreciating the good work missionaries were doing in providing education, observed on a number of shortcomings. Each missionary society, for example, was providing education according to its own standards. There was no common standard.
The government took a modicum of interest in the education of Africans.
The commission then pointed out that “it is as true of education as of government and of business that what is everybodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s business is nobodyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s business”.
It advised the Nyasaland Government to organise a department of Education to be headed by a director and that this department should be of equal status as the department already in existence.
The government, with directions from the colonial office, set up the Departmentr of Education in 1926 and for the first time, African education in the country, though privately provided, was assumed as the responsibility of government.
The advice, which the commission gave to the government and was quoted in History of Malawi Volume 2, deserves the ear of the current Government of Malawi.
Let us not be vague on who is responsible for diversifying the economy. It is the government.
The private sector is only concerned with the general development of the country.
Private firms will not establish factories in any industry unless they see profits within a short time.
Their main interest are their shareholders. They will not embark on new projects just for the sake of diversification. No, they ask: what is there for us?
The commission noted that as far back as 1924, Malawi had great potential economically.
The reason we have not made much headway is that we are not organised economically for maximum success.
It is not enough to say diversification is the responsibility of the government. Government should set up a department of diversification or a body to exclusively tackle the project.
This body should be staffed with men and women of above average technical expertise, the type Lee Kuan Yew says can bring about change.
You cannot go far with diversification just by telling the business sector to form committees and make recommendation about the sort of diversification that could lead to solving the forex problem.
Let us engage dispassionate experts. If they are not available in Malawi, recruit them from elsewhere they are.
The entity to be responsible for diversification could, through the appropriate government ministry, request assistance from donors to fund the recruitment of an advisory on diversification.
He may come from a country which has succeeded in diversification or universities with faculties on diversification.
The proposal body should conduct its operations using the managing by objective (MBO) principle. Do some brain storming, implement the most potential idea, then repost periodically to higher authorities. Diversification has been given lip service. Now we must plan, act, monitor, improve and achieve.