Last month, President Peter Mutharika and Vice-President Saulos Chilima toured Malawi Mangoes Company in Salima where different fruits (mangoes, pineapples and bananas) are grown and processed for export. The project is fulfilling government’s objective of transforming the country into an exporting one. The project is also being held as boosting foreign reserve earnings.
However, a critical analysis of the company reveals that although it is using the name “Malawi”, it is 100 percent foreign-owned. The company does not sell its products locally. Yet we have a lot of imported juices and fruits in our super markets and one wonder’s why the company is only producing for export.
Much as government wants to boost foreign exchange by promoting exports, it is important that the company’s products are made available locally to boost food sufficiency.
And this where government also needs to change its mentality about foreign investment. During the annual Institute of People Management (IPM) general conference the Vice-President challenged IPM to change workers’ mindset. He has a point. Workers need to change their mindset. But government officials and political leaders should be the first to change theirs. The obsession to depend on foreign investors and donor community to improve the economy has to change.
Government is depending on foreign investors for almost everything. They want foreign investors to run game parks, hotels, improve agriculture, develop tourism, mining, construct houses, run stadium etc. How do ordinary people change their mindset when leaders have a “we cannot do it alone” mentality or do not listen to their own people?
The problem is that government is not mobilising and empowering its people for development. Our leaders listen more to foreigners than us locals. Former deputy minister of Agriculture Joe Manduwa proposed in Parliament in 2000 about Malawi growing Indian hemp for commercial purposes. His idea was shot down. Again, MP for Ntchisi North Boniface Kadzamira and other experts echoed the same sentiments early this year, but the idea was brushed aside. It was only after one resident envoy asked government to consider production of Indian hemp for commercial production that government barged.
Agricultural projects and the Greenbelt Initiative should be Malawian projects. And government should take the lead to provide financial and technical support to Malawians. Funds need to be set aside for local companies and individuals who want to venture into irrigation farming. Foreign investors pursue own interests at the expense of locals.
We want to see government mobilising local resources and embarking on various projects for the benefit of Malawians. This is the time for government to start investing in its people or we will always be at the mercy of investors and donors.