Dear Hon Minister of Tourism,
On my own behalf, on behalf of my Bottom Up colleagues, namely Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoission, SC (RTD), the most venerable and unique Mohashoi, and our head of security, Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC (RTD), I, genuine Professor Dr Joyce Befu, MGA, write to congratulate you on your appointment into the Cabinet of His Excellency President Lazarus Chakwera. Until January 2025, you will serve Malawians as a political head of the Ministry of Tourism and also as the chief marketer of the tourism potential that this great country has not fully exploited for its development.
The colonial government failed. The MCP government tried. The UDF government was about to try. The DPP government dreamed and so did the PP.
While we would want to let the past be by gone, we need to learn from it to build a better future for a Malawi that sustainably exploits its flora and fauna.
David Livingstone, that quasi-missionary explorer, named our lake, the lake of stars. That was a good marketing slogan. Almost 120 years later, the slogan Lake of stars still attracts people from all over the world. We are the stars. But since Livingstone, we have not taken advantage of our beautiful fresh water lake to make money for the country.
Hon. Minister, South Africa, America, Britain, France, Russia, Brazil, Kenya, Egypt, other countries market their beaches and riversides aggressively to attract tourists. They have built appropriate infrastructure and provide services for tourists. Tourism is serious business.
Here, in Malawi, an attempt was made during the days of the great original Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda. The MCP of those days, identified tourist attractions, provided good accommodation and transportation networks for tourists. Tailor-built Inns were erected at Ngabu to provide for tourists visiting the Shire Valley wildlife areas. Another Inn was built at Kasungu to cater for tourists visiting the Nkhotakota and Kasungu national parks. Other Inns were built at Nkopola and Chintheche for tourists visiting the pristine waters of Lake Malawi and its cichlid,mbuna, Nkholokolo, and other fish attractions. Lastly, an Inn was built at Chitipa for visitors to Misuku, Nyika and other attractions in Mpoto.
Following the change of government in 1994 all these Inns were sold out. Except for a few, the Inns are very poorly managed. Today, some smell like a Kachasu beer hall.
In 2002, with support from the UNDP and the World Tourism Organisation, the Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife, as your great ministry was then called Hon. Minister, another blueprint or master plan and tourism promotion strategy was published. A few centres were identified for development to international standards. Manchewe Falls at Mumbwe/Khondowe in Rumphi, Mbamba/Kande in Nkhata Bay, Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary in Lilongwe, Likhubula Falls in Mulanje, and Maleri Islands in Salima were prioritised for development. The strategic plan included projected development and recurrent expenditures, income and profits.
By 2006, Malawi was projected to earn at least $50 million over five years ($10 million) from an estimated 40 000 tourists. This money would support employment for several Malawians, and contribute to the local development projects’ budget apart from uplifting the infrastructure of rural places.
Hon. Minister, we don’t understand why the plan was abandoned by the UDF, DPP and PP governments, nobody knows. Instead, a tourist village was built at Mpale, near Sun and Sand in Mangochi, and a parallel private Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary was created, killing the original nature sanctuary owned and operated by the Malawi government. This was good but not enough. The Maleri Islands are currently privatized and no local person really knows what happens there. Forget about Kande and Mantchewe.
In short, your Honour, we are appealing to you to revisit that 2002 tourism development strategic plan; just update and improve on it. Nobody should cheat you that government cannot profitably operate commercial companies. Sucoma, for example, produced the best sugar in Africa, but it was owned by the Malawi Government.
We remain, Hon. Minister, your most obedient friends.