After being conferred with an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Washington on September 30 2018, President Peter Mutharika outlined his great vision in a speech he presented there. Among other things, the President was quoted as saying Malawi needs five things.
These, in short, were that Malawi needs to move from aid to trade; foreign direct investors who must inject in capital to create industries and jobs; Malawi must be democratic in order to attract foreign investors and finally there is need for infrastructure such as roads and energy to support investment and industrialisation. All what is stated here is nothing new. Mutharika’s predecessors were championing the same visions, with no success worth talking about today
Meanwhile, it would have been better if Mutharika had included on his list the need for political will, which is really lacking in the country. Needless to say that lack of political will has been a stumbling block on progress in Malawi. Imagine, Mutharika and his government are proud to have built so many tarmac roads and school blocks.
However, people have been complaining about the poor quality of the infrastructure. Most of the roads last just for a few months and there is need to redo them. As if this is not bad enough, some of the newly-built school blocks collapse before they are handed over. All this is due to lack of genuine supervision by government. This is how a lot of money is wasted by shoddy work.
It is lack of political will which has promoted corruption in the country. It cannot stop, instead government even gives better jobs or lucrative contracts to corruption suspects. If the suspects would be taken to book, and be punished accordingly, all the would-be corrupt people would stop the practice.
This is not done probably because most of the corruption takes place within the corridors of power and people benefit a lot from public resources. Sometimes, Malawians are hoodwinked to believe that government is doing something to control corruption.
For example, some suspects who are said to have stolen millions of kwacha are given minor charges such as abuse of office which can hardly be proved and the man walks scot free only to go back to his corruption business. As if setting him free is not bad enough to tax payers he sues government for wrongful charge from which he is paid large sums of money. There is no will from government to stop such a vicious cycle.
It can also be mentioned that corruption is the main reason that stop foreign investors from coming to Malawi and invest. The few who have braved corruption might have ceaselessly paid large sums of money, dubiously, at every stage of setting up their businesses. This results in poor quality of business and Malawians suffer in the end.
President Mutharika might have spoken to a number of investors during his trips abroad but this might end as a wishful thought if he and his government have no political will to stop corruption. In fact, they must draw lessons from various investor conferences which have been held in Malawi. The end results seem to have been empty promises while the would-be investors go to settle in neighbouring countries.
The things that the President listed in his speech, that Malawi needs to progress in development, require a lot of soul-searching at national level. The fact that they are not new, shows that there is need for consultation to find out why previous initiatives have failed. If this is not done, just listing them as the President did can be meaningless.