Everybody now knows that Jean-Philippe is back in Malawi. What some may not know is that last week he had a serious health problem. But he is now bouncy again and jocund as usual.
As soon as I paid for the drinks and the meal, we left Kamuzu International Airport precincts in a Toyota Harriet that Jean-Philippe has hired for six months.
Without being prompted, he reminded me that it is the person who pays the guitarist that owns the music. He clarified that although I would be driving the vehicle, he would be the commander-in-chief. And so it happened. As we approached the Lilongwe-Kasungu T-junction, I stopped the car and asked him where he preferred to go.
He asked me where the road ahead led to. I told him that if we turned, left we would pass through Mponela, Kasungu, Mzimba and get to Mzuzu and beyond.
â€œMponela? Isnâ€™t that from where your acting president ordered sick children from their beds because he wanted to take the beds to his home district?â€
â€œWhere did you get that from?â€
â€œThe newspapers, the radio stations, the Internet, itâ€™s everywhere. Why are you pretending you donâ€™t know?â€
â€œIt sounds staged to me,â€ I said before suggesting that we drive to Mponela to find out exactly what had happened. Jean-Philippe declined, arguing that ours would have been a futile exercise because by then all potential interviewees would have already been coached, bribed and fed what to say.
Â â€œAnd if we turn right,â€ he asked, â€œwhere do we get to?
â€œLilongwe, the capital city of Malawiâ€.
â€œI want to swim in your beautiful lake before Tanzanians get it away from you.â€
â€œBut that does not say where you want us to go.â€
Â â€œBe polite to donorsâ€¦erâ€¦why donâ€™t we go round the capital city first?â€
I agreed and we drove slowly as Jean-Philippe had instructed. When we got to the MIM turn-off, he asked me to stop the vehicle because he wanted to take photos.
â€œWhat are those cylindrical things downhill? A nuclear electricity plant?â€
â€œNo. Those are maize silos.â€
â€œHave you read the report about tumours in GMO corn-fed rats?
â€œOK. And whatâ€™s that humongous building in the distance?â€
â€œYou want to photograph the barracks?â€
â€œNo. I mean the other one?â€
â€œThe State House?â€
â€œWow! Why donâ€™t you ask your President to sell that house and keep the jet?â€
When Jean-Philippe was through with seeing what he wanted to see, we drove down to Kanengo. We drove on towards the Capital City.
â€œAnd that abandoned building?â€
â€œThat should have been a fertiliser factory. It was built by an investor from Taiwan, but it was abandoned when Malawi chose to recognise China.â€
â€œBut your country buys a lot of chemical fertiliser every year. Why donâ€™t you finish this factory and produce your own fertiliser?â€
â€œIt seems everybody has forgotten about it.â€
Jean-Philippe sighed. I looked at him inquisitively.
Â â€œYour government should think about what lies ahead for Malawi. If you want a bright future, seek local and foreign investments, build infrastructure, subsidise university education and fund research.Â If you want to increase agricultural productivity, invest in modern technology. That is where Malawiâ€™s future lies.â€