It is often said that Africa is a potentially rich continent with abundant natural resources. But the question is: Why does the continent have poor countries? In fact, the poorest countries in the world are found in Africa.
Honestly, to say that Africa is potentially rich is a cliché by foreigners and locals who have illegally helped themselves by converting the potential into personal fortunes.
This has been mostly in illegal mining and timber manufacturing. Worse still, even if these activities are done legally, the common man gets no benefit.
This is due to rampant corruption which makes corrupt government leaders go into secretive deals.
Malawi has very clear examples. The confirmation that uranium deposits at Kayelekera in Karonga generated euphoria across the country. Most people thought this was the time to get out of the life-threatening poverty.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. The uranium mining started during Bingu wa Mutharika era and yet up to now government can hardly explain to Malawians what has happened to the proceeds.
Surprisingly, only government officials such as Cabinet ministers still talk highly about the relevance of Kayelekera Mine.
Obviously, this triggers rumours that probably the leadership were getting the benefits at the expense of poor Malawians. This is possible with the high level of corruption in the country. The other example is how Chikangawa Forest (the once largest manmade forest in Africa) has just benefited foreigners and the who – is – who in the country.
Poor people have just been watching as government fails to explain what proceeds it gets from the forest and how it is used.
What is stated above shows that potential alone is not enough. It requires development conscious leaders who do not condone corruption.
Meanwhile, probably by thinking along the line of Africa’s potential, former Nigeria president, Olusegun Obasanjo visited Malawi and told people to stop entertaining “we are poor thoughts”.
To say the truth, this is unavoidable in Malawi because about 85 percent of the population is made up of poor people. These people do not just believe in the potential of Malawi to improve their lives; what they want is the reality to bring the much-needed change.
Leaders in Malawi should know that the reality is that Malawians are poor and it is not a question of entertaining “we are poor” thoughts.
If leaders in this country feel ashamed of leading poor people then they must do something about it. It is unfortunate that they deliberately forget that their lopsided leadership styles contribute a lot to their poverty.
In Malawi, it is common knowledge that corruption is indeed destroying the country. But it has been said several times before that the President seems to handle it with kid gloves by being seen to be applying selective justice which is making some suspects feel as if they are untouchable.
It is obvious that leaders feel embarrassed with the poverty status when they attend international meetings. But the anomaly is that they expose themselves with their desperation for foreign aid. Imagine, whenever donors indicate that they want to help Malawi, leaders get into the euphoria gear.
They almost walk on their knees when signing the loan agreements which to them is a success story. When they return home it is a song at every meeting.
Any sensible leader must be in a position to know that Malawians themselves have a key to the success of the country.
The success is not out there. Let the Malawi potential work for all Malawians and not just the few crooks.