Following the election on June 23 2020, it is very clear that the old business as usual in the realm of the economy, wealth creation and financial matters should never be the same.
Neither the governors nor the governed should allow this to happen. The writing is on the wall, and all economists must call for thinking outside the box. This is an idea a strategist colleague of mine, Alice Konyani-Johnson and I discussed. We rounded up several strategies that leaders and citizens should consider.
The citizens of Malawi must stop waiting at their doorsteps for money to “fall down from the sky like manna from heaven”, as Kamuzu used to say.
Government needs to create an environment for people to create wealth and thereby support themselves. For this reason we laud government for launching the National Planning Commission’s Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS III) mid-term review. The question “Are We Winning as a Country?” is a good one.
In the new Malawi, political leaders must stop giving handouts, and Malawians must also stop expecting political leaders to be their providers. They were not elected into political office to become the proverbial uncles. In other words, the government must create circles of wealth-creating fishing dams which Malawians may venture in and fish their way out of poverty–leading to human development with dignity.
Konyani-Johnson states that there are three key issues in economies that spur human development, namely, poverty alleviation, sustainable agriculture, and market development.
Thus far, Malawi’s previous governments have focused on poverty alleviation through farm subsidies, boreholes and free primary education. The other two interventions were sporadic.
During former president Kamuzu Banda’s administration, government tried to bring value chains like David Whitehead and Sons for cotton value addition, BAT for tobacco value addition, Lonrho and the sugar factories for sugarcane, Chibuku Products, Carlsberg, Malawi Distilleries and Grain and Milling for maize/wheat/millet processing, cotton or rice settlement schemes accented by irrigation projects, canning, and other activities.
There should be a revamp of the agriculture sector using Kenya’s example of cooperatives. Working together in big numbers helps build solidarity and trust among Malawians.
Konyani-Johnson said the new administration should revisit mining and fisheries as alternative sources of income amid the Covid-19 pandemic and declining tobacco market. The business community could also peruse the establishment of fish farming ponds, using the dam system set-up at Ndawambe Village in Mchinji.
Every time I drive through Ntcheu, my heart bleeds for men and women haggling for me to buy tomatoes from them, at the expense of down-pricing to the point of economic suicide. Ntcheu could graduate to an organic tomato processing district and export their value added product.
In Thyolo, Mangochi, and other districts, just as Karonga perfected its rice produce handling, set up clubs for the banana, guava, mango or fish, exported as bulk-cargo.
Government could also work with the Malawi diaspora in the international markets and assist or encourage them to open and operate Malawian-owned shops.
The third social sector investment must be in good health systems and nutrition. Build hospitals, health clinics, and roads in rural areas that enable people to get to clinics and schools.
The giving of handouts for poverty alleviation has created a spirit of laziness and dependency syndrome among Malawians, leading to politicians, especially in the Executive branch, abusing the dependency and causing deep rivalry that in some cases has led to violence and loss of life. Malawi can reverse this, come together, and form clubs, cooperatives, or partnerships with the government creating environments for the smooth operation of international trading triangles. Imagine if a Malawian went and set up an export company in South Africa, Australia, or the USA. This would be an immense transformational human development change in Malawi.
Bambo aNgwazi ananena, limani sawa! Oh ndipo, ndipo mudzalemela!