On August 12, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) launched the Parker Solar Probe riding a ULA Delta IV rocket on a path toward solar orbit. Equipped with four instrument suites, the probe is solar-powered, and will be driven by the energy of the star it is studying over the course of its seven-year journey.
The mission is to solve some of the stubbornly persistent mysteries about the sun by getting closer than ever before.
While the United States was celebrating this groundbreaking “feat”, people in Malawi were equally busy arguing on the possibility of creating a million jobs in a year as posited by Vice-President Saulos Klaus Chilima (SKC).
Personally, what has excited me about the whole debate is not the possibility or impossibility of Chilima’s idea; rather, it is the people’s reactions and arguments that have since spewed out on this proposal. And that President Peter Mutharika even joined the bandwagon, to the extent of going ballistic about this proposal.
Let us face it. The age of average is over. Leading and fostering a country to remain competitive in the 21st century just as our neighbouring countries are doing requires extra imagination, creativity, self-belief and drive.
It is this boldness to dream big, declare and coalesce the citizens into imagining the possibility of a million jobs that is appealing to me. In 1961, the US President John F. Kennedy equally inspired a nation by proposing a big idea and attaching a deadline to it.
He said: “This nation should commit itself, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth.” Many scientists thought it could not be done but since Kennedy had set a deadline, they were forced to try. The conversation changed from “we can’t do it” to “well, if we were to do it by the deadline, how would we accomplish it?”
Equally, Chilima’s proposal has now woken up people from their stupor. Now people are beginning to look around their surrounding and are seeing endless possibilities that could be achieved out of the immense resources bestowed on us.
It is the ability, to make people think, debate and invoke their imagination on things that really matter, that we need as a country. Unlike the usual “apumbwa” attitude characteristic of most Malawians that always think negative, and is constantly on the lookout to smoke out brilliant ideas, Chilima is demonstrating to have bold big dreams, focus and gumption—a pivotal mixture of factors for any success, though not all-encompassing.
I believe Malawi is stuck in a rut of poverty and misery not for lack of ideas and brilliancy – far from it. It is rather the dream killers who prowl our families, our offices, our universities, our communities and the breadth and length of our country with their sharp tongues of negativity ready to snip any innovative idea in the bud, who are our greatest enemies.
Take ‘The boy who harnessed the wind’, William Kamkwamba for example. He had read about windmills and dreamt of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only a few of Malawians enjoy: electricity and running water. He was called wamisala (crazy) but he refused to let go of his dreams.
“With a small pile of once-forgotten science textbooks; some scrap metal, tractor parts, and bicycle halves; and an armoury of curiosity and determination, he embarked on a daring plan to forge an unlikely contraption and small miracle that would change the lives around him”. And as is always the case in Malawi, William received not a single iota of support from fellow Malawians or the government. It was the Americans, believers of big ideas—that spotted his aptitude and nurtured his talent.
The lesson is that, without a clear vision of how you will move society forward, you cannot succeed in creating innovative ideas that take people out of persistent poverty. Malawi leaders ought to dream and communicate big dreams. n