A story is told of a shoe salesman who was deployed to a lakeshore district. When he got there, the salesman made no effort to sell any shoes, having been disappointed that he hardly saw anybody wearing shoes in that district. He left in disgust and vowed never to return to that district.
Another salesman, who had been selling shoes elsewhere, strayed into the same district. When he noticed that nobody wore any shoes there, he called his head office and said: “Please arrange for a van load of shoes. I am coming to pick them up. There is great opportunity here, as shoes are in short supply”.
Given the same set of circumstances, the two salesmen reacted differently. One saw impossibility, another saw opportunity. One quickly exited the place whereas the other was determined to spend more productive time there. It all depended on their attitudes.
That is what life is like. Where some people see dryness and impossibility, others see great opportunity. How you react to any situation depends on the attitude you have. If you are pessimistic, you will not get much from any set of circumstances that you come across. If you are optimistic, you will create situations that will yield surprising results, given the same state of circumstances.
I have met many young people who strongly believe that it was a mistake for them to have been born in Malawi. They do not see anything they can gainfully do in Malawi. It would have been better if they had been born in the United States of America, the United Kingdom or other developed country. Even as they get lost in their desperation to leave Malawi, other nationals are doing all they can to come and settle in Malawi. They see Malawi as a land of great opportunity.
Almost every sector of the economy is underdeveloped in Malawi. There is plenty of opportunity to develop these sectors. The crockery and the cutlery I use at home and at the office, for example, are all imported. There is opportunity to produce and market them locally. No computer, no hi-fi equipment, no motor vehicles are made in Malawi currently. All these are areas that can present great opportunity to local investors.
I do not want to sound naïve by giving the impression that one can just wake one morning and start developing these sectors. If it were that simple, many people would already have done it. All I am saying is that we need to seriously start thinking along the lines of channeling our energies, our intellect, and our finances into pursuits that will one day enable Malawians to become masters of the Malawian economy. Agreed, it cannot be achieved overnight, but the initial steps need to be taken, and taken now.
One of such steps is the buy Malawian campaign we have embarked on. Every Malawian needs to own this campaign and take it seriously, more in deed than in word. Each one of us needs to seriously think of ways in which they can contribute to the curbing of needless importation. That way, we will give impetus to local manufacturing. Sectors that have hitherto been unattractive will begin to see players gravitating towards them. I see bicycle factories, cosmetics factories, and factories for electronic gadgets opening up in Malawi. It just requires the concerted effort of each of us to be patriotic. Patriotism will build this country up.
If we are pessimistic and fail to see the opportunities around us, then the development of this country will continue to be elusive. We will quit trying, much like the first salesman described in the first paragraph. That attitude will take us nowhere. Nay, that is an understatement; that attitude will set us on a retrogressive path in so far as development is concerned.
We all feel a great lure to go to countries that are already developed. Let us pause for a moment and consider who will develop our own country. Foreigners? God forbid. We need to take the bull by its horns and do whatever we can to propel this country on a route to development. The opportunities to do this are numerous because Malawi is still raw.
Let every Malawian search within himself or herself to see if their attitudes are pessimistic or optimistic. If optimism abounds, we will take advantage of the numerous opportunities around us and move this country forward. n