When President Peter Mutharika came into power in May 2014, one of his promises was to improve the economy. He was going to do this (among other things) by attracting foreign investors to come and do business in Malawi. Now three years later, it has been shown that what Mutharika promised was easier said than done.
Malawi being one of the poorest countries in the world, it goes without saying that improving the economy should be a priority of every successive government. As it were, attracting investors is one way of correcting the economy. In this regard, the Mutharika government organised a big investor’s forum in 2015 which brought together prospective investors from all over the world. When the forum came to a close, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Tourism expressed satisfaction and even more so when more than 40 investors had shown interest to come and do business in Malawi. There was even half talk that the government was already striking business deals with some investors. This was an indication that things were going in the right direction, and there was great expectation about jobs and an increased tax base for Malawi. Now, it is two years after the investor’s forum. The expected foreign investors are nowhere to be seen.
Having seen that it is not doing well at enticing investors into the country, government should by now have looked at the likely reasons that keep away investors and find solutions as soon as possible. First and foremost, the government should be as honest as possible and accept that the country has a lot of problems. Dwelling on positives such as Malawi being a peaceful country should be avoided. It does not need a genius to know that the peacefulness of the country has not helped at all because most leaders have abused it by thinking that Malawians are stupid (for lack of a better word).
Honestly speaking, that high levels of corruption, lack of security and high taxes are the main reasons that most investors are likely to give for shunning Malawi. Experience has shown that dealing with corrupt officials at every twist and turn of establishing a business can be expensive and frustrating. Officials raise prices of every operation at will. Bribes and kickbacks are the order of the day.
For obvious reasons, for protecting the image of the country, the government can even defend the high levels of corruption by saying that Malawi is not the only corrupt country in the world. Other countries too, are corrupt so the government would say. Such an argument does not hold water. There is talk that there is corruption in our neighboring countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. But there is meaningful development in these countries. This is not the case in Malawi. Public resources, including tax payer’s money, are converted to personal fortunes without mercy while leaving almost nothing for development. Corruption knows no boundary in Malawi. In this case, what chance of survival has an investor got?
What President Mutharika and his government should know is that as long as they continue to have no strategy for controlling corruption and how to improve the country’s security, foreign investment into the country will remain a wishful thought. What the President should have known by now is that serious corruption seems to be within the leadership circles. If he wants a corrupt-free Malawi he should start cleaning the leadership positions. Failing which corruption is here to stay while meaningful investors will keep away and show up in neighboring countries. The end result will be that Malawians will continue getting poorer and lawlessness will be the order of the day as it there is no functioning government. n