s we approach May 21 2019, I look forward to many changes in this country.
My ideal next leader has a mammoth task ahead.
I look forward to a government that will look at development holistically and monitor every tambala that comes in the name of Malawians, leadership that recognises the capacity of its own citizens and local institutions.
History has it that Malawi got independence on July 6 1964.
Notwithstanding this, I always wonder what independence means in the context of this country where the imperial forces are still dominant.
Expatriate views dominate the development landscape. How some voices from external agencies shape our development agenda worries me.
In essence, decisions in ‘the development world in Malawi’ are controlled by the expatriates. I get worried when key decisions that shape the country’s development landscape should take are made by foreign minds.
Non-governmental organisations’ contribution is determined by external entities.
Nothing wrong with development aid in Malawi and having few people from the granting countries monitor utilisation of their taxpayers’ money.
But when they control everything about it, I get worried.
I once headed a vibrant local NGO in Malawi. My position gave me an opportunity to attend high-level meetings on development and humanitarian aid in the country.
On many occasions, I felt sorry for my country. Non-Malawians working in agencies that finance or channel foreign resources bulldoze decisions out of context.
Their audacity to make such decisions in the gaze of Malawians worries me.
In such meetings, fellow Malawians, from the government departments and NGOs, fold hands and nod, accepting something they know will not make any difference on the poor people they claim to represent.
We seem to be gripped in fear that paralyses our reasoning. It pains heavily when government representatives in such meetings—either out of donor fears or not conversant with the issues under discussion—accept things that are not applicable to Malawi.
Sometimes, I feel that we are a research site where institutions and countries with money test their development theories.
Something has to change. Malawians need to truly take charge of their own development and humanitarian interventions, both medium and long-term. The support from external institutions is welcome, but respect to the context is expected of them too.
It is not in our Malawian culture that a visitor comes to dictate how the family dish should be shared. Even a visitor who brings a basketful of flour has no control on how the meal should be shared.
I have seen external development partners who stand on an issue in a meeting so stubbornly without any knowledge of the cultural context.
With widespread communication challenges, most Malawians are defeated on semantics and development theories. The power some expatriates wield on matters of national importance worries me. This is why despite millions of dollars going towards developing rural communities, our people only succeed in learning new songs of praising the donors when they come to inspect their projects.
It is only in Malawi where international NGOs hire even project officers from abroad when qualified Malawians remain unemployed.
In countries where the leadership trusts its citizens, work permits are given only to foreigners who have qualifications and skills that cannot be found locally.
In this country, well qualified and experienced Malawians in their field of work are managed by the less educated expatriates.
At worst, such are the people making development decision about this country.
Malawians first means recognising that Malawians have the capabilities to do much of what we leave to the so-called expatriates.
Some expats bossing around in many international NGOs in Malawi are less qualified than the natives who toe their line.
Where are Malawians in their own development agenda? n