My next guest is a friend who I have known for many years. He is a driven and well exposed Malawian who has often been at pains to see Malawi succeed, but like many of us, is frustrated by the slow progress which is often hampered by political happenings. Mr Kani Msungama, thank you for doing the Global 100 Voices Interview.
- As a Malawian, how important is Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability to you and your family? As a young man who is very ambitious in acquiring my goals, one of them is to achieve financial stability, one that will be in tandem with the economic situation so that I can also better the lives those who surround me and depend on me, Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability is paramount to me.
- After nearly 50 years since independence, what visible progress do you think Malawi has made since independence, and in your view, what pressing challenges remain? In view of those challenges, what do you think is the role of government and the people in tackling those challenges? (1)There is little or nothing to show for it sadly, it’s as if economy has been hibernating all these 50 years. (2) The challenges we face today is not only in our leaders but with each and every Malawian, you and me included. We do not take the sole responsibility of our nation. We are busy pointing at the wrongs and ills of our nation instead of rectifying the problems or offering solutions to them. The Government has a responsibility to offer sound and attainable objectives instead of just empty promises. It is the duty of Government with the president at the helm, to lead by example and getting everybody involved in building our nation. I wish we could engage the Diaspora. We have so many Malawians out there wanting to contribute the development of our nation but nothing has ever been done to entice Malawians living abroad to be part of the development agenda.
- As someone who lived or has lived outside Malawi for some time, and has been exposed to modern and progressive ideas, what symbols of development in the foreign country in which you lived have had the greatest impact on you, and why? Infrastructure, definitely. For you, as a country to be classified as a developing or developed nation, you (as a nation) have to be able to show for it in the way people live, i.e. easy access to various modes of modern transport facilities be it by air, water or land.
- What lessons do you think Malawians and the Malawian leadership can learn from those ideas? It basically means that development has to be shown and not be spoken about, many at times our politicians tend to stand on podiums busy preaching on what they have done but there is literally no visual evidence of that on the ground.
- When you last returned to Malawi, what struck you the most as the greatest sign of improvement or development since the last time you left? There was nothing, sad to say. Everything was where I left it. Maybe with the exception of the M1 road in Lilongwe.
- What struck you the most as the biggest sign of stagnation or regression? Our International airport, Kamuzu International Airport, by far it still remains the same with poor security services, insufficient number of flights/ services by international standards.
- Malawians will be going to the polls in 2014, to elect a new president. In your view what kind of leader does Malawi NEED, considering the country’s current challenges? And specifically, how should that leader approach the top job in terms of creating sustainable development and foreign reducing aid dependency? Malawi needs a charismatic, intelligent, humble, educated and active leader. Somebody who can relate to Malawians as whole. Someone who cares (a patriot) and is passionate about this country. Somebody who is patient and understanding. Somebody who can unify us all (southern, central and northern region). A leader has to lead us all by his/her fine example. Show us how to get things done and not just spend hours on end on podiums with everyone busy praising, dancing and pampering them. Malawi is in a state where we can ill afford such nonsense anymore. 50 years has gone by and these leaders still want to be pampered and danced for while thousands are dying of hunger, lack of medicine and HIV/AIDS.
- As you know, Tobacco is Malawi’s biggest source of export revenue. Looking at the problems that have plagued the tobacco industry in recent times, what alternatives do you think Malawi has besides Tobacco, and why are they viable alternatives? There so many other viable crops from maize, ground nuts, soya, etc. You can never go wrong with agricultural produce because food is basic necessity for any individual. Malawi is blessed with vast amounts of arable land and sadly we as a nation have not capitalized on this to seek alternatives to tobacco. The answer to is right under our noses.
- Considering our troubled history with donors and funders such as the IMF and World Bank, most recently when Bingu Wa Mutharika was president, how do you see Malawi progressing from this relationship in view of the criticisms these organisations have received in the media across the world? Honestly speaking, this spirit of dependency on these organisations has crippled us as a nation because it is embedded in us to think of donor aid, budget support, etc and not that we can do it on our own. Putting it in simpler terms, if you constantly carry a child in your arms when the child is learning to walk for the fear that it will get hurt, don’t ever expect for that child to be able walk on its own. That is our country in a nutshell.
- We now know that Malawi has some precious minerals, including Uranium, possibly oil and other natural resources. How do you think the present government is doing regarding managing Malawi’s natural resources? Nothing, because of some of the greedy officials we have put in place are busy trying to get rich. There is no transparency at all when it comes to the awarding of contracts to companies. I thought we live in democratic dispensation? Where is the transparency? Malawian we are so used to be taken advantage of that we do not DEMAND transparency. This OUR country, and these are OUR resources!!
- In your view, can the government do better to manage natural resources? If so, how can it do better? They definitely can, our neighbours Mozambique, Zambia have done it just fine, then why can’t we? Put in stringent rules and regulations in the mining sectors when it comes to contracts and explorations of such minerals. We need Reforms, make information readily available for all to see. Monitor the companies entrusted with the sector, make sure that they abide to the rule of OUR land and their own.
- What is your answer to increasing transparency and eradicating corruption which is plaguing most governments across Africa? This is why, when we put people in positions we should make sure we putting people with moral values, integrity and who are educated. We cannot completely eradicate corruption because we live in a highly impoverished society but we certainly minimize it and one day we can completely eradicate it. Zero tolerance and harsh consequences for offenders are part of the solution. We need watchdogs such as non-governmental organisations that are zealous and concerned for the greater good.
- Any famous last words? Vision without action is just a daydream.