// This Post was drafted by my friend Hannington Gondwe. I’m posting it here with his permission.//
It is unquestionable that a conducive investment environment is critical in Malawi’s quest for the much needed foreign direct investment (FDI) and socio-economic growth.
With all due respect to the leadership and to those tasked with creating the so called “conducive investment environment”, I have for years had strong reservations with how we manage our investment strategy as it appears we rush to get to the XYZs (selling our investment opportunities) before the ABCs (creating a true conducive business environment).
As it stands, Malawi is ranked number 144 out of 189 economies in the ‘Ease of Doing Business ranking’ and has had a poor ranking for years. In my view, little in practice has been done apart from glossy compendiums and excellent reports that gather dust year on year. Those in power need to ask themselves soul-searching questions as to why countries like Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, thus to mention a few, are making headway investment-wise.
I am not an expert in investment and trade strategy but common sense tells me that Malawi isn’t doing the basics (ABCs) right. To effectively attract investors, Malawi has to improve on issues such as: the supportive infrastructure (electricity blackouts, water shortages, bad road/rail network, e.t.c), security, reduce the lengthy to establish business, improve co-ordination between stakeholders, improve the regulatory framework, eliminate kickbacks ‘tidyepo mentality’, human resource development, adhere to corporate governance standards and not forgetting, strong leadership. It will not take a genius to improve the business environment, all it takes is political will as witness recently in Tanzania through the ‘Magufulisation’ process – a testament that mindsets can be changed overnight consequently improving the micro and macro environment.
Some may say that the whole point Malawi is reaching out to these foreign investors is to plug the infrastructural gaps. As understandable that may be, government has over the years failed to provide the enabling environment integral in promoting linkages between foreign affiliates and local enterprises. We have had one-off FDI success stories in Malawi but the results haven’t been transformative. Huge investment figures are often quoted after an international trip by our leaders with little to show for on the ground.
I strongly feel that Malawi needs to go back to the drawing board in order to work on her investment prerequisites to ensure that she becomes one of the preferred foreign investments destinations. Let’s work on the ABCs before the XYZs.