Area 18 Interchange - Malawi

An intertwined road Interchange in Malawi got the whole country talking

Call me a cynic, but sometimes the country of my birth baffles me to the point I wonder: Is this really happening?

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a brief: Malawi’s capital Lilongwe recently saw the opening of a new intertwined road interchange, named ‘Area 18 Interchange’. And because nothing like it ever existed in the country before, loads of Malawians began talking about it. The excitement soon reached fever pitch, to the point people were going out of their ways to go to the location of this interchange, to see it with their own eyes and observe the traffic criss-crossing its roads. Malawi’s president even visited the site the other day and stated his government’s commitment to develop the country’s cities through construction of transformative pieces of infrastructure.

Now you might say thats not a big deal, people in the developing world get excited about all sorts of ordinary things which westerners take for granted. And you are right. But what irked me was the hero-worship that followed, in that some Malawians began to claim that the construction of the road is one of the major achevements of former president of Malawi Peter Mutharika.

At which point I snapped.

It’s just a road. A tiny road for that matter. that if you go to other countries, you’ll find bigger and much better intertwined junctions… its no big deal.

On a much more reflective note, other people rate their leaders on substantive material things they achieved in their lifetimes. Achievements of huge significance that impact thousands of people, in some cases literary changing the course of history. To give a flavour, how about ending slavery as an achievement, defeating Nazism, ending the colonisation of a country, developing a Nuclear Weapon, giving the vote to women, presiding over a large National Economic Transformation (The New Deal); ending Apartheid and becoming the first black president of South Africa, lifting over 800 million people out of poverty(as China has done) …

How ridiculous do you think Malawi appears, when faced with a list of such noble and grand achievements, we’re in some corner hollering and worshiping a former leader based on a tiny road interchange that was built under their watch?? In 2020?

Is that really how low our standards have fallen? Kamuzu Banda must be spinning in his grave…

Some of these people need to visit Durban, Nairobi, Kigali or Addis Ababa- to see what real development looks like …

Let me tell you what I believe. Its no secret that countries like Rwanda, Botswana, Malaysia, and South Korea were at one point in the 50’s and 60’s on the same level of development as Malawi. But unlike Malawi, they chose to develop and made significant strides out of poverty to become middle income countries. It was a deliberate and sustained intervention to match and be level with some of the best.

Now you might say our politics were different at that time, we had an inward-looking dictator more concerned with self-preservation, and you are right. But since the start of multiparty democracy, we’ve had 26 years in which to “catch-up”. But there’s been nothing to show for.

And yet, our contemporaries also faced innumerable challenges. Like us, they didn’t have enough money. Their people weren’t that educated. In fact if you look at where we are, we probably have more incentives to develop that countries like South Korea or Botswana had in the 60’s and 70’s. The difference is while we sometimes appear comfortable in our sorry state, these countries were not content with mediocrity or token gestures. I mean, when was the last time you heard of an aid organisation working to feed hungry children in Souh Korea?

These countries decided they needed to create economies that could stand side by side with some of the largest economies in the world. Economies that were resilient to existential shocks. And it is high time we did the same.

In Malawi, we have to be careful not to let our historical excuses and well-rehearsed pragmatism (the “Malawian standards” / “crawl before you can run” excuses), ending up being main obstacles in our path to development. I’ve said it here several times before, but we really have to raise the bar on what counts as development, and what is raw and unmistakable mediocrity.

Peter Mutharika (like him or hate him) didn’t do much to develop Malawi because he was not a transformational leader. There was no blueprint, no grand plan, no credible and actionable dream, no rhetoric to charge and fire up people’s imaginations. His leadership, busied by tribalism, corruption and deceit – left much to be desired, and there was more bluster than implementation. If you don’t believe me, just look at the promises that were made in DPP’s 2014 Manifesto and compare with what was actually achieved by 2019.

In Malawi, we say of undeserved promotions that “Anangogweramo” , meaning Mutharika just fell into it. It was an accidental selection, and he wouldn’t have ended up as a leader of a party and the country if not for his brother pulling him into DPP’s Politburo.

But this post isn’t about the Mutharikas and DPP’s woes.

Malawi has to start seeking capable operators who will move us forward as a country. We have to begin to seriously empower people who are qualified and know how to build and develop a country and have the force of character to deliver on promises. Osati zongochitikira mwa ngozi.

There’s another equally important aspect to all this.

If a tiny road intersection has got the whole country excited, what do you think foreign dignitaries will think of us, as a nation? What do you think they will report to their countries, as ways in which to pacify or otherwise impress our people? Imagine how all the ruthless and pushy countries, even a China omwewa will deal with us, when they know it takes very little to impress our people… ?

We have to press the reset button on what we regard as development. Toilets that look like ma sakasa, Airport terminals towoneka ngati khola la nkhuku, tima bridge ta make dzana… and yes your little interchange, they’re all not signs of development in the context of the 21st Century. Because there are such things as global standards, and we have to pull up our socks in this area and begin to match the rest of the world. Rwanda and Kenya are doing it, why can’t we?

In any case, how can you possibly attract investment in the form of a factory (say Chevrolet, Nissan or Kia for argument’s sake), or how can you seriously attract a tech giant’s assebling facility (APPLE, IBM, HP, MICROSOFT) and compete against the likes of Ethiopia or Kenya – who have impressive infrastructure and who are doing far more to attract foreign corporations to set up shop in those countries, when your own infrastructure leaves plenty to be desired?

Citizen led Development

CitizenActivism

The problem with Malawi is everyone wants to be president. Whether this is as a direct result of enduring bad and inefficient government for so many years, under several clowns who somehow managed to lay claim to the crown of public office, or whether this phenomenon is a misinterpretation of what democracy actually is, by a largely closed-minded and ignorant rural population – I do not know for sure.

What I do know, is every noisy little fella (and it’s often a man), with his 2 tambala of broken english wants to be the president. Just buy him a few bottles of Carlsberg and play some Afrobeats tunes, bokobo, doro bucci, skelewu or anything like that and within no time he’ll begin telling you what he’ll do if elected president, even though he’s never held public office let alone been a member of any political party.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against competent people being of service to Malawi. My worry is incompetent people wanting to undertake such service.

I’ve been around many a drunk fella. From the carefree high school days of imbibing on Redds outside the benches of Chichiri shopping mall in Blantyre, admiring the beautiful girls ordering take-aways at Hungry Lion (or was it Wimpy ?) – then catching a minibus to Ndirande in time to get back into school before the 6pm head count; I remember the pub crawling days at Nottingham Uni. – when you’d return at 3 or 4 am to your bed (and the next day fail to remember exactly how you got back, or who the person sleeping next to you was). At that time, you were still expected to be at your lectures at 9am, and yes a register of attendance was taken; I remember the nights at Kwacha in Nottingham, where Malawians would argue with Nigerians over as simple a concept as whether the free movement of people in the SADC region was helpful…trust me I’ve seen many a caroused character.

But strangely, it’s only Malawians who uncover their political ambitions when drunk?? None of the Nigerians, Kenyans, Tanzanians, English, Australian, American or Malaysian nationals I’ve encountered at pubs or drinking places in the past talk of politics when drunk?? Maybe it’s also down to the people I’ve mixed with…?

But still, it makes me wonder: Is the Malawian attitude to politics (if such a thing can be said to exist) part of the problem. That too many of us want to have a crack at steak on the bone, when we have no teeth, and can barely tackle porridge? When, in the proverbial sense, we are but babes.

No wonder then that too many of our politicians have no clue on what running a country entails – as evidenced by bad decision after the next. Because they got into politics for the wrong reasons, they fell into it: As they say in Chichewa, Anangogweramo. They have not studied Public administration, or been working in an official capacity, discharging or administering a public service or function to the public, for any considerable length of time, how on earth are they supposed to know what the business of government is all about? Sadly, many assume that being in power equates to doing anything you like – often with public funds? And funny enough, the people, those being governed (who elect the officials to power), also wrongly assume that ‘boma’ can do pretty much anything they like.

Or  I’m I missing something?

This is the challenge facing Malawi: of ‘rampaging’ public officials drunk with power, abusing their positions in the face of an ignorant, resigned and powerless populace; neglecting their responsibilities in preference to self-enrichment.

All this is happening on the full-watch of toothless Civil Society Organisations, and in the face of the donor community, who it appears are happy to look the other way.

Here, a comment is appropriate. Seeing that donors have refused to resume budgetary aid, because of the corruption and looting of public funds, I wonder what else they can do – to ‘encourage‘ good governance?

Lets speculate for a moment.

Is it conceivable, I wonder, for donor countries who have in the past supported Malawi via budgetary aid, to begin funding entrepreneurs? Not throwing $200 to the guy selling charcoal or tomatoes, or mbewa by the side of the road in Dedza, no, not that entrepreneur – if you can even call him that.

What I mean is why can’t donor countries support the kind of entrepreneurs who can create wealth for hundreds or thousands of people in Malawi? As in the cooperative which is trying to buy a plough and combine harvester to farm 50 acres of land; or the activist who is speaking out to power, demanding good governance, and has a sizeable following… Maybe let me rephrase the question… Why don’t donors begin funding Social entrepreneurs, including ACTIVISTS – if both groups can be assisted to create jobs for other MalawiansWith the understanding, a very clear understanding that their impact should be designed to have a domino effect towards achieving wider developmental outcomes?

Malawi needs everything. From a mental and political transformation (often talked about by many other far better placed commentators), to decent and well resourced hospitals, Malawi needs to improve its security (or a sense thereof), it needs reliable utilities (Water and Power), quality education … better customer service, the whole lot.

But the common denominator that stagnates any prospect of change, in all if not most sectors, and that is in critical shortage, is resources in terms of funding. Instead of looking away, donors should transform the way they work in Malawi and other African countries, and begin providing resources to those people or organisations who truly want to make a difference. I’m not saying its easy or simple. What I’m saying is it is necessary.

Some people may be asking how this is going to work? How practical is this? Well, I think it is practical, because how many other ways can you create self-sustainability that does not involve the government, if not dealing directly with the people?

What they could do is create a portal (which I can create for them by the way) where requests for funds for certain projects can be made online? The donors can then have a team that will vet and review these requests and respond accordingly.

What about those people without access to the internet? Well, what about an application process by post or in person, communicated to unconnected communities for example using radio adverts…or if they want to do more, a mobile awareness campaign using a van such as the one below, which would have a team on board to review face-to-face proposals in the communities they broadcast?

mobile-radio-tv

They could even partner with TNM and Airtel to market such a scheme, and utilise the reliable networks of these telecom companies.

In the past, the usual responses to these kind of questions is we are already funding entrepreneurs. And that’s not our role, usually communicated in sentences that include words such as ‘ambit’ and  ‘mandate’…

If the ultimate goal of donors is to encourage good governance and effect development, then it is within their mandate to help provide resources. It’s all well and good providing funds for food, education and healthcare, but if after you’ve cured peoples diseases,and educated them, they have no job to go to, or no sustainable way of earning a living, what’s the point of giving them aid in the first place? If they then have to struggle to get by. Isn’t this exactly the kind of thing that creates dependency?

A nonprofit that practices social entrepreneurship, on the other hand, relies less heavily on donor funds because it creates social programs that are meant to be self-sustaining. Social entrepreneurs manage donor contributions in an effective manner, investing in social ventures which can then generate their own revenues to sustain themselves. More here

But why does it matter Sangwani, why is it important? Why should anybody care?

Well, firstly as a Malawian it matters when I see so many competent young men and women who are not utilising their full potential because of lack of money. That’s a real concern which I’m sure is shared by thousands if not tens of thousands others.

But it also matters because in a centralised governance system such as that in Malawi – where everyone looks to the president to sort out all their little problems, lack of resources is holding back well-meaning people from acting independently to develop their part of the country. It’s a waste of talent and it’s holding them back from helping plug the shortfall in the different aspects of our economy; especially since the government is not doing many of the things they should be doing.

And this situation is not sustainable because too many capable people are powerless to effect the kind of change Malawi needs – with the result that the country is not moving forward. And come next election, in 2019, the largely ignorant rural population I mentioned earlier will be conned again into voting for another white elephant, and the vicious cycle will repeat itself all over again, worsening the living condItions, and bringing Malawi ever closer towards becoming a poor failed violent state. In the ranks of Somalia and Yemen. Surely, neither donors nor Malawians want this.

Also, there is evidence that successive governments in Malawi have taken advantage of this lack of funding to abuse their positions, and engage in dodgy deals, costing the tax payer. There are too many examples to cite, but two that come to mind are the Jetgate (the alleged sale of a presidential jet by President Joyce Banda – the funds of which were never accounted for), and the recent report that showed that $2 billion had been misappropriated by government officials the last 6 years.  How come none of the CSO’s sued the government on behalf of the public over these major instances of misappropriation of funds? Further, why does it look increasingly likely that many of the perpetrators of such misappropriation will get away with it?

Finally, lack of funding encourages corruption because otherwise decent people are forced to go begging to the government, the presidency or the presiden’s party – because they have no money – instead of them speaking out against bad governance and government’s failures in tackling societal ills.

What is wrong with Africa in that we must always be dictated to…

“What is wrong with Africa that we must always be dictated to, that somebody must dictate our course and we must be managed. And we accept it?”- President Paul Kagame speaking at the Meles Zenawi Symposium on Development

What Young Malawian Entrepreneurs Need

Draft Template/ Working Document/ Collection of thoughts. Introducing the Youth Development Cooperative (YDC).

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Overview

unemployment-africa

Young people across Africa are hungry for success. From the technology clusters currently popping up in Kenya, to those in Ethiopia young Africans want to do well.

As a small landlocked country, Malawi is disadvantaged in many ways. But those geographical challenges also present the country with an opportunity. It means we must work smarter than our neighbours to not only survive, but to thrive. It means we must innovate.

Thus, there is hope in that the government can enact several laws, pass executive orders and generally assist in creating a climate which would improve the business environment for many young people, as long as they have a desire to succeed, and are willing to work hard for it. I hope Peter Mutharika’s government does this because such will in the long-term stimulate growth, employment, and contribute to poverty alleviation across Malawi and neighbouring countries.

The text below is a collection of thoughts, ideas and inspiration from multiple sources, and should be understood to be a working document, or template that can be improved, and not a perfect suggestion. Any critique is welcome.

Firstly a public body [Youth Development Cooperative (YDC)] would need to be created that has:-

  • An executive branch made up of seven salaried senior positions (Director, Company Secretary, a Commercial Director, a Business Development Adviser, a Human Resources Director and two Administrative assistants) each on a 3 year once-renewable contract. They will be appointed on merit based on their qualifications.
  • They will be the face of the organisation, and in charge of management and other functions as outlined below, including employment (each of the centres described below will need a Manager, a Business Adviser and five or six employees to work shifts in running the centres).
  • The YDC will have a Board of Governors made up of nine people (for example 3 from CSOs, 2 from clergy, 2 from the Business Community, and 2 diplomats from foreign embassies) who will serve an unsalaried maximum term of 3 years. While this may seem like a random and unusual collection of people, the thinking behind is to create a board that is resistant to ‘interference’, or as resistant as can possibly be, and that is truly interested in the development of the youth, as opposed to financial gains / allowances. From my experiences, and close observation of boards of parastatals in Malawi, patronage can disable / destroy an organisation which would otherwise thrive.
  • The Board of Governors will have the power to make appointments of the executive of the cooperative (by vetting & voting). They will be responsible for reviewing the individual performances of each of the members of the executive, and decide whether to renew their contracts or not.
  • The seven members of the board of Governors (excluding the diplomats) must be selected by a public vote (on a district majority basis) in which any Malawian aged 16 years and above can participate. No more than one candidate may be selected from each of the 28 districts of Malawi AND no more than 3 people can be selected from each region (South, Central, North).  The 2 posts offered to diplomats will rotate among foreign embassies who elect to take part, and they will be free to send a person they choose.

The importance of such an arrangement is to ensure that the organisation is truly independent, and not be politically aligned. In this case,  it is in the interests of all Malawians for young people from across the country to thrive irrespective of  political party affiliation, thus the board should be representative of the country.

The organisation will be created to tackle five primary areas in which the Malawi government can intervene in stimulating growth, and helping young people thrive.

1. Lower barriers to entry for Malawian Nationals

barriers2entry

The government must ensure that they lower barriers to entry for young people in Malawi:-

  • Information Technology – We live in the information age, and IT is critical to the growth of our country’s economy. So the government must establish Public IT Centres providing free internet (satellite or other reliable service with minimal outages) and hot-desking facilities to support any Malawian under the age of 35 who wants to start a business. It should be a place where young people can receive free advice and teaching on web technologies and other subjects. It should be a place where young people can go and exchange ideas, a place to read national and international newspapers, and get exposure about what is happening across the business world across Africa and internationally. This will help in inspiring young people of promise about where the opportunities are, and how to take advantage of such opportunities locally. It will also be a place where they can learn how to code and write software, including networking with other like-minded folk. Each YDC centre must be equipped with 2 or 3 classrooms, 3 meeting rooms, an IT room with at least 30 desktop computers in it, printing facilities (a paid service), a canteen (to sell drinks and snacks), a common room stocked with everyday newspapers in English from Malawi and from across the world, a news room with 3 or 4 TV sets showing different channels, a storage basement, and toilets.
  • Following a successful pilot run in 3 centres, (Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu), if 7 additional centres can be created across the country (one in each of the following towns/ cities: Chikwawa, Zomba, Mchinji, Salima, Kasungu, Nkhotakota, and Karonga) to begin with, that would be a promising start.
  • Such centres would create direct employment, initially for around 77 people, and could later be expanded to include specialist science and business libraries (to encourage reading and for dissemination of information, and to teach modern technologies).
  • They could be used as bases for visiting foreign health specialists to hold community clinics. Additionally, the classrooms can be let out to Aid Agencies (for a fee) for community work or rented out to others needing space to hold meetings.
  • Software will be installed to block social networks, and ensure the facilities are used for educational / business purposes, and critical bandwidth is not wasted on downloading entertainment videos. Wi-Fi would be provided for free for those with laptops / smart phones, although depending on bandwidth, computer time will be capped to only 6 hours per person each day to give access to moree people.
  • In order for each centre to be functional, it must run on both the energy grid, and eco-friendly energy like solar panels, and have backups in the form of diesel generators, so that services should be up and running even when ESCOM  power supply is down.
  • Business Support – Many young people in Malawi feel powerless and disillusioned. They leave school only to find there are no part-time jobs for them to do, nothing to help them in their quest to get independent and be part of the economy. Most live at home years after graduation, doing nothing. They end up wasting time, in gangs, mixing with the wrong crowds, committing crimes, drinking their lives away, or being an expense and source of shame and worry to their parents and neighbourhoods.

This vicious circle is unsustainable for a country in which ~45% of the population is less than 16 years old.

What is needed is a pipeline where those young people aged between 16 and 35 years, who are interested in entrepreneurship and business, can be tutored, guided, mentored, directed, and empowered. For those still in school or undertaking exams, YDC centres can contract local teachers to provide tuition for students who need more help with their studies, benefitting both teachers and students.

For those who want to start a business, gain additional knowledge to improve their lives, the YDC centres could offer classes and guidance on

  • (i) Venture Capital
  • (ii) Business & Revenue Management including book-keeping and such daily tasks
  • (iii) Advertising
  • (iv) Saving
  • (v) Taxation
  • (vi) Legal compliance
  • (vii) Managing Debt, and
  • (viii) Customer Service.

Using the YDC centres around the country, such type of instruction can be provided to young people to enable them to be entrepreneurial and support them in being productive citizens. This will also create employment, and Public Private Partnerships could be utilised to communicate such knowledge.

Capital23

  • Business Loans / Venture CapitalThis seems to be the biggest challenge/ barrier to entry for young people in Malawi. Most are willing to learn, to venture out and have a shot at a business, but many have no source of capital.

A system should be created where low-interest loans (not more than 10%) as low as $500 to upwards of $5000 are extended to young people with promise, without the stringent collateral of land /property required by banks ( most young people don’t own property or land…). In order to safeguard against abuse, eligibility should be tied to an examined course spread over 3 – 4 months designed to test certain competencies–with classes which every applicant must attend, and an exam which they must pass to be eligible. A criteria should be formulated which ascertains the merits of each business proposal. And once an applicant is successful, the funds must be disbursed in phases, and primarily be used for:-

  • procurement of goods or resources for use or for sale by the new business, including for example buying a service online
  • for logistical support, such as ordering goods abroad.
  • for payment of business costs such as company registration, marketing, or transportation
  • to pay for educational courses, or web design, web hosting and such like.
  • for minor expenses not exceeding $50 each.
  • possibly for start-up wages to employees (strictly from month 1 to month 3 only) depending on the monthly turnover.
  • And to pay for specialist expenses (for example a young man who wants to start a butchery, or a takeaway restaurant will need to rent out a building. Their needs and requirements will be different to those of a person running a removals / commercial cleaning business, which will be different to someone who wants to establish a call-centre/ video game development company.

Funds must not be used to pay salaries beyond month 3, nor be used for food, or paid directly to an applicant’s personal account.

Each Centre Manager and his Business Adviser together with the Secretary and the YDC’s Commercial Director (both of whom would roam across the centres as required) must review each request, and properly consider whether such would be the best use of funds for that business.

  • Finally, any assets, property or land acquired by an entrepreneur using funds from the YDC will remain the property of the YDC until after each loan is repaid in full. At that point 70% of the equity stake in the new business will pass to the entrepreneur, whereas 30% will remain with the YDC. This is important for liquidity, although in the event that a funded business turns out to be a great commercial success, the entrepreneur can buy out the YDC on payment of an agreed fixed sum.

A business will be able to begin its operations as soon as it has procured its requirements, thereby allowing use of the acquired assets to service the loans it owes to the YDC. One of the duties of the centre manager and his business advisor will be to monitor the progress of each business registered to his centre, and give advice as appropriate.

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  • Affordable office SpaceThis is also a challenge. However, with the above centres, the hot-desking facility could create casual shared office space for 40 – 50 people at each location. Collectively that’s giving an opportunity to 500 or so young people the ability do something positive with their lives. And should 0.6% of those people (3 people) create ventures with an annual turnover greater than $500,000, the potential of such centres would begin to look significant.
  • Users of the centre’s hot-desking facility would need to book use of the rooms by text or phone beforehand, however the other aspects like the computer room and news rooms will be on a first come first served basis.
  • Affordable Warehousing Space

warehouse1So, you’ve taught them how to run a business, and provided resources such as a business address for them to receive post from, to enable them to seek opportunities. What you also need to do especially for those businesses who will be importing raw materials, equipment or products from abroad,  is provide a secure warehouse space, whereby a person can hire a locker, space on a shared shelf, or a small room, to store and stock their wares and goods at low prices. This way we are reducing the cost of doing business, and removing another barrier.

2. Lower Logistical costs

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a truck with a trailer

It is also important to lower logistical costs for new businesses because this is one of the barriers stopping our economies from moving forward. On this note, more resources should be invested in better roads, and in particular in ensuring that the Nsanje Zambezi inland Port is cleared by the Mozambican Government, so that it opens for business.

In the interim, the cost of importing goods and equipment must be reduced by:-

  • The YDC hiring a 40 foot container, for imports from Europe, (departing from a port in the UK), another 40 foot container for imports arriving from the US and a third 40 foot container for imports from Dubai and Asia (including China), to operate once every two months. The shipping fees must be preferential to Malawians, and at least 35% cheaper than those charged by other shipping operators. This means a number of things.

(i) Malawians in the diaspora can use such a service as a way of giving back to Malawi to send their goods back home instead of using foreign services that do not benefit Malawi.

(ii) Thus, it means additional Forex for Malawi, money which can be used to expand the scheme or donate to worthy causes such as building new schools or hospitals.

(iii) It also means some aid organisations and charities in Malawi could be persuaded to use the YDC’s shipping service, and not any of the others foreign ones.

(iv) Businesses in Malawi, including those under the YDC will have a cheaper and reliable way of getting goods to Malawi.

(v) The YDC will have a revenue stream which it can rely on to pay its employees and finance the expansion, development and operation of its centres.

  • Similarly the YDC could invest in at least 4 heavy goods Trucks (to get the containers from ports in Tanzania or Angola to Malawi), 2 Buses, 3 minibuses, 10 estate vehicles, and 10 vans, as capital assets, and to assist in the functions of the centres. All these assets will be sources of revenue, and contribute in lowering the cost of doing businesses for businesses operating from within YDC premises. To keep costs low, such capital assets can be purchased second-hand at reasonable prices.

3. Civic Education

Image from UNESCO
Image from UNESCO

An educated population is an empowered population. So Civic and adult Education is very important not least because when parents are educated, they will emphasize the value of education to their children. Thus, it would be in the best interest of the Malawi government for such to be provided to help increase literacy levels and educate the rural populations. Thus the YDC centres can be used as a way of crowdsourcing resources. So for example, a group of farmers could be assisted by the YDC to procure a tractor for their local cooperative. The YDC could act as a middle institution to identify the need, facilitate the procurement and assist in maintenance or upkeep.

This initiative may also be a way of safeguarding against corruption and attracting investment from donors in that funds are provided to a whole bloc of people with a common purpose instead of being given to individuals.

4. Export Advice

Malawi is a small market and for our businesses to truly grow and survive, we need resources from far and wide. This will also mean selling as many of our products abroad, and making a profit in the process. It means that for our entrepreneurs to create sustainable ventures, they will need to be competitive on the global market.

  • Thus, the education our entrepreneurs receive must be comparable to global standards,
  • Businesses must be encouraged to have a cross-border strategy following proven principles.
  • The YDC can help small businesses to export to our immediate neighbours and even internationally.
  • Export Experts would need to be contracted  to run seminars to teach businesses  about exporting, and why exporting for a small economy is crucial.

5. Tax Breaks

Why should young people in Malawi – who have more obstacles – not get tax breaks when foreign corporations are allowed to do so? For the first 18 months of each new business / company that is incubated within a YDC centre, tax breaks must apply so long as its revenues do not exceed $20,000 a month, and so long as it’s not a subsidiary of a larger company. Tax breaks can help create a breathing space for a new business to be established, before the state’s demand of tax becomes a factor to be considered. In any case, employees will still be paying income tax, so the country will not be losing out significantly. Audits will be required to prevent abuse.

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Selling Malawi for Peanuts

In whatever we do as a country, we need to make sure that the development path we take should be sustainable for the inter-generational cause. Our generation inherited a beautiful country and as the current custodians of this land, it is our duty to safeguard the interests of current and future generations of native Malawians.

It is my belief that those who fought to extricate colonialism were driven with the fervent desire to see this country independent of foreign dominion that was British Imperialism. It is therefore our duty to honour the wishes of those who fought and died for our Malawi by making sure that native Malawians are the drivers of development in Malawi.

David Korten, one of the leading proponents of alternative development once wrote,

The survival of our civilization, and perhaps our very lives, depends on committing ourselves to an alternative development practice guided by the three basic principles of authentic development: justice, sustainability and inclusiveness-each of which is routinely and systematically violated by current practice‘.

Today, Malawi is slowly creating an economy which will become dependent on some foreigners who are only here on temporal basis to make a fortune. Native Malawians are slowly being excluded from many vast opportunities that this nation has to offer, and I believe that the development course taken today by us, will harm the interests of our children and future generations because of our shortsightedness.

The biggest issue that is worrisome in this country is the sale of lucrative land to foreigners. According to Watipaso Mzungu’s report in the Nation newspaper of 17th January, only 5 native Malawians own business land in Limbe. It is a sad development on our part because just about 3 decades ago, native Malawians owned lucrative land especially in the cities of Malawi.  At the rate we are going, native Malawians will end up being excluded in their own country because we only want to satisfy our current intra-generational needs. I am not saying that it is wrong for foreigners to invest in Malawi, but we need to exercise caution when prime land is being sold to foreigners without securing the interests of native Malawians. A good example is that of the conflict between the locals of Masasa in Mangochi and Mota Engil. The locals claim they were not consulted about the selling of their land by the government to Mota Engil. The traditional authority tried to coax the locals to give up their land to Mota Engil, a transnational corporation which has plans to build a 5 star hotel and golf course by the lake in Mangochi. In the end, the irate locals of Masasa fought with the T/A, councillor and the police which left 2 people dead and others seriously injured. These are the situations which are unsustainable for Malawi because we are ready to deprive our own people their lake which ancestors lived with for many generations. The 5 star hotel and golf course is a welcome investment but it should not be to the detriment of the locals at Masasa. I am sure the lake has many vacant tracts of land where this 5 star hotel can be built without displacing people. Development is about including a people’s livelihoods in projects which ensure that poor local communities are not excluded from benefitting from our natural resources.

Another worrying aspect of this land issue is that there are some unscrupulous chiefs who sell large tracts of valuable customary land to foreigners without securing the interests of future generations in their communities. Malawi has one of the most beautiful natural beaches in the world and there is need for us to limit and protect the sale of this land. The large swathes of land along Lake Malawi should be protected for our future generations’ livelihoods and investment opportunities. Future generations of Malawi might have the access to the much needed capital or funds to invest in these areas, and it is in our best interests that we preserve prime land along the lake shore. It would be very selfish of us to deprive our future compatriots of investment opportunities in their own country because of our ineptitude in prioritising national and indigenous interests. According to the Africa Conference on Land Grab’s research, over 55 million hectares of land in Africa has been “grabbed” since the year 2000. These land grabs are happening without any informed consent from development managers and thus millions of vulnerable communities in Africa are at risk of being displaced from their own lands.

Conflicts between Paladin the Australian mining company and the local people at the Kayelekera mining facility shows that Malawi is not ready to manage finite resources in a sustainable manner. Foreign investors scour the earth to find countries with surplus natural resources but with weak or ineffective environmental laws, because it reduces operating costs for firms.  Paladin has been mining uranium for years in Karonga but where do the proceeds go? Can anyone really point out any structure in this country that was built using proceeds from uranium mining? Uranium is a finite resource and if we are not careful, we will deplete our reserves with nothing to show for it. Once again, Malawians are handing out natural resources to the foreigner who will only continue to exploit us.

In the midst of conflicts between the locals and Paladin at Kayelekera, we hear that the government is busy employing foreign companies to explore the possibility of oil in Lake Malawi. Lake Malawi is a source of food and income for the poor living along the lake shore, and if there was to be an oil spillage, we risk the well-being and livelihoods of current and future lakeshore inhabitants. For centuries, our people have lived in harmony with this lake and it would be very selfish of our generation and our leaders to put others at risk because of our voracious greed. In terms of attraction for tourism, Lake Malawi is all we have. I’m sure no Malawian needs any reminder of what happened with Nyika National Park. If it was not for this lake, we would have no tourists coming to Malawi because Lake Malawi is the epitome of attraction in this country. I believe that oil drilling in Lake Malawi is not sustainable because oil is finite resource and also an environmental hazard that can destroy livelihoods and the lake’s Biodiversity. Lake Malawi provides 70 to 75 per cent of the animal protein consumed by both urban and rural communities. It would therefore be negligent for the government to sanction oil drilling in the lake which provides critical habitat for an amazing array of plants and animals including bacteria, fungi, algae, plankton, mussels, snails, crustaceans, insects, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.

When our leaders go outside of this country, they are always selling Malawi to the world as a place of investment opportunities. Indeed Malawi is a peaceful country which offers cheap labour and less competition for businesses, and it is therefore a haven for foreign investors. What we have to remember is that a foreign investor is seeking to make maximum profits, and the only way to do this in a host economy is by “cost reduction”. In Malawi, a lot of native Malawians employed by some foreign companies are being underpaid and exploited for monetary gains which sometimes do not even benefit our economy. A lot of our able graduates are languishing without jobs because some of our so-called investors only employ their relatives in top-tier jobs while Malawians are employed in low-tier jobs. Foreign direct Investment (FDI) is important in modern-day economics and plays the largest part in the growth of economies in a globalised world. However, when FDI is benefiting the foreigner than the host country, there is need to improve the structures to combat unscrupulous employers exploiting the weak and poor. There are a lot of foreign owned companies in Malawi who are exploiting the local personnel simply because our institutional governance structures are either weak or corrupt.  Malawians should not just be used for menial jobs only because we have educated people in this country who can fill up higher positions in foreign owned businesses.

We also have foreign investors who travel hundreds or thousands of miles away to invest in salons, clothes shops or other small enterprise trading entities. As much as Malawi needs investors, I doubt that these small trading entities are bringing any meaningful monetary gains for the country. If our trading partners in the West were following our pattern and forms of foreign investment, it is highly unlikely that their economies would have grown to astronomical heights. Malawi is a poor country that has a high unemployment rate and there is need to protect local entrepreneurs with small business enterprises. If foreigners monopolise the smallholder business market, the local Malawian entrepreneur is at risk of losing his/her business.

If we are to sustain development, native Malawians need to be the primary drivers of the economy and not the other way round. When we give licences or contracts to transnational corporations, Malawians should also be included in these processes to ensure accountability and justice. The Kayelekera mine is a good example whereby we are giving away our uranium to foreigners without any visible gain for the country. If we cannot get a good deal with foreign mining companies, it is not wrong for us to preserve our uranium for our future generations who might be in a better position to manage such resources. In this modern age of technological advancement, uranium plays an important part in the generation of energy. As our population grows, our hydro-electrical plants will not be enough to sustain Malawi and who knows, the future generations of this country might have the capability of setting up nuclear plants! It is therefore important for us to always think for our future generations because they too have the right to enjoy the resources this country has today.

All in all, I believe that we are the generation that is supposed to build a strong foundation for the house of Malawi, and if we fail, our future compatriots will inherit a broken country with little or no promise. And don’t be surprised if at that time, your”investors” all flee, and the country is thrown into chaos and violence.

Development is about continuity and the little we can manage to do in our lifetime is enough for others to carry on. If we do not have the capability to extract natural resources today, then there is no need for us to entrust our wealth with foreigners who are only here exploit our God-granted gifts. We cannot do everything in our lifetime.

Paja amati kuthamanga sikufika!

Leadership for the Africa we Want – Kigali, May 2014

Sponsored by the African Development Bank.

Shorter version focussing on points made by Thabo Mbeki and Benjamin Mkapa:-

My Comments

  • Education has not been a priority for most countries across Africa. As a consequence, Africa doesn’t have enough high quality and decisive leaders and effectors capable of transforming not only their own countries, but the continent. Thus, Africa needs to develop and entrust young people with the knowledge that will empower them to be agents of change. Agents of change capable of prioritising what the continent needs.
  • Further, African people are disunited. Most African people have been divided on political lines such that they often fail to distinguish when our economies are failing because of external influences (or external cause) – which calls for supporting the leadership – and when a national leader’s policies are failing – which calls for criticism.
  • The Neo-liberal Institutions such as the IMF have fed African governments a crippling poison of conditionalities that work for them and their backers but that has made it extremely difficult for sustainable progress to be made across Africa. Before countries like Great Britain, the US, Canada and New Zealand had market based economies operating under market forces, there were long periods of a planned economy in these countries. In fact in Britain, it was only beginning the 70’s and 80’s that state-owned companies were privatised. Before that most infrastructure (not only in Britain) from Railways, Hospitals, Factories, Utilities (Energy companies, Water companies and Gas companies), Mining, Telecommunication companies belonged to the state (or the state was a large and active player in such industries). And that ownership provided employment, tax revenues and dividends to the State. Yet when the likes of the IMF and World Bank came to Africa, they told African leaders that the state must not own anything. The reasons they gave was that it was inefficient for the state to be in business. They were right to an extent but only because the inefficiencies came as a result of the inherent limitations which those state companies possessed. Specifically, these parastatals were not run efficiently as profit-making businesses in a business sense:- you had the wrong kind of leadership calling the shots (not innovators of the calibre and ingenuity of say Lord Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson or Sir Philip Green). So how do you expect an organisation to be profitable and innovate if it’s run by the wrong people? Secondly, there was little investment in employee training – so lifelong and transferable skills in tune with technology were not being passed down. To see understand this anomaly consider this: What percentage of over 60’s who were civil servants in the 70’s and 80’s or who were working in government institutions at the time of the privatisations of major UK industry were comfortable with using computers and other technology at the time or even today? Most were not, and even now only a small percentage is conversant with technology. The reason :- Because when they were working for  these government-owned businesses, there was little or no investment into their skills development. In other words when technology was changing, they didn’t have the skills to keep up. Further, there was little competition between these companies and other independent companies so not enough incentive for innovation. No surprises then that parastatals were inefficient and didn’t perform particularly well. But since we now know all these things, as I clearly articulated here, I don’t believe that its impossible to run a government-owned company profitably in this day and age.
  • Ageism is a real problem in Africa. So is Regionalism and Tribalism. Until we begin to entrust people with responsibility on a merit-based criteria (and not by how old they are or from which region they come from, or what religion they are) we’ll struggle to find an edge.
  • Advanced Business Training If Steve Jobs had a business school which he run, what kind of graduates would the school produce? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think formidable ones. Africa needs to train its young people to be formidable in business…
  • Capital Without money Africa can’t advance, because where will the tools of development come from? Financial Investment in young people (and I’m not talking minute $1000 – $2000 type business loans) is a necessary tool to development.

 

10 things President Peter Mutharika of Malawi can do to improve the lives of Malawians

Dr. Joyce Banda attending the 10th Conference of the UN Global Compact on corruption in New York.
Former Malawian president, Joyce Banda attending the 10th Conference of the UN Global Compact on corruption in New York.

1. Get to the bottom of the Cashgate Scandal: Not only regarding the K20 billion mentioned in the Forensic Audit report as the estimate that was misappropriated during Joyce Banda’s tenure, but also the K91 billion we were told by Joyce Banda’s government as the sums that went missing under Bingu Wa Mutharika and Bakili Muluzi’s regimes. For example this exercise could involve legislation to ensure that funds illegally wired abroad are recovered, and failing that, assets of those convicted are confiscated.

If theft by public officials in Malawi – whoever they may be – goes unpunished, Peter Mutharika would have lost a golden opportunity to bring real change to Malawian politics, and he would have lied when he said that there would be “zero tolerance to corruption, fraud, theft and any other economic crime”. In the end, History will judge him to have been a failure because Malawians will continue to be hounded by poverty, while an elite llive in luxury.

Thus, if some of the misappropriated funds can be recovered, minimally it will give Mutharika some credibility that he is serious about corruption, and will also signal to donors that his government is a different kind of government. Anything less will question his integrity, and if he merely focuses on attacking former president Joyce Banda, discerning folk will immediately know that there is something amiss.

produce2. Restrict the Import of perishable goods that can be grown or produced in Malawi : And increase taxes on foreign processed goods like Coffee and Tea, which can be processed locally within Malawi. It will improve local industry, creating jobs, and stimulate the agricultural sector. Malawians must look at the bigger picture – the Malawian Kwacha (local currency) will struggle to be strong or maintain value if there is a disproportionately high number of imports (in value) over exports. In other words, if Malawians continue to pay millions of dollars for their imports, but do not receive equivalent or better for their exports, Malawi will continue  to struggle to maintain the strength of the Kwacha. And this will have negative knock-on effects. A good way to reverse this trend is to buy from abroad only those goods which cannot be sourced locally. To import only what is absolutely necessary. This can be done with legislation and by reforming customs agencies with the new policies. Further, increased security at borders will ensure that these goods are not being smuggled in. Thus, no importation of coffee, tea, eggs, tomatoes or milk from outside Malawi. No oranges or lemons from South Africa. No more imports of grain, beans, peas or processed sugar. Everything that can be made within, must be sourced from within.

It’s not going to be popular with donor countries, or those that profit from importing goods which can be sourced in Malawi. But such an initiative will help local producers, and will begin to rebalance the trade imbalance that currently exist between Malawi and its export markets (thereby retaining forex), and in the long run is a good strategy for Malawi.

africa“Trade among African countries is very low. Last year, it stood at 10 percent of the continent’s overall trade,” Valentine Rugwabiza, deputy director general of the WTO, which seeks to reduce barriers and promote aid for trade, told IPS. More here

3. Encourage Trade with other African countries: There are goods in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa which Malawi currently buys further afield. Policy makers should draw a list of 50+ categories of products which Malawi currently imports from outside the African continent, which can in fact be imported more cheaply from nearby countries. I know there is a debate regarding quality of certain products sourced on the continent, but it is in Malawi’s best interest to eliminate waste and reduce the cost it pays for foreign goods. The added bonus being it will improve trade relations with Malawi’s neighbours.

czech-republic-457019_640
Czech Republic

4. Encourage Trade with Eastern Europe Malawians have more things in common with countries in Eastern Europe than they know. Most Eastern European countries (or more correctly – the lands that became Eastern European countries) found themselves at the mercy of invaders from Napoleon to Hitler (this was after already being oppressed by Monarchies of every shade for hundreds of years – see this detailed timeline), and after the second world war, were under occupation by allies countries of WWII including Britain, the US and Soviet Russia. In the process they saw their borders altered and their resources plundered (as an example see this link). It didn’t end there, then came Eastern European dictators (the likes of Nicolae Ceausesc – who it is said kept his own personal witch, as he ruled Romania with an iron fist) who completed the cruel circle of oppression. In comparison, countries like Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique had the similar misfortune of having their borders carved by narrow-minded/ bad-intentioned colonialists who had no long-term interest as to the future prosperity and practicality of these new African countires. Not only have these African countries been plundered ever since, but the geographies of Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi and Malawi places them at a particular disadvantage in comparison to African countries with a coastal line.

Loan25. Development loan from the Africa Development Bank, China, Norway, Russia or Brazil : To be used for

(i) Investment in low-capital high growth sectors like Information Technology (IT Outsourcing, Application Development, IT security) and telecommunications (optical fibre networks, development of data centres)

(ii) Investment in foreign markets, blue chip companies and emerging technologies with potential – a move that could provide capital to the government.

(iii) To invest in Education (broadband internet to be installed in 50 % of schools), teachers wages paid on time, purchasing educational resources,  upgrading schools in rural areas, rewriting syllabi and improving the standard of education across the country.

(iv) To improve transportation links, including maintenance and construction of roads in rural areas, increased network of rail links and improved airports ( e.g. Mzuzu and Mangochi airports to be enlarged and developed, and made into international airports, Malawi Airlines to fly to more destinations)Business-centres(v) To create business centres in the major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu to encourage innovators to start businesses.

(vi) To help young people in terms of technical training (Increase the range of Diplomas and short evening courses offered in Technical colleges and Universities across Malawi) and using Equipment Import loans (i.e. loans to individuals importing equipment from India, Brazil, Dubai and China in select sectors, especially those sectors with a high potential to create employment)

In order to  ensure the security of such funds from misappropriation, it is vital that each contractor be paid directly by a fund management company created from members of the civil society, development organisations, experienced fund managers and representatives of the major political parties. Minimally this will ensure that suppliers are vetted and are not in conflict of interest relationships with any leader, political party or authority. Thus, funds will not be paid into government accounts, instead they will be paid directly to suppliers, to those responsible for building the infrastructure, to the manufacturers of purchased equipment, suppliers of educational resources and such like.

Further, to increase transparency, each loaning partner should be at liberty to place auditors within the fund management company to monitor and report on the use of funds. Finally, a publicly accessible resource (website) should be established to show how the funds are being utilised.

community-150124_6406. Encourage Local Community projects: The Mondragon Experiment has been proved as a success, and so far works well. Why not try a similar initiative in Malawi in an attempt to create standalone local communities that do not depend too much on the state?

federalism7.Support Federalism One of the main reasons countries such as Germany, Switzerland and the U.S. thrive is that their Federal Structures allow developmental decisions that benefit a commune to be implemented seamlessly without political interference.

Right now, everyone is looking at the central government in Lilongwe for the answers to Malawi’s woes. Unfortunately, for a country with the scale of problems which Malawi has, its near impossible for economic development to occur quickly enough if every development initiative is dictated from a central hub.

Running a country is not the same as running a law firm or being CEO of a private company. And unfortunately all of Malawi’s previous presidents – other than the founding father, Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda (who closely observed public policy not only in Ghana [which is currently performing comparatively much better than most African countries] but also in the developed countries of the US and Britain), have not had the winning combination of a good education, extensive experience over a long period of time, and surrounded by an educated and capable team.

Further, among the 193 legislators in Malawi’s Parliament, are a few bad apples whose motives are questionable, if not downright dodgy. Thus, while there are many examples across the world showing that devolved powers from central government to local governments have achieved admirable levels of economic development, without a strictly planned economy, the odds are stacked high against such a unitary system from succeeding. It is in President Mutharika’s best interest to embrace Federalism, not least because it would divert some of the fire his government is currently receiving. In fact I think it would pacify some sections of the opposition, and create healthy competition among the new ‘states’.

grpeherve048. Invest in Solar Energy How can investors have confidence in your country if power cuts are commonplace?

At some point we must put an end to power cuts.

Solar Power could give Peter Mutharika’s government the energy he needs to develop Malawi. I know from my 2010 trip to China that there are UK companies who buy solar panels for less than $200 in China, and sell them in the UK for upwards of £1500. The margins are good, but I’m not talking about making a profit here. The Malawi government can construct solar farms using the roofs of public buildings, including Universities (which I’d imagine can be policed better than a rural located farm). In a country that gets plenty of sunshine, solar power could help supplement hydroelectric energy which Malawi currently depends on, and put an end to power cuts. This is a far better bet than wasting money on importing power from abroad.

9. Complete the Shire-Zambezi Waterway Bingu Wa Mutharika was right on pursuing this major project, and Peter Mutharika must dedicate resources to see it through. It will lower the price of goods coming into Malawi. Will improve trade between Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Burundi and will create massive employment.

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10. Dig boreholes and donate water pumps to farming communities Water shortages, in a country with a fresh water lake over 360 miles long? How about boreholes as a fallback option? Just in case the water utility companies continue to fall behind in terms of serving their communities. An added advantage for such an initiative is that the boreholes can also be used to provide water for agriculture during the dry summer months.

Congratulations Mr President – Where does Malawi go from here?

APMMy congratulations to President Arthur Peter Mutharika (APM) for winning the 2014 presidential elections in Malawi are aptly late. Over 2 months late – I’m somewhat embarrassed, but just as the lateness was not entirely of my own doing, maybe as a consequence of it (possibly even in spite of it), a lot more thought has gone into preparing these ‘congratulations’ than would have been the case if I had offered them the day APM claimed victory. Had I made haste, the congrats would have been too brief and would lack substance.

In earnest, this post is more of a call to action than an expression of pleasantries. And what better time to do it than when the President is in the US, to meet Barack Obama at the first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. Pardon me for comparing the picture of 50 African leaders congregating in Washington DC to meet a US President, with governors being summoned to Rome to meet the Emperor, a summon by the Emperor to rulers of the provinces.

Except in this picture, the United states is not really an empire in the classical sense (if we ignore the economic sense for a moment). Neither are the 50 countries which have been invited to Washington, and are sending  their leaders, governors of US provinces. So the question is, why comply to such a request at all?

The simple and shortest answer is DOLLARS. Our world is controlled by the stuff. And even though the institution that issues currency in the US is essentially a private consortia of unknown entities (they are secret), the scheme of things is that most parts of the world today are currently dancing to the tune of Washington (and possibly to the tune of those who lend to Washington) , in the same way as at the height of the Roman empire, a large part of the civilised world did what Rome said, and were subjects to the political and economic power of ROME.

And while the rise of China could curb the dollar dominance, that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

1. Priorities

Mr President, as a well-educated man, I’m sure you know that there’s nothing wrong with Malawi forming alliances with bigger and more powerful countries. It is beneficial because such alliances can provide access to capital, if not attract inward investment (Your inaugural speech touched on this). Further they are potentially a conduit of technology transfer – which could have huge benefits for a country like Malawi.

Malawi needs developed allies, whether they are from the East, West, North or South.

However, who ultimately benefits from these alliances? Who gets the lion’s share? Are these deals really win-win situations? Could they be made to be win-win situations if they are not? Or is the bigger player benefitting more than the smaller player?

For example if a Chinese or American company invests $300 million into Malawi’s railway infrastructure, mining or agricultural sector, how much of that investment will genuinely foster long-term sustainable growth? A kind of growth in which ordinary Malawians are set to genuinely benefit from the deal? In layman terms, we might ask how many people will have their livelihood transformed by the investment such that they achieve or are likely to achieve long-term financial independence?

I think these questions must be asked, and addressed because it probably will not be of significant benefit to Malawians, if investors are persuaded to invest, but there is no strategy to safeguard the long-term rewards of the investment to ordinary Malawians.

An effective system needs to be created and implemented whereby revenue sharing (between investors and the government / local people) is as much a priority as the luring of investors. Maybe a good place to start would be to create investment organisations or government agencies such as this one in Angola, whose task is to iron out investment rules and create a win-win strategy. Indeed the rhetoric between Beijing and Luanda has increasingly been of creating ‘win-win’ business partnerships.

Malawi should learn something from such partnerships.

This is what most major powers today did in the heydays of their economies. Japan has these agencies, Britain established them many years ago, Germany has them (and has large manufacturing and investment zones which are testament to the success of these agencies), even China has a good number of them. And if you look at younger economies, like Australia and New Zealand, even there you’ll find them. Thus, it’s no surprise that a country such as Iran operates a few of these vehicles. With that benefit of hindsight, is it not important for Malawi to develop Government investment agencies?

2. Education

The technical projects of Bingu Wa Mutharika’s government were an excellent idea. And it is in your government’s best interest if these were successfully completed. We need more high quality educational institutions that will train our workforce, and empower them with skills that they will need to do their jobs well. Transferable skills which they can use in various scenarios. For this to happen we need to train teachers and lecturers abroad, to access this knowledge and impart it on our students. We also need to attract foreign specialists who already possess this knowledge, and bring them to Malawian institutions so that they can impart their knowledge onto our students. We need to broaden the subjects on offer at our institutions, and we need to make higher education more accessible. Here, the use of technology may be useful, in that video technologies that allow the creation of  ‘virtual classrooms’ could provide an excellent (and cheaper) way of technology transfer. Here also is the need for equipment most paramount. Your government would be best advised to source as much educational equipment from other countries or educational institution as can be possible. This can be a real game changer in terms of the quality of graduates we train.

3. Corruption

Mr President, if there’s one critical limiting factor to Africa’s economic development, whose negative effects don’t need re-articulating, it is corruption. The practice is killing the continent. And if nothing is done to curb the prevalence, and extent, we will never catch up with the rest of the world. In Malawi, the Cashgate crisis has put this issue in sharp contrast. And an opportunity has arisen in that addressing corruption in Malawi could close the loopholes for good, safeguarding public funds, and paving the way for sustainable economic development. It is crucial that the perpetrators of the Cashgate scandal be brought to book without selection or bias because this will give people confidence in your government. It really is in your best interest that our government in Malawi becomes clean. A cleaner government is a stronger government. And a stronger government has a better chance of creating and maintaining a strong economy, than one which is inherently corrupt. Examples of this relationship stretch from recent governments in Norway, all the way back to the Roman empire I referenced to above.

4. Unity

Bringing in Muluzi into government was a good and commendable gesture. Although many people I’ve spoken to have doubted whether he has the experience for his current office, I think having him in government is a positive thing. But that aside, I think trying to find common ground, and inviting the opposition into government should go much further. There are many talented people in Malawi. Proud Malawians who have immense talents – but who are not utilised and therefore feel left out. Maybe the creation of Parliamentary committees enables participation on some level, but more must be done. I’d think new blood like Juliana Lungudzi and several other young politicians could do more if entrusted with responsibility within government. Why? Because Malawi needs fresh ideas, and different people have different ideas they bring to the table depending on their experiences. Yet ultimately, we all want Malawi to develop, to do better, so it would be in our own interest if everyone participated. I urge you Sir, to empower this parliament to be different, to be united and a force for good on behalf of ordinary citizens. The way to do that is to keep the legislators busy with meaningful projects that have a real prospect to effect change. And to keep jealousy firmly locked out.

5. Federal System of Governance

This goes without saying, but power shared is responsibility shared. There’s little justification why a country the size of Malawi with a population over 13 million should restrict itself by virtue of its system of government. And one man can never fully cater to the needs of 13 million people. Neither can 192 people – no matter how prolific – do enough to improve the lives of so many people. A Federal System could change that. It will bring more people into participation in the building of our economy, and the power bestowed upon them will enable them to undertake projects free from the control or bureaucracy of a centralised system. Across the world, there are many examples of countries with Federal Systems that work far better than those with centralised systems, and as an expert in law, I’m sure this issue is evident to you.

6. Infrastructure

See this and this (which includes a reference to the Shire-Zambezi Water Way). Increased infrustructure will open our continent up, and make it easier for people to do business. It will also lower the associated costs of investment – a factor which could attract more investors.

7. Investment into Manufacturing and Business

In order to be less reliant on products sourced from outside, we need to develop our own manufacturing sector. Why should we buy from outside things which we can make or source quite cheaply within our own borders? With tobacco earnings set to drop, now could be the time to diversify into manufacturing. After all, China is increasingly becoming an expensive destination for western companies – many are looking for alternatives. Creation of incubation and business centres is also a necessary prerequisite to sustainable economic development. If you make the cost of doing business low in your country, many people will flourish and reward your government handsomely in increased tax contributions.

8. Subsistence farming and preservation of Small Industries

There are lessons to be learned from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme. And your government would be best advised to listen to what the people want. Thus, how many fishermen who currently use canoes for their trade would do better with a boat? How many farmers who use hoes to prepare the fields could benefit from a cooperative that lends out a tractor? Similarly, what should the government do to help industries such as these:  How second-hand clothes kill business for Malawi’s tailors.

9. Accountability

Our culture of accountability needs to be restored in Malawi. People should not do wrong (be it in a parastatal or top civil service position) and think they can get away with it. A good way forward would be for regular performance reviews not only for ministers, but also ordinary civil servants, preferably to be undertaken by external auditors (to minimise the prospect of favouritism developing into self-accountability). That way we would be replacing entitlement (where people think they have a right to a job – even when they are not qualified for it / when they are bad workers) with accountability. Similarly, it must never be right for an investor whose company has earned millions of dollars through doing business in Malawi, to evade tax, legitimately, on Malawian soil. The loopholes need to be closed shut.

10. Increased Trade with other African countries.

I urge you sir to be an advocate of the Africa brand. We need to import more from our immediate neighbours than from farther afield. We need to lobby the west to act in reducing cost of remittances. We need Africans to do more business with other Africans. See this for more information.

11. Security and Safety

We need to restore our confidence in the police. Malawi needs more security, not only along our borders but within our towns and cities. People in Malawi don’t feel safe anymore. Not like how safety used to be defined in the 70’s and 80’s. If we can’t afford police cars, let the government buy our police officers motorcycles (which are cheaper to run), so that they are able to respond to calls for help.

12. Investment in International markets

Malawi and other African countries need to invest in international markets. This should be a strategic and long-term initiative. We need to create organisations that invest in global companies around the world, so that the dividends therefrom are wired back to our countries in Africa, boosting our economies, and thereby contributing to our continent’s economic growth. Just see this article titled Bleeding Money: Africa Is A Net Creditor To The World, Illicit Outflow Actually Exceeds Inflow Of Aid, Investment, to understand why this is necessary. It’s urgent.

Mr president, Malawians are looking up to you now. They need leadership accompanied by action, and less of the empty promises of previous regimes.

Once again, congratulations Mr President Sir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pastoral Letter of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi

peter-cathedral
St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City

Theres’s been another pastoral letter. This time in light of the events that have been unfolding in Malawi, especially since next year is Malawi’s fiftieth anniversary. Probably safe to say this marks the beginning of the end for Joyce Banda’s government (or at least the rampant corruption that has been the Cashgate) because it was a pastoral letter that echoed the message of independence and freedom in colonial Nyasaland, but also sparked the events that toppled the repressive regime of Kamuzu Banda – Malawi’s founding father. (See past Catholic Pastoral letters in Malawi here)

And while Bingu Wa Mutharika was in power, the church was also influential during his final days, with the CCAP issuing a pastoral letter that criticised the policies of Bingu’s government.

Trivia: My late father was a Catholic, so I’m told. His education made possible by their assistance. At some point, I should wish to explore that story in further detail…

* * * * * * * * * * * * The letter: * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pastoral Letter of the Episcopal Conference of Malawi

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ and all people of good will, we greet you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Introduction

Considering that the forthcoming Tripartite Election will be conducted at the threshold of both the fiftieth anniversary (Golden Jubilee) of our country’s independence and the twentieth anniversary of the reintroduction of multiparty democracy in 1993, we, Catholic Bishops, cordially invite our fellow Catholics and all people of good will, to make the best of the said elections as they provide us with a golden opportunity to rediscover our national destiny. Like Joshua and his compatriots, we see Malawi to be at a crossroad: “If you will not serve the Lord, choose today whom you wish to serve . . As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). We are urged to rediscover our national destiny and commit ourselves to it following the footprints of our founding fathers and not opt for self-destruction. We are called to rediscover and build the Malawi our forefathers envisioned and not continue creating a Malawi that betrays what our forefathers fought and died for.

To underline the gravity of the forthcoming elections we present before you a brief assessment of our achievements and failures since independence. While we have made some progress in achieving our destiny it is evident from the brief assessment that follows that we are very far from achieving the Malawi our forefathers wanted. The forthcoming Tripartite Elections provide us with the best opportunity for strengthening the vision of our destiny. Essentially this entails conducting elections that are free, fair and credible and electing leaders that have the desire, commitment and capability of turning our country around. It also entails that the electorate can get out of the chronic abject poverty by electing leaders who can enable them to do so. Not holding such kind of elections, not voting and not electing this kind of leaders is in our case similar to opting to choose death instead of life.

This is the message of our letter which we present to our fellow Catholics and all people of good will. This is our appeal to all stakeholders in the forthcoming elections.

The Malawi we envisioned at independence

When we began the journey towards our independence, we dreamt of ushering in an era of an inclusive, human rights respecting, politically and legally enabling and economically developed society. Fighting against the “thangata system”, the imposition of the Federation and the social injustices, Malawians envisioned a country emancipated politically and economically. This is the vision that found its way and is clearly expressed in the National Anthem:

O God bless our land of Malawi,
Keep it a land of peace.
Put down each and every enemy,
Hunger, disease, envy.
Join together all our hearts as one,
That we be free from fear.
Bless our Leader, each and everyone,
And Mother Malawi

This vision, as is expressed in the National Anthem, was also clearly anchored on faith in God’s assistance. Our forefathers stressed that we are a God-fearing nation. Therefore our aspirations, ideals, dreams of the future and motivation for nationhood are all hinged on faith in God and inspired by the vision of God for a more humane society.

This vision and the wishes of the people resonated well with the vision of the Catholic Church at that time. In a Statement issued on 29 October 1960, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi said: Having so much at heart that this country of Nyasaland and its people be free, enlightened, prosperous and great, we fully encourage and support their legitimate desires for independence. However, we do not enter the field of mere politics. The Catholic Church should not be identified with any political party or type of Government but is willing to cooperate with any, provided it adheres to principles of charity and justice. But it is definitely our obligation to make known to all laws of God upon which every society must be built and to safeguard the human rights that have been given to all by God and which no ruler can take away from his people. Not only are we bound to advise on these laws and rights but we are also obliged to oppose any action contrary to them.

Therefore, while sharing and echoing the vision and wishes of the people and encouraging Catholics to take part in politics, our predecessors remained on a neutral and non-partisan path, only preferring that which adheres to principles of charity and justice. Continuing this same line of thought and advice, our predecessors published a Pastoral Letter, the first one of its kind, on 20thMarch, 1961, “How to Build a Happy Nation”, desiring that the country and its people should be free, enlightened, prosperous, great and happy. They outlined principles guiding people for the elections and towards the building of a happy nation. In the letter, among other things, the Bishops outlined the following
principles:

• True happiness is found in always acknowledging that we are created in the image of God and in acting as God’s children;

• The family, the state and the Church are designed to work together in harmony for the full development and happiness of the people;

• Honest difference of opinion is welcome but intolerance, hatred or violence is not;

• The movement for national independence is welcome but the means to obtain it are in the hands of the citizens;

• Lay Catholics may be members of any political party that is not anti-christian.

So it was that at the dawn of independence, we dreamed of a politically and legally enabling country which was also economically emancipated.

The sense of patriotism was strong and so was the unique role given to God to bring to completion our dreams and aspirations. It is also gratifying to note that the Church shared the dream of the people and guided this dream on the level of principles. The vision of democracy was obscured for some time and it took the bold step of our predecessors with the Pastoral letter of 1992, entitled Living our faith, to remind the nation of the need to stay on the right course. This Pastoral Letter reminded the nation of the need to uphold basic human rights.

The vision of our founding fathers is part of the story of the making of Malawi and will forcefully remain to challenge all of us to play our rightful roles.

Chapter Two:

Malawi Today: Achievements and Challenges

While we thank God for our independence and the strides made so far in the democratization and emancipation project for Malawi, we realistically note that there is still a long way to go for this project to reach maturation. This project has been nurtured by the tireless efforts of many stakeholders and leaders that include: state and non-state actors, local and international non- governmental organizations, political parties, the private sector, development cooperating partners and of course the general citizenry.

In this regard, with guarded appreciation, we note in particular that:

• We emerged into the independence era with multiparty politics and although this dream was eclipsed soon after independence, it resurfaced in 1993 ushering in the possibility of various political parties competing periodically for the leadership of the nation;

• Within the laws of the land, there is separation of powers and roles between the executive, the legislature and the judiciary thereby ensuring that there are checks and balances in the functions of the state;

• Our political and civic culture is being propelled, to an extent, by a constitution anchoring the ideals of democracy and respect of people’s rights;

• With the establishment of the office of the Ombudsman, the Human Rights Commission and the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Malawi is putting into practice the demanded good governance and human rights ideals of the constitution;

• The freedoms and corresponding responsibilities recognised in the Constitution such as those of association, assembly, speech, religion and political expression have progressively continued to anchor our journey in the democratization process;

• The emergence of meaningful and active citizen participation in the democratization and socio-economic development of our country, amplified by the ever-increasing rightful space for the participation of women and the youth, with the recognition of their human dignity and leadership skills continues to inspire many well-meaning Malawians;

• Development initiatives that have been undertaken over the years in such key areas as agriculture and infrastructure making strides in the improvement of the country.

However, as we have consistently highlighted in our previous pastoral letters, statements and guidelines, there are some worrisome trends in our democratization and emancipation project. To this extent, it is not surprising that we are hearing of voices labelling our democratization project as a change without transformation and a democracy without democrats.

For the sake of stock-taking and motivated by the desire to see a better Malawi for all whilst we are pulling our efforts together to make the democratization and emancipation project more meaningful and more people-centred, we note the following:

• Limited adherence to the rule of law and limited compliance to the practice of the separation of powers and lapses in the promotion and safeguarding of people’s rights;

• The continued occurrences of witch-hunting and arbitrary arrests of government critics without thorough investigation or recourse to natural justice and efforts to side-line and remove political competitors from the electoral race;

• The abuse of power by parties in government with much interest in centralized power than in creating an enabling environment for citizen participation in governance and development processes
that affect the future and destiny of our nation;

• Limited responsiveness, accountability and weak public goods delivery by government systems and structures;

• A growing culture of hand-clapping and praise-singing even when the ones being praised have merely done their duty;

• A weakening spirit of patriotism in the leadership, in most of our governance structures and in the citizens themselves;

• A growing spirit of fatalism coupled with a laid back attitude leading to failure by citizens to hold leaders to account for their actions and choices;

• The continued and systematic abuse and looting of public resources for selfish party and personal benefit to the detriment of the national good;

• The entrenchment of politics of poverty and exploitation where the poor are more and more lured into a culture of hand-outs than being empowered to become self- reliant;

• Political parties showing and practicing little intra-party democracy and minimizing the scope and space of genuine democratization of the nation;

• The enactment of repressive and immoral laws that legalise what is otherwise immoral, shrink the space for citizens’ voices and frustrate the ideals of an open, free and accountable society compounded further by a deliberate manipulation of the laws of the land to suit narrow partisan interests;

• Politicization of development initiatives and business opportunities coupled with seemingly lack of an agreed national vision and development agenda that cuts across the political divide;

• Failure to continue with best practices of preceding administrations worsened by limited consistency in quality and visionary leadership of the country;

• While the country has opportunities to move towards economic independence, Malawi sadly continues to over-depend on international donors and other multilateral development cooperating partners who are allowed to control the national development agenda;

• The social norms that ought to anchor the national development agenda seem to be overtaken and overrun by emerging cultural and religious trends that overemphasize the individualistic and materialistic gains at the expense of community and national concerns;

• There are worrisome tendencies amongst us that push for a worldview independent of and side-lining God and making human beings dependent on their own intellect and determining for themselves what is right and what is wrong. In spite of all these grey areas in our social, economic and political life, as people of faith, we have every reason to live in hope and trust in God’s providential care. The forthcoming Tripartite Elections provide us the opportune occasion to strengthen the vision of our destiny.

Chapter Three

Strengthening Our Destiny

As we have mentioned above, we are not where we should be as a nation and, let us admit it, we are even lagging behind most African countries. We are far from achieving the vision that we conceived fifty years ago.

With the Golden Jubilee Celebrations and Tripartite Elections just around the corner, we have a golden opportunity to re-examine our national conscience, recover our original vision, re-define our destiny and forge ahead. Of paramount importance in this strengthening of our destiny are the issues of quality leadership, citizen participation, national development agenda and national values. It is to these that we now focus our attention.

3.1 Quality Leadership

Any leadership impacts on and determines the nature of a group, community and even the nation you have. In giving us the compelling figure of the good shepherd in the Bible, God is proposing to us a transformative leadership. A good Jewish shepherd led the sheep to good pasture, water and shelter and protected them against beasts of prey and bandits (Ps 23). A good shepherd was so caring of the sheep that he would do anything to look for even one lost sheep (Lk. 15: 3-7). The shepherd knew his flock and the latter knew even his voice.

Bad shepherds, however, failed to meet their responsibilities for they scattered and led the sheep astray and took advantage of them. They used the sheep to fatten themselves for they forgot that they were only custodians and the sheep were not theirs (Ezek 34:2-10). God, therefore, recommends leadership that is visionary, transformative, empowering, caring, serving, protective, people-centred and obedient to Him. Leadership among God’s people is service and not lordship (Mk 10:35-45).

3.2 National Development Agenda

It is not enough to have quality leadership if this is not inspired and anchored by a national development agenda. Some development initiatives and strategies are clearly national in form and transformative in nature and, therefore, need to be depoliticized and continued irrespective of whichever government is in place.

This calls for quality leadership that is capable of sacrificing self-interests for the common good.

3.3 Citizen Participation and a spirit of patriotism

We, Bishops, believe that “every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgement, its hierarchy of values and its line of conduct.”

Active participation in the building up of the nation is the responsibility of every citizen. We strongly believe that our nation today needs to rediscover the spirit of patriotism and active participation in the national development and emancipation agenda.

Today’s rampant plundering of the country’s resources and the growing trends of corruption reflect poorly on the quality of our love for the Motherland. Patriotism in our present circumstances also entails: exercising our democratic right to register and vote for quality leadership; actively taking part in shaping and implementing the developmental agenda of our country; and holding accountable the people we elect and put in positions of power.

3.4 National Values

If we want to build a nation that is prosperous, we propose that our national agenda should be inspired by values that are anchored by four key principles: the dignity of the human person; the common good; option for the poor; and empowerment.

3.4.1 The dignity of the human person

As we, observed recently, “the dignity of the human person is a fundamental value, always recognised as such by those who sincerely search for the truth.”2 The very first pages of the Scriptures in the story of creation point to humanity’s transcendental origin: ‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’” (Gen. 1:27). Human beings are God’s creation. He created them in his own image. In that lies their incomparable value.

The environment, structures and conditions surrounding every human being must therefore be such that they serve and promote this dignity.

3.4.2 The Common Good

Every human person is, we believe, a social being and therefore connected to others. Though every person is entitled to enjoy his/her individuality, he/she is also to be constantly sensitive to other people’s equal entitlements. Each person is in solidarity and is bound to be committed to that which connects them to others. Societal arrangements should be evaluated and inspired by how much they serve the common good to the extent that they enable men and women, families, and associations more adequately (to) attain their perfection.3 So, all that happens in this country, whether trade or bilateral agreements, must be for the good of all Malawians and not only some individuals or some leaders.

3.4.3 Preferential Option for the Poor

Our independence and emancipation project will make sense if the poor and vulnerable are given special and preferential attention. In the Bible, God frequently reminded the Israelites about their duty to the alien, widows and orphans (Exod. 22:20-22). The prophetic tradition condemns fraud, usury, exploitation and gross injustice, especially when directed against the poor (cf. Is. 58:3-11).

Even today, people who are poor and vulnerable deserve special and preferential attention, for indeed, “How can it be that even today there are still people dying of hunger? Condemned to illiteracy? Lacking the most basic medical care? Without a roof over their head? ”4 Public policies should be pro-poor and should guard against the concentration of resources in the hands of a few.

3.4.4 Empowerment

Empowering people requires letting them do what they can do by themselves and helping them only for the things they cannot do on their own (principle of subsidiarity). No matter how poor people are, there are lots of things that they can do on their own. We need to encourage, support and supplement people’s initiatives without underrating their capabilities. All development efforts should start from and be directed towards people if they are to be sustainable.

By way of conclusion in this chapter, we your Bishops, call upon the nation to renew our original vision and re-discover our destiny. At the dawn of independence, we dreamed of quality leadership, a unifying national development agenda, full citizen participation, strong sense of patriotism anchored by God-given guiding principles. If we want to successfully meet the challenges that face us during the forthcoming Tripartite Elections next May and create the Malawi we need, we should honestly re-examine our national conscience and make some bold decisions.

2014 Tripartite Elections: an Opportunity and a Challenge

The forthcoming tripartite elections present to us Malawians, a critical moment. Depending on our seriousness and the commitment of those to be elected, we will either miss the opportunity to rediscover and shape our destiny or we will make the most of it. Elections offer us a unique opportunity to choose and confirm good leaders and replace those that have failed us. It is therefore imperative that we take time to examine what it will take to have successful elections.

4.1 Good Leaders

As we prepare for the presidential, parliamentary and local government elections in 2014, it is our view that we need to reflect deeply on leadership itself and how each one of us can play a part in creating and the kind of leadership worth our aspiration and trust.

In deciding who to vote for, we would like that every Malawian takes into account the leadership qualities we outlined in a number of pastoral letters5 on elections:

A Person of Vision: A leader must, together with the community, be able to set goals and objectives that are specific, achievable, and measurable reflecting people’s aspirations, hopes and dreams;

A Good Steward: Leadership is about good governance of the nation as well as the generation, use and custody of the resources therein;

Exemplary: A good leader leads by example and uses words that unite and heal and those that promote peaceful coexistence

Respect for the Constitution and Rule of Law: A good leader is supposed to be a role model, respecting the laws of the land and capable of creating legislation based on sound policies;

Accountability: As in the parable of the talents (Lk. 19:11-27, Mt. 25:14-30), good leaders must account for the resources and talents at their disposal and also for the exercise of their powers and duties as people’s representatives;

Democratic Person: A good leader must believe in the fundamental goodness, freedom and dignity of all people and each person. Genuine democratic leaders will consult and listen to others, will appropriately delegate, share power, make corporate decisions and give credit where
it belongs;

God-fearing Person: Being a God-fearing nation, Malawi needs leaders who are genuinely God-fearing respecting human and faith values including those of a moral order of the people they serve. Leaders should be honest, trustworthy, fair, truthful, with a good reputation and integrity;

In addition to these qualities, in our own times, good leaders must also

• Have clear ideas on how to respond to issues of contraception, population control, homosexual unions, abortion and secularism as Malawi is a God-fearing nation;

• Be transformative: A leader should be ready to make things new, bringing about changes with a positive difference not just for the sake of change;

4.2 Electoral Processes

Election of leaders should be done according to true democratic processes and institutions that are directly linked with these processes have a lot of responsibility in this regard.

4.2.1 The Electoral Commission

We believe that credible elections which are free and fair start with good preparations. It is with this in mind that we wish to ask the Malawi Electoral Commission to ensure that all processes from registration to the day of actual voting and beyond are properly and diligently managed in an open, transparent and fair manner. We urge all interested parties to monitor the processes and to ensure that the elections are done to the highest standard possible.

4.2.2 The Role of the Media

The media in whatever form is very important in the electoral processes. The media needs to take great care to relay the truth in a non-partisan way. Use of divisive, abusive and violent language should be discouraged. We invite all citizens to be more alert with regard to all that comes through the media.

Let the Gospel values and the Church teaching guide all in weighing what is written, spoken and seen in the media. We expect that all parties involved will be given adequate space and coverage so that a level platform is given to reach out to the people.

4.2.3 Campaigns and Manifestos

We advise political parties and candidates who wish to contest for various posts to hold clean campaigns and desist from making statements that may instigate their supporters to be involved in violent acts.

We urge political parties to base their campaigns on their manifestos. We expect that political parties will come up with manifestos that are realistic, capture national aspirations in setting up long term national development agenda and continue to build and sustain democratic principles.

4.2.4 Individual Electoral Responsibility

We would also like to remind Malawians to take their responsibility seriously before, during and after the elections. Both men and women candidates need equal and unbiased support from all the electorate.

We urge every Malawian legible to vote to exercise his or her democratic right to vote. The voter registration cards are important in this regard and the responsibility to take care of them lies with each individual; they should not be sold. This will ensure that right candidates who are the people’s own choice are elected to positions.

The choices and voting to be done should not be aligned to party, regional, ethnic or religious affiliation just for their sake but rather should be determined by the quality of the candidates and the good of the country.

We would like to remind all Catholic Clergy and Religious of their obligation not to engage and take part in party politics.
As we have said a number of times before, the role of the Catholic Church is not to make particular political choices for the people but to draw their attention towards what is compatible with Gospel values and the dignity of the human person.

While individual members of the clergy and religious have the right to hold their own personal political preferences, they should ensure that such preferences are in line with what respects their faith and what will ensure the dignity of the human person and especially that of the poor and the marginalised.

We exhort religious leaders as well as traditional leaders to desist from the temptation of succumbing to hand-outs and publicly aligning themselves with a particular party or a particular candidate.

4.2.5 Post-Election Responsibility

We would like to remind those that will emerge victorious after the elections of their enormous responsibility to turn around our national woes and take this nation forward. As such, they will celebrate their victory with a sense of humility.

They will do this nation a lot of good if they exercise servant leadership, being “last of all and servant of all” (Mk. 9:35, Mat. 20:24 -28), and not narrowly interested in serving people their own party or region or ethnicity.

Those who lose the elections should accept the results gracefully and quickly turn their energies towards building this country.

The Golden Jubilee celebration will challenge Malawians to earnestly reflect whether indeed what the nation has achieved so far tallies with the age 50. It is imperative that at 50, every Malawian should be enjoying the conditions of social life that are brought about by the quest for the common good. The challenge before us is to see how much we have cooperated with God in realizing our dreams. We began with a dream of a politically and economically independent Malawi with God’s help, we should not attempt to realize this dream independently from God himself.

It is with this in mind, that we expect that the coming tripartite elections be a moment of great reflection and an opportunity for every Malawian citizen to recommit oneself to the ideals of the country.

We urge all Malawians to exercise their democratic right by coming out in large numbers to vote.

Remember that ‘bad leaders are elected by good citizens who do not vote.’ The penalty that good people pay for not being interested in electoral processes is to be governed by people worse than themselves.

You must choose who is to govern you.

Consider the power of your vote.

We need to pray earnestly: before we vote, as we vote, and after we vote! Our prayers should be accompanied and fasting and abstinence.

May the Blessed Mary the Queen of Peace intercede for us and our Nation that in the coming months all electoral activities may be conducted peacefully for the betterment of people’s lives. May the Spirit of Christ our Redeemer guide and inspire us always.

Peace be with you all as we prepare for the elections and the Golden Jubilee.

Right Reverend Joseph M. Zuza Chairman and Bishop of Mzuzu

Most Reverend Thomas Msusa Vice-Chairman and Archbishop-designate
of Blantyre

Most Reverend Tarcisius G. Ziyaye Archbishop of Lilongwe

Right Reverend Peter Musikuwa Bishop of Chikwawa

Right Reverend Emmanuel Kanyama Bishop of Dedza

Right Reverend Alessandro Pagani Bishop of Mangochi

Right Reverend Martin Mtumbuka Bishop of Karonga

Right Reverend Montfort Stima Auxiliary Bishop of Blantyre and
Diocesan Administrator

Dated: First Sunday of Advent, 1 December, 2013

Download a copy: Pastoral letter- Roman Catholic Church – Malawi

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Cashgate: Malawi Faces A Ticking Time Bomb As International Aid Dries Up Over Pervasive Corruption

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