Be a Practical Dreamer – Claud Williams

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image (c) of / from http://www.thelastcityformiles.com

So, I went looking for inspirational material for Malawi’s youth, as I like to do. This time, I met a guy who is the owner and managing director of Cosmic Inc. the partner company to a video production company called The Creative Circle, and the social project Dream Nation. He’s also a brand ambassador for The Powerlist Foundation charity. According to his about.me page, he considers himself to be an Orator, Visual Artist and Entrepreneur, and a “Practical Dreamer”, which I think is very modest of him. Dear readers, I’m delighted to share his insights with you… the exchange was as follows:

Dear Claud, I’m based in Manchester UK, and amongst a number of things I write a blog on Malawi, to motivate young people with new ideas, with the aim of building a better Malawian society. I’m writing to find out whether you may have some time for a questionnaire regarding dreams, success and entrepreneurship. If so please answer the following 7 seven questions…

Q1: What part did family support play in your success?

A: Support from my family was key. My big sister gave me a lot of key advice at the right time in my life, she also brought me Richard Branson autobiography which played a big role in inspiring me. She also forced me to buy my first DSRL camera which turned out to be a key choice in my life. My parents also gave me the room to do things a little differently, including taking a year out of Uni to work on my business and support me with money when needed. Finally, having healthy competition with my twin sister was big motivator for me.

Q2: Do you think it is true that the success a young black male achieves is partly linked to where they were born? If so how can aspiring entrepreneurs growing up in underdeveloped places in Africa overcome this huddle?

A: I think the success that any body achieves is linked to where they are from. There is no way to avoid this, because our backgrounds are what form as at an early stage. However, I think the biggest key is to not be a victim of our situations and instead of making excuses using our experiences as learning opportunities and to see new opportunities. Sometimes we just need to see the world with new eyes.

Q3. What inspires you, and how do you use that inspiration in your own business ventures?

A: I’m inspired by a sense of knowing that when I reach my goal, I’ll be in a place to help change the world for the better. So in my eyes, I don’t just work for me, I’m working for every life I can help improve one day. I’m also motived by the people I surround myself with… we are the average of the 5 people we associate with the most.

Q4. What advice would you give to young aspiring black entrepreneurs growing up in Africa and dreaming big?

A: To become practical dreamers. Dream big, so big that people will laugh at your dreams but then match those dreams with the work that needs to be done to make them reality. Read as many business and self-help books as you can, until you feel you have the tool to start working. Don’t make excuses, blame other people or your situations, although they all may be valid reasons making excuses will not change your future. Surround yourself with people who are going places or who are already successful, then be humble and ask questions, ask for help. Finally never give up.

Q5. I’m assuming you raised capital for your ventures? If so, how did you go about this?

A: I didn’t raise capital actually, I started really small… in fact I started with about £5 and created plans to turn that £5 into £350, and with the £350 I brought my first camera. Then with that camera I built my business. It’s more about being smart, planning, thinking big and above all putting the work in.

Q6. Any musical influences?

A: Reach Records is my record label and Swoope is my favourite artist.

Q7.  Famous last words

A: Be A Practical Dreamer

Claud’s website can be found here, (also check out his facebook page) and below is his presentation at TEDxLoughborough. It’s obvious, we’re yet to see the best of Claud… watch this guy closely.

What’s your reference point

It may be obvious to some that people must first be successful at family level for the greater benefit to be realised at society level. In other words, and generally, if you have many productive and functional families living in proximity as members of a society, the chances are you will have a more productive and functional society, than if those families were dysfunctional and crippled with problems…

Today, I saw this here, the model and actor Tyrese Gibson dishing out some touching but heartfelt words of wisdom from his experiences touching on subjects such as relationships, fatherhood, drugs, alcohol, etc, issues which I know affect many black and Afro-carribean families across the world.

When one is in search of inspirational ideas, you really never know where the next one will come in from as I’ve found out watching the video.

Sensitive listeners – apologies for the swear words…

Global 100 Voices : No 9

Km2My next guest is a friend who I have known for many years. He is a driven and well exposed Malawian who has often been at pains to see Malawi succeed, but like many of us, is frustrated by the slow progress which is often hampered by political happenings. Mr Kani Msungama, thank you for doing the Global 100 Voices Interview.

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  1. As a Malawian, how important is Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability to you and your family? As a young man who is very ambitious in acquiring my goals, one of them is to achieve financial stability, one that will be in tandem with the economic situation so that I can also better the lives those who surround me and depend on me, Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability is paramount to me.
  2. After nearly 50 years since independence, what visible progress do you think Malawi has made since independence, and in your view, what pressing challenges remain? In view of those challenges, what do you think is the role of government and the people in tackling those challenges?    (1)There is little or nothing to show for it sadly, it’s as if economy has been hibernating all these 50 years.  (2) The challenges we face today is not only in our leaders but with each and every Malawian, you and me included. We do not take the sole responsibility of our nation. We are busy pointing at the wrongs and ills of our nation instead of rectifying the problems or offering solutions to them. The Government has a responsibility to offer sound and attainable objectives instead of just empty promises. It is the duty of Government with the president at the helm, to lead by example and getting everybody involved in building our nation. I wish we could engage the Diaspora. We have so many Malawians out there wanting to contribute the development of our nation but nothing has ever been done to entice Malawians living abroad to be part of the development agenda.  
  3. As someone who lived or has lived outside Malawi for some time, and has been exposed to modern and progressive ideas, what symbols of development in the foreign country in which you lived have had the greatest impact on you, and why? Infrastructure, definitely. For you, as a country to be classified as a developing or developed nation, you (as a nation) have to be able to show for it in the way people live, i.e. easy access to various modes of modern transport facilities be it by air, water or land.
  4. What lessons do you think Malawians and the Malawian leadership can learn from those ideas? It basically means that development has to be shown and not be spoken about, many at times our politicians tend to stand on podiums busy preaching on what they have done but there is literally no visual evidence of that on the ground.
  5. When you last returned to Malawi, what struck you the most as the greatest sign of improvement or development since the last time you left? There was nothing, sad to say. Everything was where I left it. Maybe with the exception of the M1 road in Lilongwe.turkish-777er-620
  6. What struck you the most as the biggest sign of stagnation or regression? Our International airport, Kamuzu International Airport, by far it still remains the same with poor security services, insufficient number of flights/ services by international standards.word wrap
  7.  Malawians will be going to the polls in 2014, to elect a new president. In your view what kind of leader does Malawi NEED, considering the country’s current challenges? And specifically, how should that leader approach the top job in terms of creating sustainable development and foreign reducing aid dependency? Malawi needs a charismatic, intelligent, humble, educated and active leader. Somebody who can relate to Malawians as whole. Someone who cares (a patriot) and is passionate about this country. Somebody who is patient and understanding. Somebody who can unify us all (southern, central and northern region). A leader has to lead us all by his/her fine example. Show us how to get things done and not just spend hours on end on podiums with everyone busy praising, dancing and pampering them. Malawi is in a state where we can ill afford such nonsense anymore. 50 years has gone by and these leaders still want to be pampered and danced for while thousands are dying of hunger, lack of medicine and HIV/AIDS.
  8.  As you know, Tobacco is Malawi’s biggest source of export revenue. Looking at the problems that have plagued the tobacco industry in recent times, what alternatives do you think Malawi has besides Tobacco, and why are they viable alternatives? There so many other viable crops from maize, ground nuts, soya, etc. You can never go wrong with agricultural produce because food is basic necessity for any individual. Malawi is blessed with vast amounts of arable land and sadly we as a nation have not capitalized on this to seek alternatives to tobacco. The answer to is right under our noses.
  9.  Considering our troubled history with donors and funders such as the IMF and World Bank, most recently when Bingu Wa Mutharika was president, how do you see Malawi progressing from this relationship in view of the criticisms these organisations have received in the media across the world? Honestly speaking, this spirit of dependency on these organisations has crippled us as a nation because it is embedded in us to think of donor aid, budget support, etc and not that we can do it on our own. Putting it in simpler terms, if you constantly carry a child in your arms when the child is learning to walk for the fear that it will get hurt, don’t ever expect for that child to be able walk on its own. That is our country in a nutshell.
  10.  We now know that Malawi has some precious minerals, including Uranium, possibly oil and other natural resources. How do you think the present government is doing regarding managing Malawi’s natural resources? Nothing, because of some of the greedy officials we have put in place are busy trying to get rich. There is no transparency at all when it comes to the awarding of contracts to companies. I thought we live in democratic dispensation? Where is the transparency? Malawian we are so used to be taken advantage of that we do not DEMAND transparency. This OUR country, and these are OUR resources!!
  11.  In your view, can the government do better to manage natural resources? If so, how can it do better? They definitely can, our neighbours Mozambique, Zambia have done it just fine, then why can’t we? Put in stringent rules and regulations in the mining sectors when it comes to contracts and explorations of such minerals. We need Reforms, make information readily available for all to see.  Monitor the companies entrusted with the sector, make sure that they abide to the rule of OUR land and their own.

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  12.  What is your answer to increasing transparency and eradicating corruption which is plaguing most governments across Africa? This is why, when we put people in positions we should make sure we putting people with moral values, integrity and who are educated. We cannot completely eradicate corruption because we live in a highly impoverished society but we certainly minimize it and one day we can completely eradicate it. Zero tolerance and harsh consequences for offenders are part of the solution. We need watchdogs such as non-governmental organisations that are zealous and concerned for the greater good. 
  13.  Any famous last words? Vision without action is just a daydream.

Mandela: A Tribute

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Where does one even start when attempting to pay tribute to a man so profound and mighty in almost all aspects of his life, a man who it must be said was sitting with the gods long before he died.

Many kind words, countless tributes (here and here to list a few), numerous celebrations of a great life, unprecedented reactions from across the world, even the critics have good things to say, all testify that the life of Nelson Mandela was that of a true legend, a behemoth of great leaders, an icon of peace and reconciliation, a symbol of forgiveness, definitely one of the greatest people to have lived on earth (probably the greatest person of our times so far). The measure and pedigree of greatness surely doesn’t surpass Mandela. His exploits inscribed on the palms of gods, this man belongs to a ‘club’ of a very few select widely adored individuals who walked the face of the earth, and exemplified to all humanity, selflessly, tender-heartedly, with gentleness and kindness, with wisdom, what humaneness, grace, love and leadership are supposed to be.

Mandela was a precious gift to the world, in all meanings of those words, and to say that the world didn’t deserve him is an understatement. He was too good a soul for a planet plagued by selfishness, greed, lust and jealousy. His imprisonment – one of the worst sins of mankind against humanity- played a role in the making of a great leader; the defeat of Apartheid – was a timeless act; a victory for all who opposed discrimination and hate at that time in South Africa, in our time today, and forevermore. Mandela belonged where his soul had always been, in the spiritual realm, sat contemplatively amidst the gods.

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And before I continue, I must put behind me one small personal matter. I must rescind that email I sent to two people the week before last, expressing grief, in which I erroneously said I will never forgive what these people have done to me. That email was written in a thoughtless spur of rage driven by pain. Today, I’m a hint wiser, I acknowledge that I must forgive them.

Today also I’m wondering what would be the perfect honour for Mandela. An appreciation to Madiba, for all he was, for all he taught us, for all he did. A thankful recognition and gratitude from the whole world. After all we’ve calibrated our years with reference to the death of Jesus Christ (another great leader), we’ve named our days after planets, names which are derived from Greek mythology and Greek gods. Surely, while Mandela’s Catholic admirers will soon enough begin to debate whether Mandela should be revered as a saint or not, maybe it would be a much more fitting gesture to rename Monday, our second day of the week, after Mandela.

Yes, let’s change Monday to Mandela

Without sounding sensationalist, I believe doing so will invoke his spirit each time we mention the day, and hopefully will remind us all of an exemplary life, which although not 100% infallible, was far gracious and selfless, more humane than most of us will ever be, a life on which to model our own fallible existence.

Personally, Mandela means more to me than just a global icon. When I was younger, I learned that my great grandparents on my mother’s side were originally South African (well, from the land that is now South Africa). They were part of the Ngunis who became the Ngonis that were dispersed north by the wars of Shaka Zulu, and who were led north by Zwangendaba. In fact I remember clearly that my late grandmother had the same type of piercings and wore the same type of bracelets which some tribes in South Africa still have and still wear till this very day. So South Africa was always ‘home’ to me, even when my passport specifies otherwise.

Thus, when I heard about Mandela’s death, just before 10pm that cold and rainy Thursday night in Manchester, a dark  haze immediately washed over my mind. I had been napping before I heard the news, and was awoken only to be quickly informed of the news. My mouth became dry, it felt like I had just been punched in the stomach. That afternoon, the winds had been unusually wild and forceful, and the MET office reported of an ‘Atlantic storm’ with gusts of around 100 mph hitting Scotland and  other parts of the UK, the strongest winds in at least 50 years. Even in Manchester, it was a sombre, chilly, dark and rainy day, with very strong winds throughout the afternoon.

The heavens must have been preparing for the arrival of a legend. The gods were about to recall one of their own. As Obama summed it up nicely:

‘He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages’

The next morning, yesterday,  my thoughts were clouded as I recoiled from the news and media storm from around the world. Couldn’t think properly, couldn’t write much, couldn’t do much … a feverish numbness hovered about. It was as if some energy had been suddenly drawn out of me. A weird experience I know, but unmistakably a sense of loss, as if I’d lost a member of my own family.

And in some respects I had, we all had, because Mandela’s life has had a profound effect on my life, on the lives of my mother who raised me (The copy of Long Walk to Freedom which I own {and count as one of my most prized possessions}, was given to me by my mother), on the lives of many young Africans I know, and no doubt on the lives of millions others on the planet. A rare feat.

So, while there have been criticisms against Mandela (see here and here) even in death, the innumerable good far outweigh the few criticisms. And that my dear friends is probably why many of us will continue to draw inspiration from the life, deeds and words of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, and why I will never, ever forget him.

Reuniting Africa: Infrastructure

It was delightful to hear news that Kenya in collaboration with the Chinese government will be investing $13.8 billion to build a railway line to link its port city of Mombasa with the capital Nairobi. It is hoped that the line will eventually extend to the landlocked countries of Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda. This is great news not only because of its Pan-African connotations, but also because it’s a step forward towards getting Africa’s infrastructure interconnected and closer to global standards ( for example to the level of the Eurotunnel).

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Whenever foreigners come to Africa to visit, they always exclaim how challenging and long it can take to get from one place to another in certain areas. It’s incredible how disconnected Africa remains. The same applies to movement of goods (a factor essential for commerce and business). Often and comparatively with say Asia, it takes longer (and costs a lot more) than must necessarily be to send goods, or receive goods from one African country to another, which is not desirable.

The vastness and distances may be a problem, and environmental degradation such projects cause is also a major consideration, but that doesn’t mean that there are no workable solutions to such challenges. Often the cause of inaction or lack of progress appears to be bad politics and selfish financial interests, which end up  frustrating well-meaning projects whose economic and social benefits could be significant for a country and its neighbours, and far outweigh the negative impacts.

Take Malawi for example. Mota Engil the Portuguese conglomerate was contracted by the government of Bingu Wa Mutharika to construct a port in Nsanje (see animation of the Nsanje Inland Port via YouTube), at great expense to the Malawian tax payer.

The  project was part of a project known as the Shire-Zambezi Water Way, and whose total cost was said to be US$6 billion would have reduced the cost of importing goods by 60%.

The Malawi section of the project took years to build, and costed the Malawian government €25 million dollars. Now, almost 2 years after the sudden death of Mutharika, the first ship is yet to sail to the port. There is little or no dialogue about the way forward, the current Malawian president is in no rush to resurrect the project, even when the Malawi Trade & Investors Quarterly Magazine in 2007 wrote that Malawi spends at least US$200 million annually to import or export goods via ports in Mozambique or Tanzania. My question is this: isn’t reducing the cost of imports for landlocked countries in Africa a priority to the whole of Africa? Shouldn’t it be a priority to all Africans? Think about it… look at the US, or for that matter the European Union, and their policy of free movement of goods.

How can the countries in Africa, let alone the continent ever develop when leaders do not collaborate or are only too willing to impede such meaningful projects before they even commence? Why can’t African leaders (including the chiefs of the African Union, SADC, COMESA and African Development bank) begin to practise continuity, and put pressure on the stakeholders to get to grips with the project? Of the countries who signed the memorandum of understanding of the Shire-Zambezi Water Way, why does it appear like no one is actively seeking to resurrect and resume the project ( Is the said feasibility study Mozambique was demanding underway? If so what is the progress on that front?), since it’s undeniable that there will be mutual benefits to the greater economy of Southern Africa?

Looking at half-hearted comments from those who think they have something to lose (other shallow comments from here), you will find that the Mozambicans have to shoulder part of the blame for the stalling of the project. Against all appearance of conventional wisdom, it seem they have been dragging their feet from throwing full support behind the project, with talk of environmental assessments, etc and greater emphasis of development of roads?? Can such a massive project have been commenced and physical construction at Nsanje began without first assessing or undertaking an environmental assessment?

I’m not convinced. Either there’s something about this project that ordinary folk like us have not been told, or there was a massive miscalculation on the part of Mutharika to begin building the port. Else, it was visionary (see YouTube marketing clip ‘overselling’ the idea here), a quality often lacking within leadership across Africa.

Having said that, it is more likely than not, that the reason some people in Mozambique are unwilling to fully support the project is to do with the alleged financial loss they expect if goods are able to go straight into Malawi or Zambia and Zimbabwe, and not via Beira or Nacala.

Such a selfish narrow viewpoint undermines any potential benefit a new transportation link may create for the region. Surely, a thoughtful and better-informed African leader would have recognised the overall impact (e.g. jobs, increased trade, tourism, easier flow of resources, cheaper import costs and societal advancement)  the port will have not only to the Mozambican towns near Nsanje, but also to the greater Southern African economy of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, or even to Rwanda and Burundi.

Very few African countries geographically formed themselves into the shape they currently take. In fact only Liberia and Ethiopia were never colonised, but even their national polity formation had a lot to do with regional colonial activity around and about them. Thus, most decisions that determined the geographical shape of African countries were made by colonialists, a figment of history most Pan Africanists would rather forget. This to me means that it is shortsighted, regressive, a deficiency in intellect and a great fallacy (most often perpetuated by ignorance), for leaders of African countries today to be fighting against each other, or indeed dashing each others economic fortunes – when there is every chance that had colonialism never occurred (as we understand it), Africa could have ended up as a vast continent of undivided Kingdoms, each with access to the sea. Something that would have looked like this:

644px-Colonial_Africa_1913_Gold_Coast_map.svg
What Africa may have looked like if colonisation hadn’t occured. What Africa may look like in the future, hundreds of years from now

That is precisely why Uhuru Kenyatta must be applauded for the visionary Mombasa Nairobi railway link.

Similar Links:

Peter Mutharika attacks Malawi govt. for ignoring ‘Ndata’ University, Nsanje port in budget

MALAWI: Dream fades for inland port project

The Shire Zambezi Waterway Project is still a priority says Sadc secretariat [August 2013]

Malawi, Mozambique agree deal on Nsanje World inland port [April 2013]

Nsanje Inland Port Mw

Same **** different players

So the cowboys have finally taken to the dock. After that fateful night in April plotting to effectively hijack the presidency, an unconstitutional coup that was only prevented by the combination of the fury of discerning Malawians, and the true patriotic knight that is General Odillo – a man every Malawian should be thankful to – the midnight six are now facing charges of treason.

But putting aside the case itself, what I’ve never been able to comprehend is this: While this case is ongoing, why are DPP supporters still betting on Peter Mutharika for leadership? Is DPP’s part of Malawi really that short of people, and leadership, such that they continue to fawn at a man who flew the dead and rotting body of his brother to South Africa, and count on him as a presidential candidate?

NewsTo be frank, as a Malawian, I really wouldn’t want to be associated with a country whose president has such a dodgy and inhumane history. Not in a 21st century post dictatorship democracy.

When Bingu was a president, I supported him. I’ve never believed in the backward, cheap and regionalistic politics of only supporting people from your village or region because such is what causes underdevelopment in Malawi, since people vote for incapable candidates because they are ‘Mwana wakwithu’. Mwana wa Mayi…its absurd, and Malawians must move away from this type of thinking to a logical position where they vote for competency, not along tribal or regional lines.

Anyway, despite being a northerner, I supported Bingu, after he began DPP, because he represented a fundamental shift from the cheap, corrupt and brutish voter-rigging, empty rampaging charade of acheya’s UDF. Having said that , my family didn’t like Bingu  because they didn’t know him and thought he would turn out to be just like the others before him, making promises he wouldn’t be able to fulfill. They had their reasons.

But Bingu did well in his first term of office. He began to actively target corruption (see this brilliant tribute by Yves Kalala), and indicated an interest to spark economic development and improve education and research. Despite the high expense, the FISP programme proved a success, and from around 2006 created a huge surplus (1.3 million Metric tonnes) for Malawi, increasing food availability and transforming Malawi into a grain exporter. Malawian harvests became a global model. Bingu began promoting gender equality and had several female politicians hold high political office – including Joyce Banda. Bingu made a stand against some western policies, which at times have been selfish and not exactly in the best interest of poor Malawians.

But when his second term came, after a 66% majority, and the whole Mulhako Wa ALhomwe thing (which to me is a divisive initiative a sitting president shouldnt involve himself too much in); add  Mulli and Mota Engil to that and I found myself doubting where the man was going.  I couldn’t support a figure who was increasingly becoming divisive.

There were some things I still believe Bingu was right about, even towards the very end. The issue about currency devaluation was a hotly debated topic, and even experts disagreed on whether devaluation was the best course for Malawi to take, considering its circumstances. Then there was the story about energy generation – to buy from Mozambique (and be  a recipient of electricity which you didn’t control, while the Mozambicans made money off your head – kutidyela masuku pamutu) or for Malawi to generate its own energy(he chose the latter – and he was absolutely right)

What he was wrong about was becoming a divisive figure, the attacks on civil liberties and CSO’s, including the question marks over the death of Robert Chasowa. The intolerance  and heavy-handedness that led on July 20, 2011, to the death of 19 demonstrators. The blind eye paid to corruption that saw millions of dollars looted. The close links with Mota-Engil and Mulli – companies which under Mutharika’s leadership won many substantial contracts. All this isolated many well-meaning Malawians who had initially supported Mutharika, when he fell out with UDF. Bingu’s own indiscretion blurred his reputation even more.

Today, we have a different problem in Malawi that is somewhat linked to the problems of those days. When Bingu ignored the advice he received regarding the IFMIS, he either did so knowingly, or he did so because he was trying to appease some people within his circles. Whatever his intention, he was wrong not to address the issue, which today we are told is in fact responsible for the looting of millions of dollars, this time under Joyce Banda’s government.

The plot is intoxicating and the revelations keep pouring in. Yesterday another version or appendage to the story sprang up. Here, I would call upon the auditors looking into the cashgate scandal to take note of what Mphwiyo’s wife is alleged to have said. After all, wives generally do get to know a lot of their husbands’ dealings:

What Ralph Kasambara knows and the reason he wants JB [Joyce Banda]. Mpinganjira,Cecilia Kumpukwe to be his witnesses [ in his court case] is that Lutepo withdrew K4 billion with the help of Chuka and together with Cecilia deposited the money into the Joyce Banda foundation accounts.

Ralph’s role was to explain to Chuka the legal implications of disobeying the president if he was going to say no and consult regulatory bodies. Zonsezi zimachitika [All this was happening] the same week Mphwiyo was shot.

Nde Now aMphwiyo asked Ralph for his cut since he had to be made aware of the transaction and Ralph refused to comment citing presidential confidentiality agreement.

Mukumva? [Are you listening]

thats when they labeled him a liability and had to be eliminated.This is according to Mphwiyos wife… Who also mentioned Manganaue Mphande to be one of many people who visited him in an SA hospital…nkhaniyi ndiyayitali [this story is long]….

a few days ago, someone else said:

Mr. Lutepo had a joint contract with Roy Kachale, to supply transformers to ESCOM. They were supposed to be paid K1,356,000,000.00 (K1.3Billion). Transformers were delivered on 13th September, 2013. Allegedly, award of this contract flouted some procedures and ACB was supposed to interrogate officers at ESCOM headquarters on Monday, 21st October, 2013 after a tip-off from ESCOM employees. Those doubting this information can cross check with MRA, where Mr. Lutepo cleared four 40 feet containers of ESCOM Transformers. AMALAWI TSEGULANI MASO! (Malawians open your eyes!)

And it gets worse, with another group here speculating that they may have been responsible for burning down Escom house???

Who do you believe in a country where some opposition journalists live in fear, or are under intimidation, so cannot do their job properly!

Hopefully, time will tell what is true or what of everything I’ve written regarding this scandal is infact mere speculation. At that point count me in as one deceived by liars!

Time will tell where Malawian politics goes from here, however, knowing how  things have worked in the past, we may never know the full story…we may never know the whole truth. Especially with shady PR organisations being hired (see here) at a cost of millions of tax payers kwachas (at a time when there are no medicines in hospitals, and thousands of teachers have not been paid) to paint false reputations, how should anyone be able to distinguish fact from fiction, or indeed put their leaders to task?

teachers

My message to anyone outside Malawi who truly wants to  know what is going on in Malawi is this: –

IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT, PLEASE GO THERE, AND SEE FOR YOURSELF!

DON’T TRUST ANYONE, CERTAINLY NOT THE MEDIA AGENCIES ACROSS THE WORLD OR IN MALAWI – there are strong indications of a conspiracy going on. Mercenaries with devious intentions are about, pulling strings.

DON’T TRUST ANY NEWS AGENCY-SOME OF THE VOCAL ONES (INCLUDING ONLINE PORTALS) HAVE ‘SOLD OUT’ AND ARE ON THE PAYROLL OF POLITICIANS, OR HAVE AGENDAS.

DON’T EVEN TRUST THIS BLOG! PLEASE DON’T.

GO INTO THE HOSPITALS, THE VILLAGES AND THE SCHOOLS, GO AND SEE FOR YOURSELF WHAT IS HAPPENING IN MALAWI TO KNOW THE TRUTH

HEAR IT FROM THE PEOPLE, AWAY FROM PR GURUS ON POLITICIANS’ / GOVERNMENT PAYROLL, AWAY FROM COMMENTATORS,  PARTY SUPPORTERS OR SPIN DOCTORS WITH QUESTIONABLE AGENDAS

Infrastructure

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While you’ll find several references to Infrastructure on this site, I think this time around I’ll leave it to the experts to do the convincing. Paja akulu anati mutu umodzi siwusenza denga

And if one takes time to browse through the cited references below (some of which are straight off page 1 + 2 of Google), it’s hard to argue against the fact that Infrastructure is one of the essential drivers of economic development. In this sense, and for the avoidance of doubt,  infrastructure is not limited to roads, railways, airports and buildings (for hotels, schools, Universities, hospitals, business centres, research facilities, etc), but also includes for example a good telecommunication network (internet, voice, data and the like) and power supply.

Infrastructure for sustainable development – European Commission

Intro reads: ” Good quality infrastructure is a key ingredient for sustainable development. All countries need efficient transport, sanitation, energy and communications systems if they are to prosper and provide a decent standard of living for their populations. Unfortunately, many developing countries possess poor infrastructure, which hampers their growth and ability to trade in the global economy. “

Infrastructure’s value to economic growth – Richard Lee, Partner, KPMG (via BBC)

which includes the statement : “…In fact, a recent KPMG International survey found that an overwhelming majority – 90% – of business executives said that the availability and quality of infrastructure affects where they locate their business operations…”

Needs For and Benefits of Infrastructure Connectivity – Asian Development Bank Institute
which includes the statement: “… The rapid economic and population growth of Asian economies in recent years has put huge pressure on its existing infrastructure, particularly in transport and energy, but also in communications. Asia’s infrastructure is world-class in parts, but is generally below the global average. This is a bottleneck to future growth, a threat to competitiveness, and an obstacle to poverty reduction.”
which includes the following statement: – “…An adequate infrastructure is a prerequisite to economic development. Transportation and communications are important in developing and strengthening social, political, and commercial ties. These ties must be developed before trade can be handled on a regular basis.”
Why Is Infrastructure Important – David Alan Aschauer, formerly Senior Economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and now (at the date of writing/publication) Elmer W.Campbell Professor of Economics, Bates College
Infrastructure and Poverty – The Global Poverty Project
the Intro reads: “Infrastructure – physical resources like roads, telecommunication networks, schools and drains – is necessary for a society to function: people can’t access healthcare if there are no hospitals; trade can’t take place if there are no roads on which to transport goods to markets. Infrastructure facilitates the basic functions of a society that are necessary to transport resources and people, produce and trade goods, provide essential services and ultimately reduce poverty.”
it follows with ” Lack of infrastructure also leads to lack of employment by acting as a disincentive to investment. Companies who struggle to produce and sell goods in an area with inadequate roads, electricity or water supply do not want to set up the factories or businesses that could potentially generate employment, improve living standards and reduce poverty. “
and “Lack of infrastructure can also lead to poor health and high mortality. Where there are no clinics or hospitals available, or where lack of roads or bridges makes them inaccessible, people cannot access the medical services that they require to be healthy and productive. A villager in Mozambique explains “The most dangerous thing is that [cholera] has always appeared during the rainy season, and it is then that the river is in spate and boats cannot cross.”
The Broader Benefits of Transportation Infrastructure – Ian Sue Wing, William P. Anderson and T.R. Lakshmanan, Center for Transportation Studies and Dept. of Geography & Environment, Boston University [similar article here]
uses the term Meso-scale to describe their approach. A slide from their presentation is quite appropriate in summarising some of the developmental + ‘equilibrium’ impacts, and worth replication:-
infra-messo
Finance and Infrastructure: The Economic Benefits of Infrastructure Projects Procured with Private Finance –  Andrew W Morley, International Congress Washington, D.C. USA, April 19-26 2002.
Infrastructure – Engineers Against Poverty
Intro reads as follows: “Without significant progress in the provision of infrastructure services it will be impossible for many countries to significantly achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Globally, more than 1 billion people have no access to roads, 900 million do not have safe drinking water, 2.3 billion lack reliable sources of energy, 2.5 billion have no sanitation  facilities and 4 billion are without modern communication services.”
which contains the paragraph “When it comes to infrastructure development, Thailand has done very well compared with some other Southeast Asian neighbors. In fact, appropriate infrastructure, including access to power and water, has helped Thailand fuel rapid economic growth during the past three decades. Good infrastructure has made Thailand attractive to foreign investment, helped facilitate international trade, and improved the efficiency of everyday business activities. All of these led to more jobs, and more jobs led to more income for the poor. For some not-so-poor people, good infrastructure also helps them improve productivity or fulfill their lifestyles.”
RURAL INFRASTRUCTURE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT –  Dr. Mohammad Tarique, Lecturer, University Dept. of Economics, B.R.Ambedkar Bihar University, Muzaffarpur.
Abstract reads: “Infrastructure development has a key role to play in both economic growth and poverty reduction. Failure to accelerate investments in rural infrastructure will make a mockery of efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in poor developing countries while at the same time severely limit opportunities for these countries to benefit from trade liberalisation, international capital markets and other potential benefits offered by globalisation”
Private Sector Participation in Infrastructure:the case of Thailand – Deunden Nikomborirak – Asian Development Bank Institute Discussion Paper No. 19
Road Funding: Time for a Change :- Economic Growth Benefits of Transportation Infrastructure Investment – Dr. John C. Taylor,  Associate professor of marketing and logistics at Grand Valley State University and a senior policy analyst with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan.
which contains the statement “…No, the key benefit and reason for transportation investment is from helping to make businesses and individuals more productive, across the geographic landscape. We rely on our transportation investments to increase the economy’s overall productivity – both in terms of making individual travel (business and personal) faster and more reliable, and in terms of the productivity benefits of making freight flows faster and more reliable…”
World Bank — Malawi’s infrastructure: A continental perspective: Vivien Foster; Maria Shkaratan, ISSN: 1813-9450.

As you can see, the above papers + articles present a credible argument that a good and functional infrastructure is essential for economic development.
But that’s not to say that there are no credible counter arguments against infrastructure. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m sure one can cite the prevention of deforestation or preservation of natural habitats as factors against excessive infrastructure. Also, there is the issue of encouraging tourism which could probably mean encouraging greater biodiversity, creating / preserving forests  and wildlife reserves (but even in such circumstances, you still need a world-class airport for a good first impression (the kind of impression you get when you first land at Hong Kong International); functional roads (at least 3 lanes on each side between major cities) that minimises journey times; and world-class hotels and resorts. Why should you give tourists (who in large numbers can be the source of much-needed forex revenue) less than what they are accustomed to, and expect that they will return to your country, or recommend a visit to their friends?). Never mind recommendation, how can you compete on the global stage, when your facilities are substandard? Further, why shouldn’t it be possible to build modern factories with reduced carbon footprint (see Marks & Spencer’s ‘eco-factories’ initiative here) side by side with wildlife/forest reserves?
So, considering all this, I find it hard to imagine a credible setting in which arguments against infrastructure may find pre-eminence, over arguments for infrastructure; especially for a poor country whose majority infrastructure was built  50-year ago; whose roads are littered with pot-holes, with virtually no world-class business centres; that has old airports – with poor facilities including smelly badly looked after toilets; a country that experiences intermittent blackouts almost every week; that is struggling to attract significant investment from abroad; a country where 74% of the population live below the poverty line; which is heavily reliant on agriculture and dwindling tobacco exports + has negligible industrial output; has few natural resources; has a large relatively unskilled young population and suffers widespread corruption and cronyism, even in the upper echelons of its government.

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My question to you then is: why are the leaders of such countries not investing heavily (sooner than later) into major infrastructure projects, when it is in fact a determinant factor in economic development and a serious game changer? Is it because they are in fact not cut out for the job and would be better followers instead of leaders?