Satan’s Neonazi conmen: The Institutional Discrimination and Racism hidden within Immigration (part 1)

racism

“Institutions can behave in ways that are overtly racist (i.e., specifically excluding people-of-color from services) or inherently racist (i.e., adopting policies that while not specifically directed at excluding people-of-color, nevertheless result in their exclusion). Therefore, institutions can respond to people-of-color and whites differently. Institutional behavior can injure people-of-color; and, when it does, it is nonetheless racist in outcome if not in intent.”  via http://racism.org/

“Every miserable fool who has nothing at all of which he can be proud, adopts as a last resource pride in the nation to which he belongs; he is ready and happy to defend all its faults and follies tooth and nail, thus reimbursing himself for his own inferiority.” Arthur Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms

“I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”  ― Martin Luther King Jr., I Have A Dream

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” —Malcolm S. Forbes.

“Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn’t matter which color does the hating. It’s just plain wrong.”   Muhammad Ali

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” – Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

I was going to subtitle title this post as ‘Stupid & Repressive laws from Stupid & Repressive institutions’, but that subtitle was too long, sounded angry and would have messed up the layout of this article.

A more moderate subtitle would definitely be more effective in getting the important message across. Then I thought of calling it ‘A radical experiment on Immigration’ in a similar fashion to Sam Richard’s brilliant video ‘A radical experiment in empathy’, but that subtitle didn’t explicitly specify the Racism and Discrimination aspects…

A few months ago, I read an article on the Guardian website, in which the writer wrote that “Unless universities realise that merely paying lip service to equality will not eliminate society’s prejudices from their campuses, racism will continue to flourish” [posted on Guardian blogging Students website by one Conrad Landin].

As a migrant who is proud to have come out of two British Universities with two good degrees, I couldn’t agree more. I was racially abused in University (not once or twice), my first encounter with the practice on British soil, but even then I recognised that it was a part of a much bigger and wider problem. A problem that in other forms extended to double gold medallist Mo Farah being stopped and questioned by US customs, over his Somali origins.

Up to the time I began writing this article, I had been asked to write something on immigration and racism by three of my closest friends, and up until recently I gently resisted their requests. Not that I didn’t want to write about the subject or that I didn’t care so much about their requests, nor that it hasn’t affected my own family, no, not because of all that. Instead, it’s quite a painful subject to write about when one’s experiences have been hellish in this regard, and when the institutions involved have caused one’s family members (especially my mother) a lot of grief and hardship. Extremely painful, in more ways than words can describe, so to an extent I was shunning the topic because of the inevitable pain writing about it would cause…..

To put it into perspective, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) has been described as Cruel (Roseline’s journey: a kidney transplant patient meets UK Border Agency contractors , Child refugees harmed by ‘cruel’ detention systemState-sponsored cruelty  , Medical Justice : “‘State Sponsored Cruelty’: Children in immigration detention” and here: Child detention is ‘state sponsored cruelty’- report finds); they have been accused of Harrassment; described as Oppressive (The UK Border Agency’s long, punitive campaign against children (helped by G4S and Serco), Not fit for PurposeRacist (Indians to pay £3,000 cash bond deposit for U.K. visa ) , (Why Is the UK Border Agency Racially Profiling People On the Tube?), (Exclusive: Doreen Lawrence pledges to condemn ‘racial profiling’ spot checks in the House of Lords) and (CABIN CRUELTY: MORE TROUBLE AT THE UK BORDERS AGENCY – via Liberty ) which contains the paragraph:

Predictably the UKBA refused to disclose its policy in full. But even what we were shown set alarm bells ringing. There was no provision whatsoever for training staff for aircraft removals – all scenarios related solely to prisons. The approach towards medical care was inconsistent at best, and little or no attention had been paid to de-escalation techniques. It’s not hard to work out that dealing with a distressed deportee on a long flight, confined inside a claustrophobic cabin, might pose particular challenges and health risks. But there was absolutely nothing to suggest the UKBA appreciated this

IncompetentDamning report says practically all UK LGBT asylum claims are being refused; Border Agency “cruel and discriminatory” ) , a law unto itself – a link that contains the paragraph:

“The hearings at the Home Affairs Select Committee enquiring into the running of the UK Border Agency were hard to credit. Keith Vaz, the Chairman of the committee, asked the Head of The UK Border Authority for information about their operations, and the Head of the UKBA replied that he was unwilling to provide said information. It was entirely obvious that the UKBA has become a law unto itself. “

and even Murderous (Jackie Nanyonjo, Jimmy Mubenga and Joy Gardner: all killed by Britain’s racist deportation regime)

The issue has become politicised with people separated from their families ( My battle with Britain’s mean, ineffective immigration system:  ‘Controlling immigration’ means being rude to foreigners — as I found out ); genuine weddings have been wrecked:-

“We travelled down to the venue from Nottingham, only to find that the Bride had been arrested by the Police upon arrival at the Church. It was stated it was due to an Immigration matter. They detained her over night and released her on Sunday without charge. They claimed she had indicated in her application that she was married in the USA and that it was a sham wedding. The girls father had travelled all the way from Malawi, they had friends and guests from all over the country and everything was ruined. The Bride is Malawian who has a USA Green card and lives in America. The groom is a Malawian student who has finished his studies and is waiting for his passport which is with UKBA so that he can leave.They had done all the necessary paperwork to enable them to get married here, gone to the registrar etc and all was in order.”

Even those who served in the armed forces are being harassed.

Another source told me:

“My own sister and niece, who obviously are black – and now American citizens have been denied a visitor visa once, even when they are fully settled in the US, and have no intention of moving to the UK, they have a good life there…much better than what I have here, and at the time of making the application, they supplied all the material that was required for the application…and paid a lot of money, only to have a visa denied, after all that money!”

And all this is just scratching the surface. Indeed the sad stories (that includes staff at UKBA slamming the phone down on nervous applicants) are many and heart wrenching and we don’t have time or room to list them all here.

But how can this kind of treatment of other countries’ nationals be fair game? And why hasn’t the coalition government done something decisive to end the harassment? Do they approve of such heavy-handedness? How many people must die before the UKBA is finally brought to book, and its officers prosecuted? In case you didn’t know, the guardian reported here that detainees at Yarl’s Wood immigration centre were ‘facing sexual abuse’, with guards preying on isolated women at the institution (which is run by Serco), and orchestrating a cover-up. How bad can it get?

Nelson Mandela once said that “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity. To impose on them a wretched life of hunger and deprivation is to dehumanise them.”  In other words, such treatment simply means the victims are being stripped of their humanity; deeply ingrained in the persecutor’s head is the notion that the persecuted are not humans (or are lesser humans). Precisely the very same type of racist ideology that was partially responsible for apartheid, slavery and the holocaust.

Just because it’s happening to a non-white non-British national, does it mean that abuse, cruelty, force, harassment, mental torture, murder and other evils are justified?

Would the British authorities (let alone the officers responsible for these crimes) be happy or content if in quid pro quo fashion, British nationals abroad (there are 5 million of them living outside the UK) were treated inhumanely in the same manner that the UKBA (and its associate agencies) treats migrants here in the UK?

I think not. I think if you showed the majority of British subjects living abroad how migrants are treated by the UKBA, and asked them what they think of the practices, and whether it would be fair game for the authorities in the country in which they are living in to treat them in a similar or identical manner, most would be appalled by the UKBA’s conduct and would not be happy to be treated anything like it.

Someone needs to inject some common sense into this madness…

To some christians in pentecostal and other churches, the UK Border Agency is the very embodiment of Satan, his machinery, the officers – employees of organisations such as Serco and G4S (which have been implicated in numerous heinous scandals [see here, here, here and here]), possessed by his demons.

To aggrieved intellectuals, the UKBA are Neo Nazis, similar in manner to the Gestapo; they are the 21st century’s version of the Ku klux Klan. If their behaviour is anything to go by, there is certainly a case that they have crossed the line, especially with reports (After Serco, what rights do asylum seekers have in detention?) that a manual that authorised guards to use force to incapacitate detainees (including to kick, punch and target pressure points on detainees)  was as recently as last year still in use.

Some say the UKBA is just a money-making scheme (see here , here and here[UK Border agency accused of charging excessive fees for visas – made £225 million PROFIT in 2012]); a profiteering scam with government blessings designed to suck money from already impoverished foreigners (and from wealthy ones); an institutional conduit of funds and a modern-day servitude for the deprivation of foreign nationals. As someone who has had to dish out over £10,000 (a sum that at the time would have completely wiped away all my family’s debts) for one visa or another (including exorbitant solicitors fees), I agree with this allegation to a great extent, and to be honest I’m a little bitter about having had to pay so much. Especially since a lot of that money was paid by my mother, a single parent who at over 60 years of age still had to work (while I was unemployed).

But if you are prepared to use force and even go as far as kill innocent people, to enforce your oppressive laws, what’s a mere low-level scam that causes untold financial hardship?

And this ‘scam’ didn’t start just yesterday. As far back as 2006, some rational people were already questioning the UKBA visa fees policy, with one account in the Financial Times here, stating:

“Students who need visas will already be paying much higher tuition fees than British and other European Union students. If it is argued that if you can afford the tuition fees you can afford the visa fees, a thoroughly incorrect attitude is revealed.

Are we trying to drive away students in need of visas? The visa service is said to be largely self-financing, a typically short-sighted arrangement that ignores the external benefits of accessible visa fees.”

And somehow, despite the complaints against the UKBA, there is nothing wrong with all this, apparently….??

Further, you rarely hear any of their ill-treatment of innocent people in the mainstream media, especially on Tv, which to me is highly suspicious. With the exception of a few bold publications (see Guardian report here) and specialist publications such as New Statesman, which has a story (published March 2013) titled “The UK Border Agency: after four years, a car crash in slow motion finally comes to a stop“, that includes the paragraphs:

“..But incompetence is one thing – cruelty quite another. The fact the new body was kept at arm’s length lead Theresa May to conclude it had created a “closed, secretive and defensive” culture. Staff from sub-contractor Reliance were transporting Roseline Akhalu when she ended up pissing all over herself because she wasn’t allowed to use a toilet. Staff from Tascor – which superceded Reliance – allegedly beat Marius Betondi and broke his nose during a failed deportation attempt. That was one of thousands of distressing cases, the product of a system in chaos.

The failure to prosecute G4S staff over the death of Jimmy Mubenga has been described as “perverse” by the former Chief Inspector of Prisons. Just as it failed to protect victims of torture, so the system failed to protect victims of slavery. The right-wing Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) found a litany of flaws in UKBA’s procedures and concluded that “too often the CSJ has been told that UKBA involvement in the . . .  process acts as a major barrier to victims [of slavery] to make a referral.”…

When a reckless banker misuses the funds of his bank, leading to loss of millions of pounds, it is reported as news, often with glee. When a sea creature is washed up on a beach, the story is reported, even the polar bear cub Knut (who sadly died 2 years ago) received so much publicity!

Is the media saying that such ill-treatment of innocent people (who are HUMANS) as reported in the articles above is not newsworthy?? Or is something more sinister going on?

The way I see it, the silence of large media houses suggests either an indifference (in the same way as Hitler was initially tolerated before everybody realised [rather late] he was pure filth and evil) by the media to atrocious treatment of migrant by UKBA (i.e. we don’t think it’s news) – a massive miscalculation and a failure of judgement; or the silence suggests complicity (i.e. let them get on with it, somebody has got to do it).

In addition, you rarely hear of anyone white, especially from non-EU countries such as Australia, New Zealand, the US or even countries such as Israel being mistreated or harassed?? In the 11 years that I have been living in Britain, and following these issues, I’ve never read a single report of people from these countries being a victim. Instead by far the majority of those who are victimized by what is by all appearances a Neo Nazi fascist organisation are Black Africans, Afro-Caribbeans, Arabs or Asians, which is appalling and quite shameful in a post-apartheid post-slavery 21st century.

It doesn’t speak well at all of Britain’s race relations, or indeed its Human Rights record.

So, given the material I possessed, part of the reason I hesitated in writing this article is because I was still trying to resolve my thoughts and feelings regarding what my true position on the topic was.

And since its pretty clear that there was nothing positive about the Nazi’s, I’m struggling to find anything positive about the UK Border Agency.

Also, the fact that the topic was too broad and requiring formal research didn’t make it easy. Add to that the many facets deserving consideration, the history, multiple implications for the lives of tens of people I know and thousands I don’t know, and the picture couldn’t be fuzzier. That was until a couple of months ago, when a friend told me of his ordeal, which although not as heart wrenching as some of the above cases, demonstrates that the problem is not only in the UK, and even when you have legal status, if you are an ethnic minority, discrimination is everywhere.

Good friend A lives in England with his family (a wife and 3 young kids – the oldest is 6), and has a good job. ‘Good job’ meaning he’s in a managerial position with 8 people below him and earns a good salary. He lives in a 4 bedroom house, and has some savings. Good friend A regularly supports at least 5 relatives back in Africa from his salary (almost every month). I know all this because he told me. He holds a Malawian passport and has travelled extensively over the last 10 years or so, to Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and other European countries. Recently he wanted to attend a 2 day music festival in a European country with his family. Having made his visa application, showing the festival tickets which costed him around €200 in total, the officials at this country’s embassy in London told him to book his hotel, which he did, spending an additional €200 even when he didn’t know when they would issue the visa, and therefore when he would travel. Then, just before the weekend of the event (and too late for him to cancel his hotel) they requested that he submit additional documents, even when he had supplied everything that was stipulated on both their website and their application forms. Then he went for the interview at the embassy, to find staff who were so haughty, condescending and disparaging, he came out feeling disgusted.  Suffice to say, he missed his festival, and €500 (including the cost of the visa and trip to the embassy) went down the drain.

I’d love to say that there is no racial discrimination in the immigration system, but I’m afraid as all the above demonstrates I can’t. There are too many stories like those above – whose victims are ethnic minorities – which suggests otherwise.

If you look across Europe, just as its undeniable that there has been an increase in ‘hostilities’ against muslims (another type of largely baseless discrimination), there’s an ‘anti-immigrant wave’ blowing across the continent, in France, Sweden, and other countries, and a large part of that wave is directed towards non-white, non-european migrants from outside the EU.

But I’m not saying that there are no other aspects of immigration worth considering. It is perfectly clear that not everybody can live in Europe, or America, or Canada or Australia, for all sorts of reasons (and I’m going to outline them in my next post), but to exclude and discriminate against people robotically on the basis of their race and nationality is in my view simply wrong. To use force to wreck lives without a basis is inexcusable, to harass people who have a genuine case is atrocious, to kill innocent people or separate families is a criminal act.

In addition, I’m concerned that very few people are prepared to ask, why are all these people wanting to live here, and not in their own countries, what is happening in their own countries that’s causing them to want to live here?

And predictably with such pressure and harassment some people get desperate, and in an attempt to stay in the country from which they are being threatened with removal utilise every means possible, from fake passports to shady lawyers. The effect, it diminishes the credibility in the genuine cases of other migrants such that everyone is viewed with suspicion.

And because usually with such stories, people have had some extremely bad and painful experiences, emotions run high, and some can be dismissive. One friend recently declared:- “the west pillaged resources from other continents, and then created a ‘apartheid’ immigration system, a walled fortress to keep out everyone from the wealth that was built on the proceeds of the plunder. You see it in Canada, in Australia, in the US, in Britain and most western economies.” 

And in countries which have non-white ‘native populations’ such as Australia and the US, the parodies are never in short supply:

grg

Many years ago, I used to wonder, why some people fail to forgive. Why some people get hardened. What exactly is happening in their hearts? Why can’t they just let things go? For example why is retaliation the song of the day between Israel and Palestine? Why can’t one of them say,

Look we’ve caused each other too much pain already, enough lives have been lost, enough is enough, this has got to stop. This ends now.”

I couldn’t understand it. Then recently, while doing research for this article, that led me to places where I heard views from many people who have been affected by the Immigration system in the UK, I began to see it, I began to realise that sometimes, undue persecution, institutional harassment and violation can run so deep, and the unhealed wounds can continue to be painful after so many years, and be so many of them, such that forgiveness is impossible. It appears like one can literally lose the capacity to forgive. In such out of control circumstances, I can imagine why an eye truly and only calls for another eye.

Similar links

Where is Africa’s manufacturing?

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I prefer to ask (and answer) the above question, that references to the ‘stage’ or ‘point’ (not physical location) when asked ‘Why is Africa not manufacturing?’ . I’ve been asked this question so many times, by people beffudled as to how Africa pretty much fails where everybody else has succeeded. The reason I prefer to answer the above question is because unlike popular belief Africa is in fact manufacturing, just not as much as everyone else, and just not always visibly (you don’t hear these stories on Tv, and they are rarely in the mainstream media publications – unless you read FT – although that’s arguably not mainstream)

Similar to the questions of manufacturing is that of whether the skills for the establishment of a bigger manufacturing sector are readily available for investors to tap into?

KiZerbo200

I’ll start with the bad news:- If the skills are available on the continent, then as things stand, they are in severe shortage and are not really of African origin. According to research from OECD [see BBC link here], by the end of this decade (emphasis required, that’s by 2020) 4 of every 10 young graduate is going to be either from India or China. Looking at the list of countries listed, not even a single one is an African country. What does that say? Well, a number of things; that we are not producing enough graduates, or that the number of African graduates with skill sets (and of a high calibre) who can compete with their contemporaries from Chinese and Indian universities is comparatively insignificant. Which is worrying, because it essentially means Africa’s manufacturing is nowhere, or only material if driven and held together by non-African effectors.

In the past the Education of Africans has received very little support from those who should know better. Most dictators who took over from the colonialists did too little to maintain the standard and level of Education (or Higher Education) across Africa, focussing instead of consolidating their rule. With a few exceptions, multiparty governments that came after dictatorships followed suit, by not investing anywhere near enough as was necessary. The donors that were bed-fellows with the dictators (and those that came after) arguably weren’t as sympathetic or visionary. According to an ESSA paper (quoted in this paper titled “THE ROLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION IN AFRICA” by Prof.Dr.Birgit Brock-Utne of the Institute for Educational Research at the University of Oslo) the World Bank once viewed Higher Education in Africa as a luxury:

“To meet minimally acceptable targets for coverage and quality of lower levels of education in most countries, as a general rule the tertiary sub sector’s share of stagnant real public education expenditures cannot expand further, and in some cases may have to contract. Some combination of efficiency improvements, increased private contribution to costs, and constrained growth of – in some countries and fields, outright cutback in – production of graduates must be sought.” (World Bank 1988: 95)

Expenditure on education was merely a self-serving budgetary exercise, and it didn’t matter what the result was, or whether indeed Africa would be ‘left-behind’ as a direct consequence of the under-investment, what mattered was only that money had been saved.

Without research into what their policy position currently is, I wouldn’t be able to tell you whether this view has changed or not.

Investors with the means have been to put it mildly, shy of investing on the continent let alone into skills development. A paper by a researcher named Paul Bennell which addresses the issue of whether structural adjustments programs ( these are those stringent rules imposed on African countries as part of loan agreements from the likes of IMF and World Bank) over a 15 year period have indeed achieved the desired response (i.e. increasing foreign investment in the hope of triggering technology transfer from the industrialized countries to Africa) paints a depressing picture. To quote Bennell (via this link):

Surprisingly, the share of net earnings from UK manufacturing investments in Africa remitted each year to the UK was higher than the global average between 1985 and 1990 . . . While UK companies have been keen to reinvest very sizable proportions of their profits in North America, Europe and Asia, investment opportunities in manufacturing have generally been very limited in Africa and thus, given the option, most parent companies would like to remit the bulk of subsidiary profits from the region

In other words, Africa was where you went to make your money, and not a place to reinvest your profits.

But it isn’t all bad news.

Recently, the African Development Bank’s (AfDB) approved a US$ 45 million grant for the creation of a Pan African University (PAU) that will consist of five Pan African Institutes focussing mainly on science, technology and innovation. The background to the story reads:

Africa has only 35 scientists and engineers per million inhabitants, compared with 168 for Brazil, 2,457 for Europe and 4,103 for the United States. Shortage of skills has been a major constraint to Africa’s progress in science, technology and innovation. Due to low investment in research and development, Africa ranks low in global competitiveness and productivity. African students tend to opt for economics, business, law and social sciences rather than science, engineering and technology, hampering the continent’s competitiveness and growth. The result is a mismatch between skills produced and private sector jobs.

While one would hope this initiative will be a success, and the Institutes will not falter under the common problems that beset universities and research institutions across much of Africa, it will be interesting to see how this develops.

As is well understood universally, innovation is the lifeblood of industry, and without the creation of ground-breaking and new products,  a country cannot advance or gain a competitive advantage. It was the case during the industrial revolution, during the rise of countries such as Germany, Russia, Japan and even Brazil. The exception (only to an extent) to this rule appears to be China, but that’s for a whole load of other reasons that distinguish it from the rest of mankind

But as the African Development Bank correctly observed above, in order to create ground-breaking innovations and products, and in order to influence global scientific research and technology, you need a skilled workforce. That’s why  the AfDB initiative represents a realignment of Africa’s potential in the right direction.

Across Africa, there are many success stories that are truly inspirational, although as i stated above, these are not shouted about in the mainstream media. One such inspirational story is that of Fabrinox, a south African company manufacturing sheet metal that was formed in 1993, and that has seen turnover in recent years hit US$5.8 million. Asked what had been the best decision he had made to grow his company, the company founder says:

To have followed the advice of my business mentor Johan Beyers to not restrict Fabrinox and its people to one geographical area, product or service, but to take a global view in running the business. For instance, it means that we think globally in terms of our supply chain, and are most willing to service clients beyond the boundaries of the Western Cape province in which we are located, and South Africa for that matter.

In addition to such success stories, there are also many partnerships between foreign manufacturers and agricultural producers across Africa, and some of those partnerships are genuinely beneficial to Africans. Who knows maybe some of these could one day pave way for an African manufacturing industry of its own, if some haven’t began to do so already? After all, manufacturing in industries such as motorcycle build and assembly in China began when after purchasing equipment from Japan, the Chinese assemblers began to modify the Japanese made components; fast forward a couple of decades, and China was making its own motorcycles which essentially were improvements (i.e. “innovations” more or less) of the original Japanese models.

The partnerships article above correctly points out that:

The level of mechanisation in African farming is still very low. Kenya had 25 tractors per 100 square kilometres of arable land in 2009 while Nigeria has almost seven, according to the most recent data from World Bank. That compares with an average of 271 machines in the US.

There are also some manufacturers who are looking towards Africa not because it’s ideal, but because they are getting sick and tired of the happenings in Asia (workplace safety that in recent years has become a major issue, levels of corruption, the increasing fees demanded by some factory owners, etc)

But before anybody gets too excited, look, the Chinese are planning on setting up shop in Africa! (see here and here). Although here one must wonder, does that mean Chinese labour (as they have been known to do in some African countries across the continent) or will these factories use African labour?

As for the power that will drive everything and get every bit of machinery working (in some countries – putting an end to years of intermittent blackouts), that’s about to get much more exciting. At least that’s what Obama seems to be saying.

Global 100 Voices: No 7 (Part 1)

My next guest is a true son of Malawi and a businessman who has done remarkably well for himself and his family. Based in South Africa, he is the founder and CEO of the Ulalo Group of companies, who have operations in South Africa, Malawi and China. He has a great desire to see Malawi and Malawians advance, grow and become economically independent, and I must say his experience in this regard is something we can all learn from. Mr Joshua Chisa Mbele, thank you for doing the 100 Voices interview.

[Note- this particular interview is a transcription of an audio file which will be available from this website soon]

Thank you very much for having me, my name is Joshua, Joshua Mbele, a Malawian by birth, I come from Salima, I’ve stayed in South Africa for almost 24 years, I’m married here, I have got kids, here, I have got businesses here and also in Malawi, I also have operations in China. I came to South Africa in 1989 or somewhere there, to seek I’d say I was an ‘economic refugee’; I was looking for greener pastures. Coming in 1980’s early 90’s it was not easy to settle in South Africa as you can imagine, it was a white South Africa, but I tried my luck, and persisted, buried my ways and settled, that’s the background. In terms of Malawi, I went to Robert Blake sec school, I went to Malawi Polytechnic to do Mechanical Engineering, and then I came here both to work and to pursue education. Today I am a fully fledged business person. As I indicated, I do have businesses in Malawi, I think if I’m not mistaken, I was the first Malawian who took hard-cash in terms of US$4 million then to invest in Malawian telecommunication industry, I have also invested in other sectors of the economy, we hold shares in Sunbird hotels, we hold shares in Mpico, we also hold shares in other sectors of interest and are still looking for opportunities in Malawi. Thank you.

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1.     As a Malawian, how important is Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability to you and your family?

The socio-economic stability of Malawi to me is of paramount importance. As you know that the building blocks of the society is a family, that’s the root. Now, where there is economic havoc, you have unstable family structures. To have a stable economy also stabilises family lifestyles. A family which is skilled, which has got a father and a mother as professionals, which can send their kids to school and educate them adequately, which can put food at the table every evening, it means that it has got a more meaningful role to play in the economy, an active family is a productive family. A productive family is part of a productive community, it’s part of a productive society, and the two, the productive society and social economic environment of the country, the stability of it are integral to each other, so it is very important that we stabilise both the social and political environment in Malawi. For me as a family person and as a business person those are fundamentals that we need most.

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?

Well, that’s very true…in chatting with my friends; I normally refer to myself as a founding father, to the amusement of many, what I mean by that, not that I founded the Malawi nation,  but I try to say that I was born just before the dawn of independent Malawi, because I was born in 1964, I’m as old as Malawi itself. Now, I know for sure that I have grown up seeing Malawi, we’ve grown up together I’d say so, from the dawn of the independence, Malawi made quite a lot of significant inroads, or there was significant tangible development so to speak, just to give you brief outline of that, since 1964, Malawi embarked on to be an agricultural country and Dr Banda established so many farms, tobacco, maize, cotton. We already had the established tea industries in Thyolo and Mulanje, and he went on to plant the forestry, you remember the Chikangawa forestry in the North, and not only that, he revamped what was then Farmers Marketing Board (FMB), into a corporate commercial ‘ADMARC’, which was there to serve both the growers and the market. It was the meeting point. And in terms of the infrastructure, things do speak for themselves. We upgraded what was the colonial rail from Luchenza, Nsanje, Blantyre, Salima, and later on, it was extended from Salima to Lilongwe and Mchinji under the Malawi Canada project. And also from Machinga, going out to Mozambique to Nacala port. We also had the development of the lakeshore road, not forgetting the Kamuzu International Airport. We should also not forget that Malawi established its own University of Malawi with the constituencies of Chancellor College, Bunda College, Kamuzu college of Nursing, Malawi Polytechnic  and he also planned for school of Medicine; those were Dr. Banda’s plans, not to mention the movement of the capital from Zomba to Lilongwe, to centralise administration. But, after 1994, the advent of the multiparty democracy, which I welcomed so much, to some extent we downplayed the development that we had, we did not insist to maintain the momentum of development, it seems that we threw away the bucket together with the dirty water, because we slowed down, from 94 to-date, very small tangible infrastructure projects that have taken place, compared to what Malawi achieved, from 64 to 1994, so there was progress during the era of the Dr. Banda and we have slowed down in development, even the quality of education has gone down, so  those are some of the areas that we need to look at very carefully; we can look at the congestion on the roads, roads with potholes, we can look at the dilapidated universities and schools, we can talk of the empty hospitals without medications, the clinics … up to now Malawians do not have continuous supply of electricity, not everybody has got access to clean running water. These are the basics that we should have had by now 50 years down the line, but we are still struggling, even worse we have fallen behind with our agricultural outputs, we are now a begging nation, no longer self-sufficient.

3. In view of those challenges, what do you think is the role of government and the people in tackling those challenges?

That’s a good question. I would start by saying that first, I’m not a public administrator but I would try as much as I can to define the role of the government from my personal perspective, experience as a citizen, and also experience as a business person. The government is there to take care of the social welfare of anybody that lives in the land, take care of the environment, okay; Now with that in mind, we need to bear that the first and foremost the duty of the government is to uplift the lives of its citizens; how can the government do that? That is by putting economic policies, okay, based on stable political environment, to make sure that there is tangible progress in the economy, because economy governs everybody, it also governs politics of the day; if we’ve got policies that are conducive for economic growth, the multiply effect is shared benefits for everybody, now the government role in this regard is to facilitate progress, prosperity and development; in our case to make sure that policies are in place that invites and ‘water’ the development of businesses from ‘nobody’ into ‘smaller businesses’, ‘smaller businesses’ into ‘medium businesses’, ‘medium businesses’ into bigger businesses’, that should be the trick; Private public partnership another aspect, where the government invites the private sector and say: look, these are the sectors that we would like to develop, it’s not the duty of the government alone, we want the private sector to come and join hands, here is an axe, lets join hands, so that we mobilise resources jointly and tackle the challenge together, so that we realise the benefit as a nation.

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4. As someone who has lived outside Malawi for a few years and has been exposed to modern and progressive ideas, what things in your present country of residence have had the greatest impact on you, and why?

Yes, that is very true, just a bit of a background; That as much as I’ve stayed in South Africa for so long, but I’ve reached South Africa as a spring-board. My profession took me from working for one big company to another big company; with this I had an opportunity in my areas where I worked with BHP Billiton, BHP Billiton is the largest mining company under the sun. And with them I travelled to countries and worked in those countries, for example I worked in Belgium and France, to master the aluminium technology with the Pechney company for their latest technologies, and I worked in Kwazulu-Natal for that. After that I left South Africa and went to the US to pursue some of my ambitions, so I know what life looks like in the US, I was in Miami for some time, and I commuted between Miami and Atlanta, Georgia.  But when I delved into my private business, I did consulting, in my consulting field I worked for telecommunication industries; I worked for companies like MTN South Africa, MTN Nigeria and I also worked for companies that develop the software, I happen to also work with that company in Athens, to do the Application developments for telecommunication industries, so I have seen quite a lot, I have absorbed a lot, to observe how ‘catchers’, and ordinary citizens behaviour to influence the economic development. Today I am in China, I understand where China is coming from. In 1949 it was the poorest, today it is the second largest economy under the sun. What is it that other nations are doing that we are not doing?  First and foremost is the access to skills, if we cannot develop our own skills, forget about any development, secondly innovation, creativity, skills development as a priority in whatever we do. We must re-align our educational curriculum to our prerogatives as to where we want to take the country in the next 20, 30 years; science and technology, very important; we cannot do anything without such skills.  Now, my observation is that we are lacking behind because we still believe in the ‘I am going to school so that I can be employed as a manager, as a supervisor, I’m hoping to be appointed as a CEO’ No! Each one of us, every Malawian is a CEO in his or her own right. If anybody [among] us has a hunger to succeed, we should be able to create our own jobs, and employ others. Examples are there in China, China is a thriving economy, it is solidly built on small businesses, of course there are big businesses [in china]; look at Brazil, look at India, you know, there is no major intellectual difference between them and us, it’s simply the attitude, we can be just like any other nation, which was once the poorest and today is one of the most successful. Just in History, just to compare Apples with Apples, Malawi and Singapore in 1964 were in the same basket; President Lee and President Banda were friends. Actually Lee visited Dr Banda in Malawi, in his book he (Lee) said [something in the lines of]: ‘One of my best friends which I visited was a country that was also under the British rule, Malawi’…the difference between Singapore and Malawi was the attitude of the citizens and commitment to develop themselves, long-term plans, long –term strategies, today Singapore is a first world [country], Malawi still remains the poorest under the sun, so the attitude, the drive from the government, skills development, access to resources, partnership, those things are key to take the country forward.

more-art golf early days

5.  When you last visited Malawi, what struck you the most as the greatest sign of improvement or development?

I go to Malawi very often, as I indicated that I do have businesses in Malawi so almost every year; in the recent past I used to go to Malawi almost every other month. I’ve seen the change of guards from the UDF government, 2004, to Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika, I must say I recommended him, he started very well, he did quite a lot of good work, he improved the road networks in the country, he had his own vision and I recommended him, I complimented him, you might be interested to know that I had a meeting with Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika on the 20th August 2007 at the state house, where he narrated his vision for Malawi by heart, which road will be linking which one, what building will be wherethe expanding of  Lilongwe capital city reaching the frontiers of the Kamuzu Central Hospital, creating the five-star hotels, building the new stadia,  the highways, I was very impressed, and true to that word, when you go to Malawi today, the skyline of Lilongwe has changed, you cannot miss the Malawi parliament, you cannot miss the five-star hotels, you cannot miss the convention centre, you cannot miss the road, the presidential drive that takes you from the city centre to area 18, the roundabout, it’s quite beautiful. And the roads connecting the other rural areas, Chitipa, Karonga road is there, in the south there are a number of roads going from Blantyre to Mulanje…, those are developments that happened under his first term of office. But as usual, things changed, things changed for the worse, apparently he decided also to reward himself, so what was intended for Malawi became for himself, and things went wrong I must say and its only today that we realise to what extent things went wrong, but he started very well, there is evidence to that, but unfortunately, it wasn’t like that at the end.

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5b. I note that in your description of your encounter with the late Bingu Wa Mutharika, you haven’t touched on anything to do with industrialisation – did Bingu’s plan have anything to do with increasing Malawi’s industrial output?]

I’m here to make an honest and objective assessment. If Dr Bingu drove his vision, the way he articulated everything, in the earlier days of his presidency, he was on the road to achieve that. What happened later on is that when things started going wrong, companies that were supposed to expand or small businesses that were supposed to grow were wiped out, one, It was difficult for people to have access to Forex to import machinery or to import raw materials, but most importantly, he played a cronyism card such that only those connected to his regime were developing; Now, you cannot develop a country based on family framework, or friends framework, it doesn’t work.

[Part B coming soon]

100 Voices is a collection of reflections, views, opinions, ideas and thoughts by Malawians across the world, regarding the past, present and future of Malawi.

Global 100 Voices: No 6

My next guest is a good friend who I have known for just over 13 years now. He’s a Malawian businessman who currently is the manager of Phalombe Hardware in Limbe. Mr Ibrahim Nathanie, thank you very much for taking the time to do the 100 Voices interview.

IbrahimNathanie

farmers

  1. As a Malawian, how important is Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability to you and your family?

As a Malawian, Malawi’s socio economic stability is very important. I am a fourth generation Malawian and all my immediate family has been born and bred in Malawi. We have businesses running in Malawi that have recently struggled when dollars were scarce, fuel queues were rife and inflation was high. Things have now stabilised and as a result business is slowly improving. When things are not stable it directly affects how I can provide for my family.

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?

Since independence there has been progress in a few areas. For example we have now more graduates in various fields than we had then, more hospitals, more hotels. However, a lot of the progress mentioned has been donor funded.

Our pressing challenge is to try to reduce our dependence on being donor funded. One way this can be made possible is to take advantage of the natural beauty and fertile land we have in Malawi. Government has to improve infrastructure and provide incentives to the tourism industry. Improve airports, improve electricity generation.

ibs      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?

I studied in London, and a major symbol of development that had an impact on me was the transport facilities. As a student I could catch a bus or train and travel throughout London and not be dependent on anyone.

Another thing I thought was quite impressive was the NHS (Although I know the British people don’t think it is). Although, I have never had to use the service while I was studying; coming from Malawi I found it very impressive that anyone living in the UK has access to free hospital care.

    4.  What lessons do you think Malawians and the Malawian leadership can learn from those ideas?

Malawi and its leaders really need to look at ways to improve our transport sector. We need to improve our rail link and our airports. We need to break the monopoly South African Airways has on the Malawian market. For example if I wanted to fly Johannesburg from Blantyre it would cost me 450,000 MWK (~£859). If I wanted to fly from Johannesburg to London it would cost me the same. Surely government should realise that they need to open up the skies so that there is competition in aviation field and that potential tourists are not priced out of coming to Malawi.

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?

When I returned to Malawi in 2006 , the greatest sign of improvement was the opening up of banks and businesses in rural trading areas such as Mangochi, Balaka, Dedza, Ntcheu, Mulanje, etc.

“For example how can employees at the National Food Reserve Agency fail to realise that a silo had a leak. If this happened in the UK the guy who was responsible would have resigned. “

    6. What struck you the most as the biggest sign of stagnation or regression?

The fact that I had to use a paper driving licence for a year as Road Traffic had run of cards to print them on. The fact that nobody in the government is being held accountable for wrongs being done. For example how can employees at the National Food Reserve Agency fail to realise that a silo had a leak. If this happened in the UK the guy who was responsible would have resigned.

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?

I find the work that Joyce Banda has done in the short time she has been president is commendable. There is now forex in Malawi, no shortage of goods and no fuel queues. My only criticism of her presidency is that she has not taken any active steps to reduce our dependency on foreign aid.

I would vote for Joyce Banda but would advise her to introduce incentives for investors to come and invest in Malawi. Provide incentives for our farmers to add value to their crop before exporting their crop. For example instead of Malawi importing cigarettes we should encourage cigarette companies to come and open manufacturing plants in Malawi.

factory

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?

Tourism sector really needs to be exploited, you only have to look at how Zambia and Kenya are benefitting from exposing themselves to the rest of the world. We are blessed with beauty that is unmatched in the world; we however are not blessed with people in power who can see this.

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They need to build international airports at the lake, and domestic airports dotted along the lake shore. We need to attract tourists who actually spend money in Malawi not just back packers who are looking to get stoned on Malawi Gold (On a side note we could actually legalize the export of marijuana and rake in substantial forex). We need to reduce the cost of coming to Malawi. I gave an example earlier of how expensive it is for us to fly to Johannesburg.

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?

To be honest I feel we have already progressed from this relationship. The donors are in love with the donors.

Without a doubt we have to reduce our dependence on the donors as we all know it’s a vicious cycle. It is not in their interest for Malawi to be self-sufficient; as if we were they could not enforce their views and western cultures upon us.

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?

The people in charge in my opinion have done nothing with regards to managing our resources. This is evident in that Paladin got a great deal from the government for our uranium???

The guys in charge have to look at how Zambia is doing with it copper resources, Ghana with its oil and even other European Countries with their natural resources such as Norway to realise we have got it horribly wrong.

11. In your view, can the government do better to manage natural resources? If so, how can it do better?

Yes. Government needs to follow Norway’s example. I have copied an article that I have read recently and feel this is EXACTLY what government needs to do with our resources, in order to manage it sustainably. This article below is copied from “http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/canada-competes/what-norway-did-with-its-oil-and-we-didnt/article11959362/

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“When oil was discovered in the Norwegian continental shelf in 1969, Norway was very aware of the finite nature of petroleum, and didn’t waste any time legislating policies to manage the new-found resource in a way that would give Norwegians long-term wealth, benefit their entire society and make them competitive beyond just a commodities exporter.
“Norway got the basics right quite early on,” says John Calvert, a political science professor at Simon Fraser University. “They understood what this was about and they put in place public policy that they have benefited so much from.”
This is in contrast to Canada’s free-market approach, he contends, where our government is discouraged from long-term public planning, in favour of allowing the market to determine the pace and scope of development.
“I would argue quite strongly that the Norwegians have done a much better job of managing their [petroleum] resource,” Prof. Calvert says.
While No. 15 on the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness rankings, Norway is ranked third out of all countries on its macroeconomic environment (up from fourth last year), “driven by windfall oil revenues combined with prudent fiscal management,” according to the Forum.
Before oil was discovered, the Act of 21 June 1963 was already in place for managing the Norwegian continental shelf. This legislation has since been updated several times, most recently in 1996, now considered Norway’s Petroleum Act, which includes protection for fisheries, communities and the environment.
In 1972, the government founded the precursor of Statoil ASA, an integrated petroleum company. (In 2012, Statoil dividends from government shares was $2.4-billion). In the same year, the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate was also established, a government administrative body that has the objective of “creating the greatest possible values for society from the oil and gas activities by means of prudent resource management.”
In 1990, the precursor of the Government Pension Fund – Global (GPFG), a sovereign wealth fund, was established for surplus oil revenues. Today the GPFG is worth more than $700-billion.
While there’s no question that Norway has done well from its oil and gas, unlike many resource-based nations, Norway has invested its petro dollars in such a way as to create and sustain other industries where it is also globally competitive.
The second largest export of Norway is supplies for the petroleum industry, points out Ole Anders Lindseth, the director general of the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy in Norway.
“So the oil and gas activities have rendered more than just revenue for the benefit of the future generations, but has also rendered employment, workplaces and highly skilled industries,” Mr. Lindseth says.
Maximizing the resource is also very important.
Because the government is highly invested, (oil profits are taxed at 78 per cent, and in 2011 tax revenues were $36-billion), it is as interested as oil companies, which want to maximize their profits, in extracting the maximum amount of hydrocarbons from the reservoirs. This has inspired technological advances such as parallel drilling, Mr. Lindseth says.
“The extraction rate in Norway is around 50 per cent, which is extremely high in the world average,” he adds.
Norway has also managed to largely avoid so-called Dutch disease (a decline in other exports due to a strong currency) for two reasons, Mr. Lindseth says. The GPFG wealth fund is largely invested outside Norway by legislation, and the annual maximum withdrawal is 4 per cent. Through these two measures, Norway has avoided hyper-inflation, and has been able to sustain its traditional industries.
In Norway, there’s no industry more traditional than fishing.
“As far back as the 12th century they were already exporting stock fish to places in Europe,” explains Rashid Sumaila, director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.
Prof. Sumaila spent seven years studying economics in Norway and uses game theory to study fish stocks and ecosystems. Fish don’t heed international borders and his research shows how co-operative behaviour is economically beneficial.
“Ninety per cent of the fish stocks that Norway depends on are shared with other countries. It’s a country that has more co-operation and collaboration with other countries than any other country I know,” Prof. Sumaila says.
“That’s [partly] why they still have their cod and we’ve lost ours,” he adds, pointing out that not only are quotas and illegal fishing heavily monitored, policy in Norway is based on scientific evidence and consideration for the sustainability of the ecosystem as a whole.
Prof. Sumaila cites the recent changes to Canada’s Fisheries Act, as a counter-example: “To protect the habitat, you have to show a direct link between the habitat, the fish and the economy,” he says, adding, “That’s the kind of weakening that the Norwegians don’t do.”
Svein Jentoft is a professor in the faculty of Bioscience, Fisheries and Economics at the University of Tromso. He adds that Norway’s co-operative management style, particularly domestically, has been key to the continued success of the fisheries.
“The management system [for fish stock] is an outcome of the positive, constructive and trustful relationship between the industry on the one hand and the government on the other hand,” Prof. Jentoft says. “They have been able to agree on issues that you and many other countries haven’t been able to, largely because the government has listened to the fishermen.”
However, Prof. Jentoft isn’t on board with all of his government’s policies. He’s concerned about how the quota and licensing system is concentrating wealth and the impact that this will have on fishing communities.
He predicts that Norway’s wild stocks will remain healthy in the foreseeable future and that the aquaculture industry (fish farms), where Norwegians are world leaders, will continue to grow.
In 2009, Norway’s total fish and seafood export was $7.1-billion, $3.8-billion was in aquaculture. By 2011, Norwegian aquaculture exports grew to $4.9-billion. In Canada, total fish and seafood exports in 2011 were $3.6-billion, with approximately one-third from aquaculture.
Norway’s forests are another important natural resource, and its pulp-and-paper industry has many parallels to Canada’s. Both nations are heavy exporters of newsprint. With much less demand since the wide adoption of the Internet and competition from modern mills from emerging markets, both nations have suffered through down-sizing and mill closures over the past decade. Both have been looking for ways to adapt.
The Borregaard pulp and paper mill in Sarpsborg has become one of the world’s most advanced biorefineries. From wood, it creates four main products: specialty cellulose, lignosuphonates, vanillin and ethanol, along with 200 GWh a year of bioenergy.
“You have a diversified portfolio of products,” explains Karin Oyaas, research manager at the Paper and Fibre Research Institute in Trondheim. “The Borregaard mill uses all parts of the wood and they have a variety of products, so if one of the products is priced low for a few years, then maybe some of the other products are priced high.”
She feels this is a key change in direction for the industry in Norway. She doesn’t want to see the industry putting all of its eggs in one basket, as it did with newsprint.
Dr. Oyaas also thinks that rebranding the industry is key to its survival and success in Norway. The forestry industry doesn’t get the same kind of attention as the oil industry, nor does it have the high-tech image. But it is just as high-tech, and it has the bonus of being a renewable resource.
“You can make anything from the forest. You can make the same products that you can make from oil,” explains Dr. Oyaas.”

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Malawi-Norway-government-resources-industry-development-world-improve-challenges-export-dependency

12. What is your answer to increasing transparency and eradicating corruption which is plaguing most governments across Africa?

Corruption is prevalent everywhere. It is just more prevalent in Africa. The reason being is that our civil servants e.g. the cops, the guy connecting your water or ESCOM metres are not paid well enough. We need to improve wages.

Consumers also need to change the way we operate. In order to get things “done” we feel we need to bribe. This enables people who do simple things like process your driver’s license or come to inspect your imported goods being offloaded not even being shy about asking for a bribe.

I reckon we need to start with these small steps and then look at the bigger bribes.

prprty

13. Any famous last words?

I manage Phalombe Hardware in Limbe – directly opposite Standard Bank in Limbe. At the moment investing in Malawi by building a house or commercial property is the way to go. We can provide all building materials from the foundation right up to the finishing stages for your house. Please visit us on face book or email us for a quote. Phalombe@africa-online.net

Global 100 Voices is a collection of reflections, views, opinions, ideas and thoughts by Malawians across the world, regarding the past, present and future of Malawi

Global 100 Voices: No 4

My next guest is a good friend and a brother who I have known for many years. Based in London, he is a true son of Malawi, and someone who I genuinely believe has a bright future ahead of him. Yet it was only recently that I discovered just how much passion and ‘fire’ he has for Africa. Mr James Woods-Nkhutabasa, thanks for doing the Global 100 Voices Interview!

[ Brief profile: James has several years’ of communications experience working for public and private organisations, in promoting achievement in African leadership, issues concerning global governance and development. He is also one of the founding members of Diaspora Capital LLP (dCAP), a members investment club which seeks to make socially impactful investments in Africa ]
  1. As a Malawian, how important is Malawi’s Socio-Economic stability to you and your family?

I believe a socio-economic stable environment is beneficial not only for the nation only provided government can create an arena of good governance, accountability, transparency and no corruption. This is also attractive for investors.

  1. After nearly 50 years since independence, what visible progress do you think Malawi has made since independence?

The visible progress for me is that Malawi is now a democratic nation, people have more access to goods and are also more connected due to the digital revolution. On the downside Malawi is still fighting the goals set at independence and poverty levels remain high. We still have a long way to go.  Maybe regional integration is key to addressing this weakness through the delivery of wider social and economic benefits that would benefit the country and drive its development further. We need to stop thinking of Malawi as a single unit but think of it as a major part of the remaining 53 nations on the continent. Only then will we sing our success story. But we need to get our house in order first.

recycleds      3. In your view, what pressing challenges remain and what should Malawi aspire towards?

Malawi, similarly to other African countries is facing major corruption issues and a lack of good governance. Our parliament is also filled with recycled politicians – what I aptly name – ‘The Kamuzu/Muluzi Giants’. It seems to me that our politicians change allegiances as much as they change suits. The political world, leading a nation, serving your people should be a vocation or ‘a calling’ but not a pension, as it currently seems to be for some.

Malawi should aim to be a success story in good governance.

  1. In view of those challenges, what do you think is the role of government in tackling those challenges?

Create an environment of patriotism, transparency and competence. The government needs to remember that they are there to serve their people: men, women and children and thus to run the country accordingly as it is their responsibility. We need strong leadership and this can be achieved collectively, through government and civil society. Malawi needs an enlightened and dedicated sort of leadership that looks forward and not backward. Most importantly get the right sort of people involved in government.

  1. As someone who has lived outside Malawi for several years and hopefully been exposed to modern and progressive ideas, what things in your country of residence have had the greatest impact on you, and why?

The competitive work ethic and drive that people have in London is absolutely brilliant. People have the desire and resilience to achieve the best possible outcome. This has taught me to continuously improve to keep up with this ‘rat race’ and be able to be significant in the growth and development of the nation.

  1. What lessons do you think Malawians and the Malawian leadership can learn from those ideas?

Malawi has extremely bright individuals who can contribute great things for the nation. The leadership needs to promote an open society – welcoming of all and not based on ethnicity, tribe or social standing, but instead on what you can offer to drive forward development.

  1. If you have recently visited Malawi, what struck you most as the greatest sign of improvement or development?

The amount of women and youth trying to make a living through a business; truly inspiring to see the entrepreneurial spirit and a can-do attitude, be it selling vegetables on the side of the road to managing small wholesalers. It is really amazing at how they have adopted technology such as the use of mobile phones to sell and place orders. This has inspired me.

  1. What struck you most as the biggest sign of stagnation or regression?

I believe the lack of good educational standards and opportunities have really been under-played. Youth are the future of Malawi, the leaders of tomorrow; they are being frustrated by the lack of opportunities and a lack good of education. These youth can be a curse or a blessing and rather sadly it has been a curse on the nation with increased criminal activity. If we do not invest in the youth and create jobs how are we to have a good future? Without the right investment we will continue to face the same problems of corruption, poor leadership and bad governance.

  1. Malawians will be going to the polls in 2014, to elect a president. In your view what kind of leader does Malawi NEED, considering the country’s current challenges?

I think we need a bit of the positive characteristics that our past and present leaders have shown but most importantly we need a leader who has an entrepreneurial spirit, a socio-entrepreneurial impactful spirit. We as African’s are natural-born entrepreneurs…we need a leader who will use an entrepreneurial approach to create sustainable development and leadership in so doing promoting a culture of hard-working, ambitious young people to drive forward development. A leader who has innovative ideas and simply not just focussing on what has been done, but looking at what can be done. We need a leader who will deal with disparities in wealth that exist between the poor, the middle class and the rich. High on their specification will be better business and financial acumen, infrastructure, education, employment and better health services.

  1.  Specifically, how should that leader approach the top job in terms of sustainable development and reducing aid dependency?

I believe aid is still vital to Malawi for the next few years at least, but our president needs to really focus on the fruit of a stronger regional economic integration across the continent; and build economies of scale to enable Malawi and Africa to better compete in the global economy. Malawi seems to be attracting a lot of investors to the vast minerals in the country ranging from bauxite, gold, limestone (marble), monazite, niobium and uranium…then we’ve got oil and agriculture. The key aspect to ensuring the leadership moves away from aid dependency is to create a strong and efficient financial system that could support high levels of investment…also the need to eliminate the tax breaks these foreign investors have in the country as we are losing millions of US dollars annually.

Malawi can have a wonderful future. By strengthening its financial and legal systems respectively, and focusing on regional integration, Malawi has the potential to become one of Africa’s fastest growing economy by the end of this decade provided that political stability, social protection, quality education, private sector and good governance are implemented.

  1. Looking at the problems that have plagued the tobacco industry – which is our biggest source of export revenue– in recent times, what alternatives do you think Malawi has besides Tobacco, and why are they viable alternatives?

There is a major problem by relying on tobacco. Let us look at the bigger picture – tobacco farming is a major employer in Malawi where it employs 70% of the nations workforce – in terms of providing a living to the population it plays a big part.

The country does need to diversify and not only focus on tobacco as the international controls on tobacco are surely having or going to have an effect on the economy.

I think a strong emphasis should remain on agriculture produce such as tea, coffee, macadamia nuts, groundnuts, sugar, cotton, soya and timber. The potential for agribusiness is there but we need the right mentality in promoting good practice to increase efficiency and bring in investment and expertise to help scale up production but also go into agroprocessing, where higher prices for commodities can be achieved.

Infrastructure development is vital for Malawi’s economy to flourish. There is a need for better roads, airports and aviation, rail, ICT, water and sanitation.

Stronger focus on the extractive industries and corporate realisation of Malawi’s objectives in oil found in Lake Malawi. Mining currently accounts for only around 2% of GDP, with tobacco, sugar and tea remaining the main exports by value, but we all know the short and long-term potential of the mining industry if we play our cards right.

Tourism is another sector to focus on. This would bring the needed foreign exchange and foreign direct investment and importantly raise the profile of the nation as truly ‘the warm heart of Africa’. I do not know if you are aware but Malawi was recently crowned runners up in the 2012 Safari Awards “Best Africa Tourist Board” beaten by Kenya. This is definitely an important space.

12. Considering our troubled history with donors and funders such as the IMF and World Bank, how do you see Malawi progressing from this relationship in view of the criticisms these organisations have received in the media across the world?

Malawi, is still too fragile to sustain herself – as mentioned earlier I believe once the powers that be start developing the nation, attracting more investors and regional integration is in place Malawi will be on the right path to stand with the rest of Africa as partners and not rely on these international bodies.

13. How do you think the government is doing regarding managing Malawi’s natural resources?

Problems are there, such as issues to do with mining legislation. The main legislation governing mining is the Mines and Minerals Act 1981.

The Mines and Minerals Act 1981 states that companies operating in Malawi need to employ and train local staff but this is left at the discretion of the company, thus local workforce are often found to be losing out. There is lack of regulation, think of the people who are displaced by the mining companies? There is no protection for these people – regulatory framework for resettlement only requires compensation to be given for land, livestock etc…but nothing is in place to give those people back land of same quality. Most people living in villages where these mines are based do not own the land through purchase but through living there for generations thus when the mining companies come, these people are evicted and not titled to any compensation. Most importantly there is a lack of transparency – mining companies are not revealing their profits in line with expenditure and taxes. The mining companies are not required by Malawi government to reveal their spending in Malawi.  

14. Can the government do better to manage natural resources? If so how?

Government needs to address the points I’ve just raised and ensure something is done to curb this behaviour of secrecy. They need to tighten legislation, this will be achieved by revising the Mines and Mineral Act 1981 – I understand that this is being done.

15. What is your answer to increasing transparency and eradicating corruption which is plaguing most governments across Africa?

African governments need to be accountable to their citizens. The responsibility for dealing with corruption and transparency falls equally on all parties from governments and donors, to civil society and citizens. We all have to fight to ensure we can develop better leadership with the tools of good governance.

We have to remember, when we the people have information; we have the power to hold our leaders and governments accountable to improve the systems, tackle corruption and have transparency.

16. Any famous last words?

Let’s continue driving our country and continent forward. In the words of Kwame Nkrumah ‘’We face neither East nor West: we face forward’’.

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