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Buying Malawian products to create jobs

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By Watipaso Mzungu, Contributor:

FRANCISCO—Clusters can create jobs

Over the next two decades, 440 million young people in sub-Saharan Africa will enter the labour market looking for employment, according to the World Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture Development (Ifad).

Ironically, the majority of young people in sub-Saharan Africa are poorly educated and have low skills, and the majority live in rural areas, says Ji-Yeun Rim, project manager at the OECD’s Development Centre, based in Paris.

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“Yet rural youths have high job expectations, and they do not want to farm,” Rim told Inter Press Service (IPS) recently.

A recent OECD study on rural youth aspirations in developing countries shows that 76 percent aspire to work in high-skilled occupations but, in reality, only 13 percent are actually in such jobs.

This, therefore, calls for African states and governments, including Malawi, to find a lasting solution to the rising unemployment rates among the youth.

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Governments need to engage an extra gear to create a favourable environment for job creation to accommodate needs of the loafing youth and that of the future generation.

Zanga Community Savings and Investments Promotion (Comsip) Cluster realises that local industries can play a crucial role in the creation of jobs for the young generation while at the same time offering cheaper locally-made products to the citizens.

Thus, the cluster is taking firm steps to stop young people in the area from moving out of the farming communities to cities to seek delusional greener pastures.

“We do realise that the responsibility to create jobs for the youth cannot be left in the hands of government alone, hence we are investing in various businesses to improve the socioeconomic livelihood of the people from this area,” says Zanga Comsip Cluster chairperson, Joseph Francisco.

Zanga Comsip Cluster is in Group Village Head (GVH) Zanga under Traditional Authority (T/A) Kachindamoto in Dedza District.

It was formed out of the Social Cash Transfer Programme (SCTP) over two years ago with 106 members. Out of these members, 66 are women while the rest are men.

Francisco says the major objective of forming the grouping was to empower the membership to achieve economic independence beyond the SCTP implementation period.

Starting off with a K750, 000 capital in 2016, the group has grown its asset base to K3 million, which members have invested in two businesses.

“We have invested K1.5 million into the butchery business and the other K1.5 million has been invested in our core business of intermediation. We also plan to invest in rice production this year. Our goal is to improve the financial livelihood of residents of this area, including the younger generation,” explains Francisco.

Malawi is one of the few countries across the globe that produce high quality rice, cotton, tobacco, wheat, soya beans, sugarcane and wood, which can be exploited into valuable commodities both locally and internationally.

However, despite being producers of these raw materials, Malawi lacks capacity to add value to the same, a development which has held Malawians at the mercy of international companies to buy the produce.

And, because of this incapacity, Malawians have, year in year out, let foreign companies and processors fly in and torture them with paltry stipends in exchange for the invaluable raw materials.

One would wonder why we should be buying staples such as flour, sugar, oil, salt, toiletries and toilet tissues made from abroad when we can produce enough from our own raw materials.

But Francisco believes that, with Comsip Clusters spread across the country, Malawi could be on the path to her economic emancipation.

Of course, many Malawians have blamed absence of local companies on lack of capital. People who attempt to source capital from bank have usually complained of harsh conditions attached as a deterrent.

But Francisco argues that the major hindrance to our economic emancipation is the mindset consumers have over locally-made products.

He says most Malawians have a negative attitude towards local products, which tends to breed fear among entrepreneurs to invest.

“We, Malawians, do not support each other. That’s why even if you can open a company today, you are likely to suffer more obstacles to break through than a foreigner can,” he says.

“The biggest challenge is that most Malawians don’t take pride in things of their own products; instead, we prefer glorifying products made from outside Malawi. This is why local companies are failing to grow and over time, they fall altogether. And you know what the fall of a company entails: loss of jobs,” explains the chairperson.

He urges government to lead by example in promoting local industry by buying most of its materials from shops owned by Malawians.

“We will be investing rice production soon and we expect government to support us by buying our produce at competitive prices. Government needs to prioritise organised Comsip Clusters like ours when purchasing foodstuffs for feeding students in boarding schools. I don’t know what happened to ‘Best buy Malawian’ slogan, but if consumers can adopt this, we’ll definitely thrive in business and create more jobs for our youth,” Francisco concludes.

Consumers’ Association of Malawi Executive Director, John Kapito, urges local investors and producers to improve on quality and understand the need to satisfy consumers [change of attitude towards consumers, pricing, product guarantees and information] before criticising the consumer for not offering support.

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