Could Malawi’s food shortage be an opportunity?


Here is something that amazes me about my country Malawi. The people of this great nation have on several occasions shown their resilience and tenacity in difficult times. At every stage they have risen to the occasion. This is what makes me believe that with a little bit of dedicated and committed leadership (from both the ruling and opposition parties), this country can be a great nation capable of unleashing itself into a different trajectory of development.

I refuse to believe that Malawians are incapable of creating their own prosperity and cannot create a self-sustaining economy. These days we all marvel at how countries like China, Singapore, Taiwan and Rwanda are making strides towards development. Countries that one would argue were probably the same as or worse off than Malawi at the time of independence in 1964. The key ingredient in these countries was their inherent refusal to be defined by others, refusal to be slaves to the political rhetoric and international capital and a belief that they can define and control their own destiny.

This is the time to think outside the box. Take the shortage of food in Malawi and the debate on whether there is enough food in Admarc markets or not. The reasons for shortage of food are many and we can defend and make excuses but the fact is that price of maize has gone up and soon many people will not afford this life saving commodity. We can decide to make appeals to donors and others but again the fact is that they will only assist us when and if they want. A beggar has no choice. It is time for Malawians to start to contribute to the needs of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate. I know some will ask where the money come from. Here is my answer.


I have observed since 1994 when the president or the First Lady organises a fundraising for their trusts, this country suddenly is never short of money. Business people of all manner of persuasions suddenly purchase tables and tickets without any worry of the price. Some have even individually been able to donate millions of Kwachas. Private companies compete to support such events and causes and I believe they do this out of compassion.

Yet when the nation is faced with a disaster like the one at hand of impending hunger, suddenly no Malawian donates to the cause, we all believe that it is the responsibility of the donors from mostly the West who should feed our brothers and sisters. Perhaps to be fair to these good hearted Malawians, maybe we lack the mechanism to unleash their generosity during such times.

Can you imagine if the President in consultation with the leader of opposition decided to set up a committee made up of people from the different political parties, NGOs, church leaders, technocrats and said this is the “Food Shortage Response Committee of Malawi”. Let this committee have its own bank account that will be audited and transparently managed by independent accounting firms and then organise a few fundraising events, just like the ones alluded to above. I would be surprised if those that donate millions will refuse to part with millions again, otherwise we will begin to doubt their generosity and think that these donations are always for political gain. I am sure that if we as a nation did something to support ourselves then the so called donors would be even willing to complement our efforts. Am sure this would be a good start for the rebuilding of unity in dealing with common problems that transcend political boundaries.


I believe that this would be an opportunity to turn things around and sacrifice our immediate satisfaction for a greater good. A chance to re-invent Malawi and begin to create the Malawi we want but that will take all of our collective efforts and courage to ensure that never again can we allow political differences based on party affiliations to dominate the hunger debate in Malawi. Maybe it is important to finally remind our political leaders that great people are not remembered for what they did to themselves but what they did and left behind for the others.

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