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Individualism is retarding development

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Courtesy of my hanging out, I have had a chance to get exposed to a good number of characters in the name of human beings. I have also been exposed to different wavelength of thoughts and ideas that flows in many of these spirited skeletons heaped with all sorts of flesh, be it slim or plump.

This time around I decide to have a lone journey somewhere along this national lake called Lake Malawi. To be precise and honest, this is not an ordinary journey but one that makes the character in me become extremely ordinary.

I am at Malembo, some fishmonger haven tacked in one of the shores in Mangochi, Monkey Bay area. For once, taking advantage of some days off from my usual professional chores, I have decided to venture into fish business. I am here to buy fish to sell to my friends and neighbours in the city.

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I am doing the venture with the guidance of a longtime friend I used to know in the early days as Che Paipi. He is the one that has persuaded me that other than just using the cash I have for leisure and accompaniments, I would rather invest half of it in the fish mongering business – I fall for the bait.

The atmosphere is so extremely different to those I have hanged out. Ladies and children join the men folk in some sort of stampede that ensues each time a fish boat is docking the shores from the interior of the lake where the fishing takes place.

I hear that one cannot just come from the blues to buy fish here. What you need is to use intermediaries – these men and women by the shores – who, regardless of being without money, have already pressed orders from the fishermen.

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As we wait for the boats that my friend here has pressed orders for fish to dock, we join a group of fishmongers and fishermen, busy discussing different topics and issues in their community.

But one of the fishermen sparks some debate that has touched the raw nerves of many around.

“Why can’t you boat owners join hands and form companies so that you diversify into exporting this fish to other countries?” he asks.

Two or more adds weight to this reasoning saying fishing can be a good alternative of foreign currency earners for Malawi. They add that if the fishermen have joint ventures they would easily accumulate good working capital other than each standing individually.

But one young man around sees things in a different way. “Inu sizingatheke zimenezi, mukufuna zithumwa zawo zimenyane (This is not possible, do you want their magic charms that drive their business to clash?”

It sparks lots of laughter, but some buy his idea.

“He may be funny but he is right. We Malawians are not good at joint ventures, most of us are so selfish that we want to do things individually – actually, individualism is fast retarding development in this country,” says an old man sitting with us, later I hear his name is Che Shaibu.

Che Shaibu, maybe using his wisdom as an old man, schools us how many businesses in the country have gone bankrupt because of lack of diversity of ideas. “Joint ventures are really what can assist us to develop commercially, in whatever businesses,” he says.

“Ndiye si Malawi timayidziwayitu (then it is not the Malawi I know)! Ngati zimakanika ndale kapena mabungwe ndiye buzinesi nkutheka (If people cannot unite in parties and nongovernmental organizations, can we behave differently in the business environment)?” remarks another of the fishmongers around.

Che Shaibu pats him on the back and adds that as a nation we underplay the effects of individualism in our society and how it is chocking development growth.

He says: “A good example is why is it that a country as tiny as Malawi has over 45 political parties – for what? Again, look at the NGOs, why should we have so many of them duplicating each other’s roles? The fact is that everyone wants to be a ‘founder of something’, that is why most of our political leaders behave as if they are ‘sore proprietors’ of these parties!”

Almost all nod heads.

One joker of a fisherman adds spice to the occasion: “I buy your reasoning, it is true. It beats me for instance why each classroom in these schools of ours, in villages and towns, are on Sundays turned into churches? It shows that everyone would want to own a church of his own – so I concur with you that this spirit of individualism is bad for our nation – why can’t we have minimal parties, churches and NGO that are progressive and rally around those with proper leadership skills?

“Amen!” we all say, as ten boats dock at once, making us all rash for our orders.

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