By Patrick Achitabwino:
Your Excellency, you have gallantly waged a big war against underdevelopment. There are sparkling signs of remarkable achievements, most especially in infrastructure. You waged an almost impossible war in saving the economy from recession that was sniffing at the doors of hyper-inflation.
The macro and micro-economic indicators glitter marks of progress in that regard. But in as much as the battle for conquering underdevelopment rages on like bushfire, there is one war we need to conquer, the battle to win the minds.
No matter what we do, what we profess, what we belief in, as long as it has no umbilical connection to the minds of the people, the possibility of achieving it is almost impossible. The mind is like an umbrella, it functions well when open.
Your Excellency, if we have to win the fight against corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing and other financial crimes, we have to inculcate in our people the conviction that corruption is bad and position their minds in a state where they become safeguards of integrity.
To achieve this, we need to develop a holistic plan, to connect the Anti-Corruption Bureau as well as the Financial Intelligence Authority to the minds of the people. These two entities have to win the trust of the people to the extent that people will be willing to provide them with relevant support.
In this regard, Your Excellency, it requires that the two entities demonstrate to the common man their success stories.
It does not have to end there, Your Excellency. The battle against monstrous corruption and financial crimes has to cascade down to future generations.
The education system must undergo some reforms, embrace elements of ethics so that we teach children their responsibilities while young. Our children have to know very early that they carry on their shoulders responsibilities to make Malawi great.
Your Excellency, with time, we will then start reaping the fruits of our investments in transforming minds of our people to skew towards general responsibility and patriotism.
Your Excellency, your inaugural speech was right; a negative mindset is like a flat tyre. You cannot go anywhere with it until you change.
Malawi is an agro-based economy. We can no longer progress with the business-as-usual mentality in the agriculture sector. The mark is glittering on the wall that days for the tobacco industry are numbered. We need not to mourn that every year tobacco farmers feel duped.
The fact of the matter is that, by and large, tobacco is getting phased off the face of the earth as many restrictions are making tobacco a dying industry. Not only that, if we look at coffee and tea, the markets do not look promising as well.
Your Excellency, these indicators are there; all what we require is a different mindset to our agriculture sector. It is imperative that we start drifting from trade that is dying to new trade models and products that are in tandem with time.
India is making strides in information technology. Malawi has beauty that remains underexploited. We need to look at tourism as our next economic saviour.
Your Excellency, this would require that our people align their business ideologies in the light of a possible booming tourism sector. This is where we need airports in all the tourism havens in the country – Mangochi, Salima, Nkhata Bay, Karonga as well as Mzuzu as the central point for the Northern Region.
The fact of the matter remains that the airports are not for decorations of the areas mentioned but a means of boosting tourism and trade in such areas. This is where the Ministry of Information in collaboration will all media houses must take keen interest in developing and airing programmes that sensitise people to issues such as tourism, the role it plays in the economy and how the citizens can position themselves to cash in on the tourism paradise.
We can attract more than a million visitors a year. The way we treat the million plus visitors all the way from the airports and other entry points will determine how far our tourism industry can flourish.
Your Excellency, the battle for the mind must also centre on the youth. They need the optimism that their tomorrow will be better than today. They need to be imbued with a realistic truth that job opportunities will be available to them.
However, our youth must undergo a transformation to realise that the skills they have are the greatest assets even for job creation. Again, we need to overhaul our education curricula at all levels to include elements of social psychology, philosophy and other academic elements that teach people resilience, patience, hard-work and optimism.
We need to create a new breed of youngsters that is forward-focused, driven to be innovators; a generation of young people that will build new businesses and new models of doing things; young people that will not only look forward to white-collar jobs upon graduating from universities.
Our agriculture graduates have to be empowered with knowledge and financing models to establish consortia that will establish farms for most sought-after products for export, venture into high-scale fish farming and establish schools.
Our youth need to be at the centre of entrepreneurship. But, for us to achieve that, our youth must be educated in the practical dimensions of entrepreneurship.
The battle of the mind should liberate souls of the rural farmer wherever in the country from the grip of primitive agricultural models. Subsistence farming is expensive and our people need to know that.
Agricultural extension officers have to be at the heart of disseminating better models of farming. Now our people need to have communal dams for rain water harvesting so that our agriculture is not rain-dependent.
They may not be harvesting rain water probably because they do not know that it is possible. Special communications must be bombarded on our people until they change and see tangible benefits of utilising new agricultural models.
Your Excellency, this country is on the verge of losing the battle for sustainable energy generation. We are wiping trees from the face of our country at an unprecedented rate all for household fuel needs.
There are alternative models of charcoal that do not threaten the survival of trees. In our minds, we all need to be tree planters.
Possibly, we need a policy where we declare a tree-planting week where all top executives in parastatals and all other ministries and departments of government head to their home villages to plant as many trees as possible.
Even private entities joining in this noble task have to be incentivised. If we undertake that exercise for at least five years, the greening of Malawi will be achieved, our people will take great pride in making Malawi the hanging garden of Africa.
Your Excellency, this battle requires going as further as breaking the ethnic divide. We need special conferences and inter-cultural programmes that dispel the increasing behaviour of looking at people on the basis of their ethnic extraction.
That which unites us is greater than that which divides us. Ethnic tensions and politics that thrive on ethnic differences can erode any significant gains any nation has attained. Malawi is for all Malawians and we have to embrace our harmony of looking at each other on the basis of nationality other than tribe or region.
All initiatives to wage a successful war against negative mindset will not be complete if it isolates the media. The media, with the proliferation of fake news, has become a source of disunity. When reporting is based on negatives, one can never expect people to have a positive mindset.
It is well said, as a man thinks so he is. Our media must have a better understanding that their reporting impacts positively or negatively on the ranking of the nation whether on economic barometer or other social standings.
It does not mean that the media should not point out wrongs. Rather, it means that in as much as negative stories are given a better share of space, so too should our positives enjoy headlines.
We look forward to headlines that will tout development initiates in the country; headlines that will sing praises of our achievers; headlines that will applaud local innovations; headlines that narrate initiatives promoting national unity.
Your Excellency, it is possible to win the battle of the mind. All countries that have made it great, even resurrected from the obituary of failure, concentrated first on winning the battle of the mind.
Rwanda stands tall in Africa. Singapore showcases that in Asia. Americans have self-belief and that is why they can unite on a cause. When you have a nation that is bound by a positive mindset, patriotism creeps in and hard-work creeps in.
At the end of the day, all people believe in the good of others and do anything that they do not for personal interest but the common good of all.
It is possible to win the battle of the mind, Your Excellency, we just need to start doing business unusual. It has to happen, it will happen; we are the people that can make it happen. Your Excellency, lead the war with proper strategies and then all will follow.
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