Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world. Many Sub Sahara African countries are repositioning their tourism sectors to maximise economic benefits from an avalanche of foreign visitors.
It appears that little do we appreciate that flowers form a recognisable and profitable part of the tourism industry. Flowers have the beauty that enhances the image of a country. They are also a multi-million dollar business that if properly enhanced has the capacity to induce a positive increment on the GDP realised in the tourism industry.
Just in between the Mibawa bus terminal and the highly polluted Mudi River in Blantyre, the flower industry is booming. Vendors have established flower nurseries and their clientele are people interested in having beautiful flower beds around their homes.
At the time that the business dimension of the country is endeavoring to shift from an importing and consuming to a producing and exporting, it is imperative that any business initiative that has the potential to contribute towards the cause is supported to the fullest. The flower industry has the potential to make a remarkable impact on the inflation and the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country.
Despite the booming of the flower market on the international market in the recent years, the Malawi business sector is yet to break into such a market. The fall of the Lingadzi farms in early 2000 is an epitome of how the flower sector has failed to flourish. It was the closure of the farms that marked the erasing o f Malawi flowers at the international market. At the time of its closure, as reported by the African Magazine of December 2000, Lingadzi was the country’s largest flower grower and exporter –exporting an average of 20 million stems of roses a year – with over 700 workers. The closure of the farm saw Malawi losing US$ 28 million in revenues.
Flowers have proved to be among the top forex earning products in some countries in Africa. In the year 2000, exports of flowers and foliage in Kenya contributed 5.8 percent of the total export earnings. According to the Kenya Flower Council, Kenya accounts for 60 percent of African cut-flower exports, in terms of value and is the world’s fourth largest exporter of cut-flower. At one point, the flower industry was poised to overtake tea and tourism in forex earnings. Susan Njanji in the article ‘Economy, climate, batter Kenya’s flower’ says that horticulture contributes about 23 percent of the GDP of Kenya and employs an estimated three million people.
Certainly, in Africa Kenya offers the best learning ground in the development of a vibrant and commercially viable flowers industry. Floyd Mann in the article: ‘Kenya – Globalizing with flowers’ writes that since the country’s independence in 1963, and especially in recent years, horticulture has emerged as one of Kenya’s great economic success stories. Flowers picked in the morning reach the markets in Amsterdam by evening. Horticulture is Kenya’s fastest growing sector and is ranked third after tourism and tea.
For a country that carries in its history the once success story of Lingadzi farms, it is essential to develop and implement deliberate policies that can spearhead the flower industry beyond the present small sector. Banks and other financial lending institutions and the insurance sector can play progressive roles in supporting and sustaining the growth of the flowers industry.
The revitalisation of the flowers industry can broaden Malawi’s export base beyond the traditional tobacco, tea, coffee, cotton, among a few others.
Ethiopia has taken remarkable strides in enhancing its flower industry to complement the tourism sector. Ethiopia has been encouraging major flower farms in Kenya to establish flower farms in Ethiopia. Major companies have actually made a switch into Ethiopia lured by ten-year tax break holidays, better security and little in the way of graft. Sher Agencies, a Dutch company whose 400-hectrate farm in Kenya produces 600 million roses a year, more than any other farm in the world, has opened a farm in Ethiopia.
A closer look at the five thematic areas articulated in the Malawi Growth Development Strategy (MGDS) is sustainable economic growth. The development of a vibrant flower industry is therefore an appropriate means to the realisation of the said theme. The flower industry has the potential to enhance economic growth and wealth creation. Apparently, for our economy to make a significant impact in the reduction of poverty, our economy needs to have a strong growth of more than 6 percent.
What is lacking in the business industry apparently is the initiative to broaden the flowers industry beyond the behind mibawa bus terminal, invest in it and develop it on large scale.
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