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Malawi—Time to bite the bullet

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We are a nation struggling to shake itself off from the whims of poverty. And it appears therefore that the more we shake ourselves more the more we are sinking into the quagmire of excruciating poverty, leaving most of our people living a life without hope. This is certainly fifty one years after independence, fifty one years of continued aid provided by our donours whose names keep on changing from donours to development partners. It is time we are never worried that donours taps are drying, it is time we are worried that we have been unable to wean ourselves from the donours benevolence.

It may not be a crime to urge that to a great extent we have been unable to develop as all the aid channeled to us has been curved in the developmental policies of the donours and not us the people of the land. There has been a lack of an umbilical connection of the imported policies on the common man that is expected to be the beneficiaries of the projects being funded. Simply speaking, the moment the donours hand over their project to the locals, the project dies as in the first instance it was not our project, it was the donours project.

Africa, and Malawi in particular, has to move away from the slumber of donour dependency. Any aid sent to us has almost impossible conditions attached to them that do not take into account our local situation. It is now time that Africa begins to embrace some sentiments and policies that Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso advanced. What Sankara said about Burkina Faso can also apply in totality to Malawi.

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In Sankara’s own words, ‘our country produces enough to feed us all. We can even produce more than we need. Unfortunately for lack of organisation, we still need to beg for food aid. This type of assistance is counterproductive and it has kept us thinking than we can only be beggars who need aid… we must produce more because the one who feeds you usually imposes his will upon you.’

It is necessary now to realise that the development of Africa and Malawi in particular is not to be under the mercy of developed western or eastern economies. The development of Africa can only take shape with our own hands. We have to develop policies that our people can appreciate and support, that our people will feel being part of. Now is the time we take decisions that will shape our destiny. The United States of America has its own problems and it doesn’t solve them with policies developed by Africans in Africa. If one has any doubt, as Professor Patrick Lumumba says, look at Haiti a country that is very close to the USA yet remains among the poorest in the world.

Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian economist was right in her book titled Dead Aid. She clearly stresses that the notion that aid can alleviate systemic poverty, and has done so, is a myth. Millions in Africa are poorer today because of aid; misery and poverty have not ended but increased. Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic, and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.

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We need a new approach to solving our problems. Even Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations agrees with the views advanced by Dambisa Moyo. In his own words he is on record as having said, ‘Dambisa Moyo makes a compelling case for a new approach in Africa. Her message is that “Africa’s time is now”. It is time for Africans to assume full control over their own economic and political destiny. Africans should grasp the many means and opportunities available to them for improving their quality of life.’

Millions of our countrymen are daily deepening into the sea of poverty. When our people are hopelessly living in this unspeakable kind of impoverishment, the kind of hunger that seems never to end despite putting into effect several hunger combating strategies, we cannot afford to be patient that our solutions will come through begging bowls sent to western economies. We cannot afford to be impregnated with patience while it is already for sure that the only birth outcome will be conditions and more conditions at the time that our people are wallowing day in day out into in poverty.

It is home grown policies spearheaded by Thomas Sankara that saw Burkina Faso becoming food sufficient, millions of people immunised against polio, millions of trees planted to combat desertification, rail line laid with the Burkinabes own bare hands, civil servants putting on clothes weaved from cotton planted by locals, tailored by locals and even thread made by locals. Sankara even spoke at the Organisation of African Unity summit dressed in clothes made by locals. As Sankara said, we must accept to live the African way. It’s the only way to live in freedom and with dignity.

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