A struggling economy epitomized by rising prices of essential goods, not to mention poverty, food inadequacies-these are hallmarks of Malawi’s recent fortunes that, if not immediately addressed, would see the situation spiraling out of control.
It is not surprising, therefore, to see a lot of disgruntled people, some of whom have in recent weeks mobilized themselves to stage protest marches in all the regions of the country, demanding that the authorities, whom they entrusted with power to handle the affairs of the country, do something about it.
Not so long ago we were only talking about cooking oil and fuel challenges but today here we are, practically grappling with everything; from house rentals to the high fertiliser prices.
Ultimately, after the protests and all, what we have to ask ourselves as Malawians is this; how is it that our neighbouring countries such as Zambia are seemingly making economic progress while we continue to find the going tough? I believe the answer is not far from within our reach.
When we are done picketing, everyone must roll up their sleeves and get down to business so that what we aspire to attain as a people should come to fruition.
Just recently, Zambia president Hakaine Hichilema was opening a new fruit-processing factory in that country. The high-tech infrastructure will enable Zambia; whose other processed foods such as energy drinks and fruit juices already find their way to Malawi, process more fruits such as mangoes and tomatoes and in a way, creating more jobs and spreading the wealth among its people.
Malawi is endowed with a lot of resources such as fruits through all seasons and it makes little sense to me that somebody should be drooling over a fruit juice or biscuit produced beyond the borders when all this could be turned around, only if we pull more effort towards harnessing manufacturing local goods and upping the buy Malawi campaign.
In fact on this one, the trade and industry ministry as well as state agencies that have interest in the trade sector have to work round the clock to create a conducive environment for large companies as well as Small and Medium Enterprises to thrive. I was happy to see a public call by Malawi Investment and Trade Centre the other day, beckoning Malawian companies for an opportunity to export to a Dutch company edible nuts, dried fruits, pulses and grains via the Malawi Embassy at the European Union. This is the route that we ought to take if we are to make notable progress in turning around our economic fortunes.
That is not all. We have been singing a song about the mining potential which the country has, only to learn that somebody somewhere has already been making a killing out of these precious minerals at the expense of Malawians under the guise of collecting samples and failing to remit appropriate taxes, prompting the Attorney General to intervene. That is why some find it hard to believe that Malawi has a struggling economy when we are endowed with a lot of natural resources.
There is nothing wrong in exercising the right to freely assemble and hold demonstrations but then, at the end of the day, we must all join hands in seeking solutions to the nagging problems that have held us back since the onset of Covid-19 and the cyclones that devastated the country in the first quarter of the year.
We have heard that the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) will be rationing maize in its selling points particularly in some three districts that government has deemed food insecure. You have to wonder why a country blessed with fertile land and large water bodies would fail to produce plenty of maize, which is the staple food for the people and for export.
Yes, it might not take the man or woman at Capital Hill to physically get into the planting field and cultivate (though many of them are established farmers) but they can certainly rally the people and through initiatives such as the Affordable Inputs Programme, play enabler as a means to an end.
I hope President Chakwera is keeping a close watch on developments at the Presidential Labs which he launched with pomp and flare so that we can have all the answers.
Otherwise, we have a country to fix, Mr President. The same message goes out to the citizenry, and that includes those who have been staging protest marches.
Stephen Dakalira is a seasoned Journalist who works as Times Group’s Online and Digital Executive Editor. He is also the Assistant Editor of The Sunday Times Newspaper, and author of Full Circle column which appears in Malawi News; all of these under the Times Group stable.
He has previously worked in key positions for some of Malawi’s key media institutions such as Malawi News Agency, Capital FM Radio and Star Radio (Now Timveni Radio).