Windfall or misfortune?
The high poverty levels in Malawi are believed to be the number one reason why a lot of people, who fall in the poverty bracket, are easily enticed by get-rich-quick-kind of schemes.
What else would you expect from somebody who is desperate to eke out a fortune, just so they can have a meal and live for another day?
Times are really hard in Malawi and not a day goes by without hearing of people being duped, or attempts being made to swindle them of their money. Not a day goes by without hearing reports of crooked individuals going around villages and districts, posing as government agents, on a mission to recruit would be employees.
The other day, some people were caught out, claiming to be Malawi Revenue Authority agents seeking to recruit temporary staff. In Mzimba and Kasungu, another lot was rounded up after cheating people that they were recruiting civil servants, at a fee of MK5,000 per individual. Fortunate enough, traditional leaders in the area smelled a rat and wasted no time in alerting the police who arrested the suspects.
Traditional Authority Kachindamoto of Dedza was less fortunate as swindlers made easy money out of young people under her jurisdiction, particularly those who completed their secondary school education. The unsuspecting youths and their chief were told by tricksters, who had visited their area, to send money through Airtel money, on the premise that they would secure the youngsters jobs.
Having noticed that their follow up attempts were yielding nothing, the chief finally reported the issue to the police so they could intervene. It was however too little too late as the tricksters had stopped answering their phone, which had eventually been switched off.
“It is not strange to hear about such cases, life is tough so people are going by the notion of survival of the fittest,” Kelvin Banda of Mbayani Township remarked, after I had introduced the subject. He is a student at one of the private colleges in the heart of Blantyre.
Just now, my phone beeps and I quickly check the message:
‘You have won 15 bags of cement, 10 bags of fertiliser plus a bicycle. Please call to get instructions about how to redeem your prize.’
Now, last time I checked, I had not entered into a competition, let alone subscribed to any contest using my mobile phone. I was not going to waste my precious airtime by calling these people. A snap check with my colleagues reveals that most of them have ever received such type of texts, some of them purportedly alerting them that they had won car tyres.
This escalating scenario has prompted companies implicated to issue disclaimer statements in the press, and it is no surprise that the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority – Macra has also taken note of the tendency by the tricksters, who are even claiming to be Airtel Malawi and TNM employees.
“They dupe their targets by making them believe that they have won prizes such as bags of cement, iron sheets and money, even though the targeted members of the public did not participate in any competition,” reads in part a statement released by Macra.
Those that are caught up in the euphoria of excitement, end up sending the requested money to ‘facilitate’ sending of the prizes through Airtel money or TNM Mpamba, only to realise that they have been gullible and their money is now long gone.
One is still left to wonder as to how people can stoop so low, to the extent of duping fellow citizens out of their hard earned money. It would however not be sensible to judge them outright, as some are not indulging in the malpractice by choice, but have run out of options.
Most companies are not thriving and therefore, Job creation is simply out of the question. People with various skills and capabilities have to compete for the very same limited jobs that are available on the market. The same goes for unskilled labour, and it is out of frustration that some individuals are opting to pull a fast one on fellow citizens.
A high unemployment rate among the youth has not helped matters, as it is largely such youthful individuals that have opted to use their ingenuity wrongly, as they cannot secure jobs or earn a decent living through businesses since start up capital and business loans are hard to come by.
These are the critical areas that both the government and the private sector need to evaluate critically and come up with quick solutions.
Nonetheless, some of the youth have still managed to set up Small and Medium scale Enterprises – SMEs and have tried their hand at value addition, by producing products such as peanut butter, Archer, fruit jam, juice, honey, to mention but a few.
The billions of kwacha that are being pumped into the greenbelt initiative should translate into more agricultural produce to support the industry, including SMEs cited above.
Irrigation farming should have, by now, also been upscaled but this is Malawi where public officers are never in a hurry to make things work.
Should we be surprised, therefore, when the people get fed up, to the point that some of them start conning their very kind out of their hard earned money?
We’ll still call a thief by its name, but there is a lot of homework to be done collectively by the citizenry if people are to start reaping legitimate fruits of their labour through mobile money, otherwise the get-rich-quick type of schemes will continue to haunt us.
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