The Malawi Investment Forum (MIF) was a brilliant idea. It was, let me emphasise, a brilliant, great idea because, once more, we have perfectly sold our potential to people with huge money—investors. In fact, even the immediate news that, through the MIF, we managed pompopompo, to strike K500 billion investment deals is, again, a brilliant thing.
As such, I congratulate, like I do always, government for such a brilliant idea. It was, indeed, a brilliant idea.
Now, if it was a brilliant idea, I know some of you are asking, why is it that I am not amused with it?
The reason is simple: Since independence, Malawi has never been short of such brilliant ideas. We have always been a country blessed with brains—like one that came up with the MIF idea—that develops brilliant ideas.
Just peruse through various development plans we have had since independence.
From the Development Plans (Devpols) of the 1960s, through the Vision 2020 of the late 90s to the current Malawi Growth Development Strategy (MGDS), a striking feature of brilliance runs through these development ideas—that brilliance which speaks a thousand times of a progressive human resource we have in this great Republic, to use the late Edward Chitsulo’s famous line.
Not only that.
Since independence, there have been thousands and thousands of workshops and forums, like MIF, that developed brilliant ideas. I hear some of our neighbouring countries have been stealing and implementing these ideas—in the process, developing.
In fact, if developing ideas were all a country needs to develop, I am certain that Malawi, today, could have been ranking among the world’s top-five developed countries.
Development specialist Blessings Chinsinga once argued that if only Malawi implemented five percent of ideas it has in its plans, this country could have developed long time ago.
It is unarguable then that we are where we are now—still poor and donor-dependent after 51 years of independence—because our brilliant ideas a left behind in the forums they are developed.
In fact, our pathetic state of affairs today is a living testimony that brilliant ideas are nothing, and so they shall remain, if they are not effectively implemented.
It is in this context that I feel not amused with the MIF we had last week. It was, as already said, a brilliant idea that if, not or wrongly implemented, it will die peacefully within the walls of Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC).
There are reasons I am saying this. Investors, ladies and gentlemen, are rich people who analyse every inch of a country they want to invest their hard-earned money in.
I love Malawi, my country, but I will be doing it great injustice if I call it one of world’s best investment destination. If you listened to that Malawi-friendly speech by Comesa general secretary SindisoNgwenya, the major reason he underlined for courting investors to us is that ‘Malawi is an oasis of peace’.
Yes, we are a peaceful country. But, let us face it, if peace—something we have had since independence—was indeed a major factor of courting investors, we could already have had thousands of them. Peace, to me, comes second, if not third.
Apart from the broken politics that makes every president turn into god and become irreversibly arrogant to wisdom, what is primary in courting investors is what London-based financier trainer and investment adviser Paul Richards told The Nation last week.
Richards bluntly said that Malawi’s lending rates are prohibitive both for individual and companies to grow. He said at 40 percent, Malawi’s lending rate, ladies and gentlemen, is the highest in the world.
Now how many investors—people whose lives stop at making profits—would choose a landlocked country with not just high interest rates, but also energy woes, rising insecurity and corrupt governments? Besides that, there is inherent corruption and red tape that, we all know, frustrated JTI to have a tobacco producing company in the country. Need I say more?
Here is my point: However brilliant the MIF idea was, if government does not solve inherent structural problems that have prohibited investors since independence, let us not expect anything different.
I wish my country well, but that does not mean dancing to everything men and women in suits design in air-conditioned hotels. They are brilliant ideas that do not amuse me. Thanks.