Guest Spot

‘Corruption is robbing people of good services’

Jackson: I enjoyed my stay
Jackson: I enjoyed my stay

Jeanine Jackson, who was Unites States (US) ambassador last week, left the country after completing her tour of duty. Lilongwe Bureau Chief SAMUEL CHUNGA talked to Jackson before departure on her stay in Malawi and the country’s bilateral relationship with her government.

Q

How do you look back over your Malawi tour of duty?

A

I have enjoyed my three years in Malawi and will always be grateful to the Malawian people for welcoming me so warmly during my time here. I have learned a great deal about your culture —particularly music and art— and I have been privileged to facilitate relationships between different American artists and Malawians. While I have enjoyed my interactions with Malawians from all walks of life, I have particularly cherished my relationships with Malawi’s youth. As President Obama has said, Africa’s future belongs to its young people, and I firmly believe in actively supporting the next generation of Malawi’s economic, civic, and cultural leaders. I was always impressed and rewarded by my interactions with Malawian young leaders and I have no doubt that they are bringing sustainable, positive change!    I leave Malawi with so many wonderful memories of the Warm Heart of Africa.

Q

You were there when Malawi changed presidents three times, under different circumstances. What does this say about the country’s democracy?

A

Three years ago, I certainly was not expecting to be working with three different governments. While I knew of the challenges, I prefer to focus on opportunities. The US Government has partnered with the government and the people of Malawi in a wide range of priorities and I have been pleased with the progress.  However, there is a long way to go in terms of providing adequate social services, good governance and security.

Q

Did you see Cashgate coming?

A

It is important to remember that Cashgate is only a symptom of a bigger ill. In both the public and private sector, corruption is robbing the people of decent social services, economic growth and good governance. So, corruption is really the issue that needs to be addressed aggressively. It is up to every Malawian, not just to the government or the judges; it’s up to every Malawian to approach corruption at every level… in the village, board rooms and the public sector.   It is the ill that must be tackled by every Malawian.

The people can hold the government accountable, the government can investigate and ensure that systems are secure, the government can have public servants following high ethical standards, but is up to individuals, Malawians, to recognise that corruption is eating away their livelihoods and to stand up against it.

Q

The US government was one of the Malawi’s special friends even after Cashgate hit. Why?

A

Our bilateral assistance to Malawi reached K115 billion ($257 million) this year. We have continued all programmes. We have never provided direct budget support and, therefore, our assistance was not directly affected by the scandal. Most of our partnerships follow long-term strategies with strong monitoring and evaluation to ensure the US taxpayer’s money is used as intended.  We are focusing, for example, on improving social services like health and education, bolstering economic growth, and strengthening security and good governance for the Malawian people.

Q

Which projects have you facilitated for the benefit of Malawians?

A

Since September, 2011, the US Government has implemented or carried out many significant development projects with an annual investment of about $250 million.  These include the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar), which embodied our largest investment –$80 million in this year alone; Feed the Future,  the President’s Malaria Initiative,  the Young African Leadership Initiative (Yali),  the Global Climate Change Initiative and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) energy sector Compact (MCC).

Since July, 2012, Feed the Future has targeted 270 000 households in southern and central Malawi, to diversify and improve agricultural productivity and improve value chains for dairy, orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, groundnuts and soya. A further focus is on private sector partnerships and expanding agro-processing and export opportunities. In September, 2013, the $350 million MCC Compact was entered into force.  Over five years, the compact will expand access to electricity to businesses, schools, hospitals and households. Targeted investments in the energy sector infrastructure, and institutions, and implementing policy reforms are intended to create an environment that will attract private sector investors to the energy sector.  While projects like these help create new opportunities for Malawians, our single, largest contribution is to the health sector ($150 million) and our new, early grade reading programme will help ensure that Malawians are able to take advantage of such opportunities.

Q

Why do you think Malawians have roundly described you as a special friend they will greatly miss?

A

Why don’t you ask the people themselves? (joking) Anyway, I am a big fan of Malawi and I will greatly miss this beautiful country. I have sincerely enjoyed interacting with the people of Malawi, particularly in the villages and that is why I believe Malawians can relate to me.

Q

What do you think constitutes your high point during your stay in Malawi?

A

The visit of Hillary Clinton in 2012, the first American Secretary of State to visit Malawi in recent history and Epic Guardian, a crisis management exercise involving several thousand American and Malawian military, police and civilians.  But I have had many other high points, mostly centred around my interaction with Malawians.

Related Articles

Back to top button