President Lazarus Chakwera says cultural diversity has potential to generate the much-needed forex for Malawi.
The President said this yesterday at the Umthetho Cultural Festival at Hora Mountain in Mzimba.
He said: “Culture is very important because it is what defines the people of Malawi. As such, it is crucial for the country to make policies that help develop cultural sites into tourism centres for tourist attraction.
“There are entire industries we must aspire to build around the production of our cultural clothes, the cooking of our cultural foods, the teaching of our cultural languages and the presentation of our cultural dances. Additionally, there is no reason why colourful and well-organised cultural events like this cannot be promoted worldwide as a tourist attraction to boost this country’s economy.”
Chakwera said every cultural festival in this country is potentially a forex-generating tourist attraction waiting to be offered to the world “for its appreciation and enjoyment”.
He, therefore, called upon Minister of Tourism and Culture Michael Usi to market cultural tourism to the world.
He suggested that the line minister should work with Minister of National Unity Timothy Mtambo who, he said, developed a Day of National Unity concept.
“But as far as I am concerned, that concept will be incomplete until the two ministries work together on refining it to ensure that any proposed Day of National Unity is not an obliteration of our cultural diversity, but a celebration of it in a way that can be promoted for the enjoyment of the whole world,” he said.
The President emphasised the need for Malawians to maintain peace, unity and uphold the cultural values for the development of the country.
Deputy Minister of Local Government Halima Daudi, who represented Usi, said the Ministry of Tourism and Culture is committed to preserving and promoting the country’s cultural diversity to achieve national unity.
She said several heritage associations have been formed to revitalise, preserve and promote the heritage of the people of Malawi, their ways of life, culinary traditions, history and languages.
Daudi said: “This is why government is implementing the National Cultural Policy which was approved in 2015 to regulate and manage the cultural sector.
“We want to identify, preserve, promote and protect Malawian arts and culture for national identity, unity, prosperity and social-economic development.”
In his address, Paramount Chief M’mbelwa V said Mzimba has various tourist attractions such as the Elephant Rock, Hora Mountain and the Hora Heritage site which remain underdeveloped.
“It is our plea to government and private investors to come and develop these sites. We have vast land which can be given for free to willing investors,” he said.
Commenting about the festival, M’mbelwa said the three-day event was held under the theme Campaign against Irregular Migration and Trafficking in Persons to sensitise youths and communities to the dangers of the practice.
“Our youths migrate to South Africa. But the sad part is that most of them come back as dead bodies. That is why we took advantage of this festival to address this problem. So, we conducted meetings with youths to sensitise them against migrating to South Africa,” he said.
M’mbelwa, however, was quick to mention that the problem is multi-faceted in that it requires diverse solutions such as job creation and access to loans to support businesses.
He said: “We understand we have the National Economic Empowerment Fund [Neef].
“But the problem is that it takes a long time for youths to access the loans. We need help on this from government.”
M’mbelwa also urged government to soften conditions to ease access to Neef loans.
Bertha Kanyinji, who spoke on behalf of youths, urged government to create more jobs and empower them to venture into small-scale businesses.
The festival brought together dignitaries from across the country, including Vice-President Saulos Chilima, Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Gotani-Hara and Leader of Opposition Kondwani Nankhumwa.
Cabinet ministers, former vice-president Khumbo Kachali, Prophet Shepherd Bushiri of the Enlightened Christian Gathering, politicians from different political parties, traditional leaders and the clergy also attended the festival.