We conclude the discussion of followership this week by focusing on important attributes followers are expected to exhibit— creativity. It would not be an overstatement to say creativity within the followership is non-negotiable.
When I last checked, the price of cooking oil was prohibitively high in our shops while that of soya beans was strangely low. It takes creativity to notice that one is a raw material for the other and to think of establishing a way of converting local raw material into processed products.
I am not reinventing of the wheel here. The technology to expel oil from seeds has existed for centuries. We can bring in the necessary machinery from places like China to set up a production unit. Many Malawians will laugh this off and quickly counter argue that machinery is beyond the reach of the average Malawian. A quick check on the Internet will show you that a cooking oil processing machine has a lower FOB price than a Toyota Vitz.
It is puzzling that we import vehicles every single day but not machinery. This despite the fact that machines land in this country duty free while vehicles do not. Recently there was a proposal to hike vehicle taxes. Everybody went up in arms, protesting this development as it would push vehicles beyond the reach of most Malawians.
A vehicle is not an assemblage meant for production. Therefore, spending on a vehicle is spending on consumption. Investment in consumptive pursuits plagues this country so much that we fail to make any tangible progress as far as development is concerned. I am aware that some vehicles are used commercially to ferry goods or passengers from one place to another at a fee. That is a slight departure from investment in consumption but does not go far enough. We must learn to invest in gadgets that will help us produce a variety of goods. Production drought has haunted this country for a very long time. As a result, we continue to wallow in abject poverty, finding it hard to lift ourselves from the unenviable league of the poorest. The country’s followership is as much to blame as the leadership for this.
We can be even more creative by engaging the services of local partisans in the manufacture of machinery. Several television programmes have featured Malawians making a variety of machinery. One that is still fresh in my mind featured one Bishop Chimwendo from Area 25 in Lilongwe. He showcased machinery that he had made, which was used for a variety of operations to process produce into finished products . Machines for roasting peanuts and producing peanut butter were among those shown. He actually challenged that he could assemble a machine to carry out any process that the customer desired so long as the steps in the process were well known. Why we do not use people like Chimwendo to create a vibrant manufacturing sec tor among local Malawians is beyond me.
The overreliance on government is killing us. We expect government to do everything for us. Agreed, there is a lot that government can and should do but there are limits too. No government anywhere in the world is competent enough to run commercial enterprises. In the past few years, brilliant ideas have been floated in this country to help us create opportunities for foreign exchange generation. One of such ideas is the establishment of mega farms. Not only will mega farms be a good source of items that we can sell internationally to get foreign exchange, but they will also present an opportunity for lowering levels of unemployment. A good number of us expect government to create and run these farms.
Many, nay all, government owned enterprises have been plagued by poor management and have suffocated to death as a result. We once had Admarc Canning, an appendage of the giant parastatal organisation, Admarc. It was producing all manner of sweetened jams and purees but got entangled in political escapades of the time. I remember lofty promises being made at political rallies to effect that farmers should grow plenty of tomatoes and that Admarc Canning would buy them all. What followed was a situation where Admarc Canning was forced to buy more of the vegetable than it knew what to do with them. That led to the premature death of the company.
The mega farms are a very good idea indeed, but they have to be in private hands. Meanwhile, we need to search within the followership to see what else we can do to help the leadership