Malawi needs a Singapore

Afro-pessimists will always portray the doom side of Africa, giving images that offer no hope for the continent.

There are many of them who look at Malawi as a bastion of underdevelopment, primitiveness, failure and no hope of resurrecting from economic challenges.

As the country is being labelled one of the poorest countries in the world, it appears that all that makes headlines in both local and international media is continued poverty of Malawians, ravaging impact of HIV and Aids, political intolerance, corruption, self-aggrandisement and inequalities.

It appears that we can hardly shake off  the monster called poverty and become a paradise of prosperity.

What pessimists think about does not matter. What matters is our optimism and ability to take actions that will defy their seemingly sensible development logic.

We have ever done it. We can do it and we will ever do it.

Not long ago, Malawi was ranked the world’s second-fastest growing economy, only superseded by the oil-rich Qatar. This landlocked country without minerals to talk about had peaked in economic growth.

The world has had economies that defied the odds to shed poverty and become prosperity. Singapore offers Malawi a reason to think positively and a lesson to emulate. It assures the so-called third poorest nation on earth that with proper planning, dedication, sacrifices and unity of its people, it is possible to make a difference.

Lee Kuan Yew explains the Singapore’s scenario was more  challenging than the situation Malawi finds herself in presently.

The first prime minister of Singapore eloquently stated: “We had been asked to leave Malaysia and go our own way with no signposts to our next destination.

“We faced tremendous odds with an impossible chance to survive….we inherited the island without its hinterland, a heart without a body.”

There were even lots of pessimists pertaining to the economic viability of an independent Singapore.

On 10 August 1965, Dennis Warner wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald: “An independent Singapore was not regarded as viable three years ago. Nothing in the current situation suggests that it is more viable today.”

That was like writing an obituary for Singapore, but Singaporeans never believed in naysayers.

Singapore’s miracle amazed the world and proved all pessimistic soothsayers wrong.

Its per capita gross domestic product (GDP) rose from $ 400 in 1959 to as high as $ 22 000 in 1999.

Malawi can do what Singapore did.

The secret to achieving such a remarkable milestone lies in doing things that others have never done: We have to create our own development theories, ethics and work culture.

We must inculcate in our people the confidence that we can achieve the growth we envision if we are united in purpose, resilient in spirit and focused in achieving the goals we set for ourselves.

Lee explains: “We had to create a new kind of economy, try new methods and schemes never tried before anywhere else in the world.”

We cannot just keep copying policies and theories that work in other countries and hope that by doing so,  Malawi will develop as they have developed.

We are in our own unique situation and social dynamics. Our economic terrain is different, our resources are unique and our people have capabilities that differ from all others.

Our uniqueness is our definite force for rebuilding the Malawi we want.

The Chinese have developed on the basis of their own theory. The same applies to the Japanese, South Koreans, Rwandese and many other countries that are doing well.

We do not need prescriptions of quinine or one-size-fits-all dosages to heal our economic malaise. We need to discover our own pills that will deal with the economic mosquitoes that suck the lifeblood like vampires, slowing the country’s socio-economic growth. n

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