About three decades ago as I was settling down in Blantyre after retiring from the civil service, I used to stop at a restaurant opposite Chibisa House.
At the restaurant, I regularly met a Canadian teacher who had been in Malawi for many years.
We used to engage in intellectual discussions. Apart from his mother tongue French, he also spoke English, Greek and Latin.
I asked him the advantages of speaking dead languages such as Greek and Latin, he replied that he had found that the Greeks and Romans were already familiar with modern challenges.
I took little note of that until this week as I was going through the ubiquitous articles about the problems of sovereign debts in the European Union (EU).
One of these articles is in Issue No 158 of the Newsletter of the Royal Economic Society, dated July 2012.
The article headlined â€˜The Euro Crisis: A View from Germanyâ€™, starts with a quotation from a speech which the Roman lawyer and orator Cicero delivered in 55 BC:
â€œThe budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officials should be tempered and controlled and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome becomes bankrupt. People must again learn to work instead of living on public assistance.â€
Had I quoted this speech without an attribute not many people would have guessed that it had been given half a century before the birth of Jesus Christ. It is so modern. It reminds us of what taxpayers in donor countries are saying to their governments about development aid. They are feeling fatigue helping countries which do not grow out of poverty.
Many people assume that for developed countries it is painless to send money to poor countries just as some people think millionaires can give away anything to the poor without reducing their wealth.
That is quite wrong. Cicero way back more than 2000 years ago, saw budgetary deficits as much as we do and the burden the Romans faced in the course of helping poor countries worried him.
The other day I was listening to an interview on the radio that was given by one of the officials of donor organisations in which he warned Malawi to brace itself for the day when donors will stop giving her financial assistance.
He predicted that such a time will come sooner than later because some of these donors have their own economic downturn to deal with. They will want to look after their own people first.
This warning is of the deâ€™jaâ€™vu type. We have heard it said before. It is no thunderbolt. Unfortunately, when a lion roars every night without actually coming to the village, people lose some of their fears until the day when it comes and finds them ill-prepared to protect their kraals.
We have heard before that there is such a thing as donor fatigue. We have also heard before that donors and international financial organisations do not owe developing countries livelihoods. But are the developing countries doing something to get out of their dire dependency?
Economic historians of most developed countries say the advent of inventiveness and innovation was a major factor that contributed to accelerated economic development.
Britain owed the birth of its industrial revolution to a number of investors in a variety of fields such as textile industry, railway travel, mining and agriculture.
When the US and Germany caught up with Britain, it was also because of their inventors and innovators.
Some African countries have taken note of this and are giving support to their own budding inventors. We learn from African Business of July 2012 that East Africa leads in innovation among African countries.
A 24-year-old Kenyan, Anthony Mutua, is said to have developed a thin chip of crystals for charging mobile phones when fitted to a shoe.
A patent has been taken out and the National Council of Science and Technology gave $6 000 to the project and pledged to fund its mass production.
That is what they do north of us. No wonder, Kenya has become the largest economy in East Africa.
Though in the early days of the industrial revolution in the western Europe and North Africa some inventions were made by men of a humble education, for example, George Stevenson and Thomas Edison.
Modern inventions and innovations are most likely to be made by those who have acquired high education in science subjects and engineering. High education does not consist merely of a masters degree or a PhD. It is a continuous process of searching. We must send our graduates to do post graduate studies abroad.