Malawi is at the right juncture to say goodbye to Donor aid
Aid has remained a contentious topic, here at home in Malawi and anywhere in the West or East. Western Governments rush to pull the plug on aid whenever a scandal breaks out, not because of the critical look at the issues, but die to the associated headlines in their local media.
In the United Kingdom, the coalition Government is cutting benefits by almost £3billion which simply means, some of the free services the British poor were getting will be chopped or numbers of beneficiaries reduced.
The opposition Labour is crying out loud that the gap between the poor and the rich is widening and that the ruling Tory and Lib dems policies are not covering the majority working class.
One would be a fool to keep on waiting for the UK to deliver its aid to another country in similar fashion a before.
The end of the cold war and the 2007 financial crisis should have served all developing countries a wake up call and change the way we do business.
Malawi, like a majority of other African countries will be celebrating 50 years of independence, but in a state of poverty and mounting challenges that nobody seem to have a clue how to address them.
The colonizers left Africa without any plan, only returned in form of businesses and globalization to dominate and exploit African mineral resources.
Africa is changing, we have had minerals and critical resources and continue to discover more.
The combined gas and oil in Africa today means we can competitively claim economic growth to that of the Gulf region. The oil and mineral dollars are flowing into Africa at a higher rate than at any other period.
However Africa and its leaders have for the past 50 years failed to build capacity, we have concessioned everything from transport systems to mineral mines to the same people that first mined them using our fore fathers as slaves.
The company's that own the majority of shares in Africa mineral resources have no interest in developing Africa. The story of Nigeria is one critical example where if oil, ranked among the highest in the world, has failed to change the lives of millions of Nigerians who just need a $1000 dollars to start producing own food and up keep.
In Malawi, we concessioned the Urainium our first large scale mine to an Australian company which opens and closes at will. We are sure on the same road on Niobium and oil exploration on the lake. The other exploited mine is Chimwazulu which produces ruby that is sold for £500,000 on UK or USA mineral markets. I could not believe when I saw my own mineral on an auction channel fetching
While we have no financial muscles to do the same works, but we can seriously earn adequate earnings but providing a clear guideline to shareholding.
Government should own 50 percent of all shareholding on natural resources in the country. That should translate into tax breaks on investment and equipment and expertise for the investor as part of our contribution.
All contracts should be for a maximum 50 years allowing skill and share transfer to Malawians. The Central Government should hold only 35 percent of the shareholding, while 10 percent should be held by the District Council in which the mine is located and the village and area Development Committees where the mines are located will have the remaining 5 percent.
The profits from such a set up will ensure equitable distribution of the wealth realized and avoid the cases of areas where minerals are extracted for ages without being reinvested back into such communities.
From mining, a similar shareholding model should be given to tourism resorts only that Government should hold 20 and the communities the remaining 10 percent. All money paid as part of tourists coming to Malawi at least 40 percent should be returned and be kept in Malawi to ensure that even those booking and paying online on foreign banks are accounted as part of the countries revenues.
Further communities around tourists establishments will directly benefit as shareholders including supplies of basic items such as food, when the shareholding fund becomes a cooperative for expanding opportunities for the people in the area.
With the millions of dollars Nyika, Vwaza, Liwonde, Lake Malawi, Lifupa, Nkhatabay, Mulanje and Mangochi has realised from tourists visiting the country, its sad 50 years on that the Councils and local communities there continue to wallow in poverty. The question is who benefited. Jobs could have been created at local level.
Malawi and Africa does not need aid. It is in the obligation of the United Nations charter to create a prosperous and economic world. It is in the obligation of those that used slave trade, colonised us and milked us through unfair trade, to start investment programmes that will change the face of developing countries. Instead of piecemeal donations of £20 million every year, why not agree to finance export processing zones worth £5 billion for UK companies to produce cheaply in Malawi and a readily available market in the UK.
As we celebrate 50 years of independence, we should start renegotiating some of the strange conditions that are attached to to loans or grants given.
Within our own means, if I were the leader, I would pull the plug on the K60 billion subsidy and divide the country to become processing centres for specific crops for sale.
I would subcontract commercial farmers with a fixed price and invest K10 billion for them to grow 5 million tonnes of maize which Government will buy for reserves and Admarc spending a total of K20 billion for the exercise.
For the remaining K30 billion, I would use K3.5 billion to create 300 earth dams for small scale fishing and irrigation, that is at least 2 in every constituency for a start. Use an extra K3 billion for new irrigation system for flood prone Lower shire, Karonga and Salima and hunger dry areas of Balaka to grow cotton, rice and other hot temperatures crops. Maize will be grown when the flood risk is low using irrigation.
The remaining K20 billion can be a new fund for farmers to borrow fertiliser and repay in a season suing cooperative structure.
I am sure within the K60 billion we spend we can produce more maize and other crops, fish and most importantly engage millions of Malawians in real economic activities.
It will be up to the Trade Ministry and companies to find markets for produce, while graduates with specific skills in packaging and processing can set up industries supported by the funds to value add the crops for export market.
We can open Malawi as Africa's financial and IT services centres, expand and training more young people in all sectors and skills and in 20 years, we should be talking of flying to the moon using own built techonology.
Malawi has, like the rest of Africa, capacity to change its course and destination with a 50-50 relationship with the so called donors.
The IMF and World Bank should equally re-shape their focus into skills development programmes for developing countries for Africa to tap and maximise its new found wealth.
Finally, the good thing out of the cashgate is that for the first time we are all vigilant on Government resources. Nobody I can say will be able to dip into coffers the way they did with impunity. Thanks in part for the political will demonstrated in dealing and opening up the process.
With such an opportunity means the 30 percent we lost due to theft of national revenues is now plugged.
If we can retain 30 percent, it means the donors 40 percent now only 40 percent remains. We can cut some of the useless luxuries we give to the top 100 of the Civil Services and recoup the 10 percent.
It is possible to change the way we do business in Malawi after 50 years and start refocusing our energies to become a competitive economy harnessing the God given beauty and peace with fertile soils and hardworking people.
I agree a better Malawi is possible in the next five decades!