Development is the responsibility of all of us

A clip showing a foreign university presenting the Malawi economic case circulated on social media last week. Some of what was presented probably bordered on exaggeration. It was stated, for example, that Malawi was a walking nation where people everywhere seemed to be walking to no particular destination. Everything seemed to proceed at a walking pace in Malawi, according to the presenter.

Unpalatable though the presentation would have sounded, yet its contents are not far removed from the truth. Truth pains but it is wise to carefully consider and act on it.

Malawi is going nowhere. Yes, there have been noticeable developments in some sectors but not enough to make a dent on Malawi’s poverty. The truth is that poverty is actually getting worse in this country. Our economic growth is overshadowed by the population growth, which is happening at a greater rate. Malawi needs to grow its economy by more than 5 percent per annum over the next 50 years for things to change.

Many people that I have interacted with seem to indicate that this daunting task is squarely and exclusively on the shoulders of those in political leadership. Agreed, much depends on the leadership in as far as the overall direction of the country is concerned, but political leaders cannot develop this country. I am stating for the umpteenth time that it is private citizens that develop a country more than politicians do.

Germany developed more by the efforts of Karl Benz, Nicolas Otto, Rudolf Diesel and others than by those of Kaiser Wilhelm or Adolf Hitler. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Ira Rubel and a host of other American innovators have been responsible for the development of America much more than the likes of Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, George Bush and other politicians.

The best political leaders can do is set a conducive environment in which development can take place. For this to happen, they must surely be accountable. There is no quarrel that one way in which this will be achieved is to ensure public resources are not wasted through misuse, neglect or corruption. This is non-negotiable, and citizens have every right to demand proper governance from those that govern. We have no shortage of people or groups that do this on a daily basis in Malawi. My worry is that everybody seems to think that this is all we need for this country to develop.

If and when we manage to have political leaders that govern well, that will only be the threshold of development. Beyond that private citizens must usher in the actual development. It is private citizens that must engage in production and service provision to keep the economy going. It is them, not politicians, that must produce goods that can be exported to bring in forex or be substitutes for imports to prevent or reduce forex flight. The list of what we, private players in the economy, can do is endless.

I have featured Apostle Kantanka on this column before. He is a Ghanaian private citizen who has established vehicle assembly plants in his country. Ghana is one of the few African countries able to manufacture vehicles, courtesy of people like Apostle Kantanka. When you see a car branded Kantanka one day just know it is the handiwork of a Ghanaian man of God. He also makes other products such as mobile phones, armoury vehicles and aircraft.

We only need a handful of people like Kantanka in Malawi and our economic landscape will skew towards greater prosperity. We will not see presentations like the one I referred to earlier again. Heads will be turning in disbelief at the story of a less fancied country that will have joined the ranks of affluent nations. The role of private citizens in bringing about development is monumental and should never be taken lightly.

Some years ago, our leaders negotiated and secured a quota in the American Agoa initiative. Private citizens should have jumped on this immense opportunity to supply a whole variety of goods to America. We failed to meet our quota. More recently, government secured an opportunity to supply agricultural goods to South Sudan.

According to reports, we failed to meet the required quantities by a wide margin in the first year. In both cases, people felt it was the government that had failed. In other words, government should have secured the deal then should have become farmers to produce and supply the required goods. This is warped thinking, in my view.

We need to seriously search within our practices and identify what we can do, as private citizens, to develop this country.

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