One-on-one with man-of-the moment -Henry Kachaje

*His guileless talk on Malawi’s ailing economy and citizens’ free enterprise is as tough as a teak and he has won so many a heart as Malawi continues to bask in an economic turmoil and disorder. He is fearless, honest and he calls a spade a spade. He is one man who strongly believes that Malawi currently needs a nationally developed and shared vision. He thinks Malawi needs patriotic citizens who will take Malawi as their only home here on earth, because it is…. 

 *He also says Malawi needs leaders and not looters. In this One-on-one exclusive interviewNyasa Times senior journalist and columnist Peter Makossah referred in this interview as PM talks to man of the moment Henry Kachaje referred to as HK, the flamboyant Executive director of Business Africa Consult, a no nonsense patriotic citizen who strongly believes that entrepreneurship takes a lot of sacrifice, thus those who desire to beat unemployment by becoming entrepreneurs must not give up because of a single hiccup. After all, the sweetest triumph is that which seemed most impossible. And, a world where formal employment will easily flow like a river won’t be found. Such a world, he says is an impossible creation in the midst of the massive and rapid technological development that is taking place….

*Excerpts

 

 PM: “Who is Henry Kachaje?

 

HK: “I call myself a Patriotic Citizen of Malawi, who is privileged to be alive at this time in history. I am the last born in a family of nine. I have studied economics, business management and entrepreneurship from the University of Malawi, Durham University (UK) and University of Pretoria (RSA).

Kachaje: Poverty and illiteracy are great assets to our politician

PM: “Tell me more about Business Africa Consult?

HK: “Business Consult Africa (BCA) was established in 2000 with technical expertise from Traidcraft PLC, UK’s largest fair trade organization. The vision of BCA is to become the leader in facilitating private sector-lead economic growth through enterprise development. BCA’s mission is to fast-tracking economic growth through the establishment, development, and promotion of innovative sustainable enterprises in Malawi and other African economies.

PM: You’ve recently become a firebrand and a mouthpiece for economic growth in the country, always talking about economic matters to the masses, where have you been all long?

“A multimillionaire and author of the book: Secrets of the Millionaire Minds, T. Harv Eker, says; “If you believe that what you have to offer can truly assist people, it‘s your duty to let as many people as possible know about it.” I believe in light of the economic challenges that Malawi is facing, any patriotic Malawian must play a part to contribute to the positive progression of our economy. It is disheartening that almost 50 years after attaining political independence; economic independence for our beloved nation of Malawi seems to be just a pipe dream…”

“…I believe it is only right and proper to open your mouth when you believe that what you have to say, can positively contribute to the generation of a solution for the benefit of mankind. Let me say I have been in practical training for over 25 years that has equipped me with some skills and knowledge that can be of national benefit…”

PM:  “Why now?”

HK: “Tough economic times require ingenious solutions. I think trial and error strategies are very costly in times of crisis. We need every patriotic Malawian to rise to the occasion and offer whatever help they can for the sake of building our nation.”

PM: “Malawi is currently in an economic turmoil, what do you think is wrong?”

HK: “What we are facing today is not necessarily because of what we are doing now, but rather, what we did wrong in the past and what we failed to do in the past. If today we do not have a shade to sit under during the scorching sun, it simply means we did not plant the trees yesterday. As Malawians, we have been living in a house of cards for years, believing we had a working economy when we knew very well that about 40% of our national budget depended on donor funds.

“….It doesn’t take an economist to realize that a married man who plans on providing for his wife and his growing family based on donations from his uncle, father or friends is not economically intelligent.”

“As Malawians, we had put all our hopes on one commercial crop, tobacco, which for the past three years has seen declining sales from US$ 460 million in 2010, down to US$ 290 million in 2011 and further down to a miserable US$ 177 million in 2012. The writing has been very clear on the wall, but we chose to ignore the warning signs and hoped somehow God will be merciful to us.”

“Our economic planning has largely been short and medium term. The published economic development plans, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategies (MDGS 1 & 2) and the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), do not project far enough into the future.

PM: “What do we need for an upward growth as an economy?”

 HK: “For Malawi’s economy to take a sustainable upward growth, it requires huge investments in infrastructure such as electricity, which at the moment is only accessible to 7 percent of the 14 million Malawi population. The country needs to invest in roads, airports if the tourism dream is to become a reality. The country must re-design its education system and curriculum to align them to the developmental needs. All these cannot be contained and achieved in five-year plans…”

PM: “Yes…!”

HK: “…Someone once described Malawi as a “bicycle economy with limousine appetites”. As a nation we need to understand and appreciate the size and level at which our economy is, then willingly trim our expenditure and appetite accordingly…”

“…I don’t think the size of our cabinet, the size of state house budget, the allocation of two or more vehicles to a government minister reflect the size of our economy. In my view, we have leaders and some “advantaged citizens” who live like kings of an oil-rich Middle East nation. I believe we need to carefully take a sober look at our economy and adjust our appetites accordingly. These are but just a few observations in misalignments in our economy.”

PM: “Many including yourself advance the notion for Malawi to be an exporter of its own ‘goods’ yet the system is complicated and often infused with kickbacks, for instance, for a small-scale business person with no ‘political connection’ stands no chance and needs to undergo a hectic red-carpet government bureaucracy to be able to acquire an exporting licence unlike society’s big shots, what measures should be put in place to level the field of play? 

 HK: “The dream to become a producing and a net exporting nation is a noble one that must be pursued with all our attention, resources and commitment. The challenge is that such great dreams are rarely accompanied by a robust action plan.”

PM: “Like?”

 HK: “For example, to become a producing nation, there are many things that must be addressed: We need to have a fully functioning civil service that understands that its role is to facilitate development as well as creating an enabling business environment…”

“The challenge at the moment is that we have a civil service that largely behaves as a stumbling block to economic development. Coupled with lack of political will to implement reforms, we have become our own enemy to progress…”

“…We talk about becoming an exporting nation and yet, no single university has introduced courses that purely focus on export trade development. We talk about tourism and yet the colleges that teach tourism can’t be rated as offering world standard tourism facilities, services or knowledge.”

PM: “Right…”

HK: “There is empty talk on political podiums about encouraging exports and yet what businesses find on the ground is nothing but a myriad of roadblocks to surmount. Unless there is a conscious and deliberate willingness to reform, Malawi may sadly continue to wallow in the valley of economic despair. This nation needs a complete overhaul in all sectors, be it political, government, civil society, church or private sector…”

PM: What’s your take on Malawi’s dependency on foreign aid, almost over four decades after independence?

 HK: “Being dependent on foreign aid over four decades after independence is a sign of not being independent. I am not sure what people mean when they say Malawi is an independent nation. I don’t see much political independence either when our policies seem to have the hand-writings of IMF and World Bank all over.  I believe it is time we re-defined our independence and include economic independence in that definition. I don’t believe a child who has graduated from college, found a job, living on his own, yet having 40% of his monthly upkeep supported by the parents can claim to be truly independent.”

PM: “Okay?”

“The challenge with donor dependency is that it robes you of personal dignity and honour. Beggars are not choosers and just surviving is not noble. “The rich rule over the poor”, observed King Solomon, one of the most successful kings of the nation of Israel…”

“I believe as a nation, our economic developmental plans must include a gradual weaning off on donor dependence. Kenya and Botswana are amongst few African nations that are now off donor budgetary support, and I believe it is possible for Malawi to reach that envious status within five to seven years with a good strategy in place.”

PM: “Recently Business Africa Consult Africa announced that in its bid to revolutionalise entrepreneurship in Malawi it intends to help create 1, 00,000, 000 jobs in the next five years, how will you achieve that?”

 HK: “Simple: It will take 200,000 patriotic Malawians who are willing to invest into the future and forgo instant gratification; who are willing to be trained, mentored and supported to grow their businesses over a five-year period with a goal to create at least five jobs each on average. This is very doable.

PM: “Go on…!”

 HK: “It is actually a “modest figure and ambition” according to Mr. Thomson Mpinganjira, Group CEO of FDH Financial Holdings Ltd. I am encouraged by his assessment because he has personally proven that it is possible. About ten years ago he started one highly sophisticated financial services company with just seven employees and today he has grown the single company to a group of companies, employing over 280 professional staff.”

PM: “Wow!”

“In the program we launched, we are targeting that each business should create just five jobs in five years. I totally believe this is modest enough for patriotic hard working Malawians. The challenge is finding Malawians who are ambitious enough and willing to develop themselves and their businesses. We are however very optimistic that this will be achieved. Failure is NOT an option.”

PM: During the launch of entrepreneurship revolution at Comesa hall in Blantyre you said that Malawi was economically better than China and Japan 33 years ago but today the country is poorer and now depends on these countries for economic support, what do you think has gone wrong for the country’s economic situation to be in reverse rather than progressing?

 HK: “I was quoting Dambisa Moyo, PhD, a Zambian renowned economist in her book, Dead Aid. She says, “Malawi about 30 years ago was economically ahead of China on a per capita income basis”. Today, the Malawian Parliament seats in a Chinese donated building. This is a shame and very humiliating. What went wrong is that we lacked and still lack visionary leadership.”

“Malawi is blessed and endowed with enough natural resources to enable the country move forward economically. One resource however that has not been developed adequately is the human capital. About 80% of the population remain trapped in subsistent farming practices.”

PM: “Any other challenge?”

 HK: “Another challenge is that we have relied on primitive farming methods. It is interesting to note that over 2,000 years ago, in the time of Jesus, people were using ploughs on the farm. Today, as a country, we still can’t put the plough into the hands of even just a quarter of our farmers.”

PM: “Yes…!”

 HK: “One more challenge is that poverty and illiteracy are great assets to our politicians. With rampant poverty and high levels of illiteracy, it is very easy for the masses to be taken advantage of by politicians who rise to positions of leadership without any traceable track record of success and progress in their personal or professional lives…”

“…The poor are easily used by political parties to gain support for their personal political agendas as they hope to get some favours from the ruling elite (or is it looting elite?). It is easier to get votes from a poor person than it is to get them from an economically empowered and discerning citizen. This has been one of our major challenges to progress economically since most politicians see poverty and illiteracy as an asset in their political career progression and power consolidation.”

PM: “You have faulted government’s short Growth  Strategy and Development claiming they are meaningless what do you think must be done if government’s economic strategies are pro-poor and provide a good economic therapy for all Malawians?”

 HK: “I have never said government policies are meaningless. Some of them are actually very good plans. But what I have said is that they are mostly short to medium term plans and in some cases, they lack a robust implementation plan. The other challenge I have said is that our developmental plans seem to change each time a new political party rises to power…”

PM: “So what must be done then?”

 HK: “I believe Malawi needs a nationally developed and shared vision. We need a vision that once developed and adopted, must be guarded, protected, respected and followed as we do with the national constitution. The greatest challenge at the moment is that in the absence of a nationally adopted vision, each political party brings its own visions (or fantasies) and changes the economic direction of the nation. This has made it impossible for Malawi to progress economically. Meaningful economic development cannot be achieved in five years. We need a long-term vision, projecting some 30, 50 or even 100 years into the future…”

PM: “What must political parties tell the masses then?

 HK: “Political parties must tell the population what their party will do to contribute towards the fulfillment of that vision. They must outline in their manifestos what they hope to achieve in five years of office to move the country forward toward the national vision. Where there is no vision, the people perish. We need to have a shared vision against which any political party seeking the privilege (not right) to lead this nation, must measure itself against.

PM: “You also recently branded prophets and some men of God in the country as childish for not telling Malawians the truth on how to create wealth, what do you think they should be doing in line with God’s teachings  as regards economic empowerment?”

 HK: “I have never blasted or branded prophets and some men of God. But I have made an observation that some of the prophets act childish, playing with the Word of God basically. I observed that for a prophet to be asking the congregation or the audience whether he or she should prophecy, is unbiblical and indeed childish as far as I know the Bible. I gave an example that reading through the Bible; I have never come across any prophet who ever did what some of the current prophets do today…”

PM: “Is that so?”

 HK: “Regarding the teaching by some men and women of God on creating wealth, I find some teachings quite disturbing especially where people are told that by simply bringing a financial seed offering to the man or woman of God, and being prayed for, they can prosper financially. I don’t think this is in line with the teachings of the Bible. What I have found in the Bible is that a man without a vision shall perish, regardless how many times that person gets prayed for. I have also found that for lack of knowledge, people are destroyed…”

PM: “You seem well informed on the scriptures!”

 HK: Laughs…“Every person needs financial knowledge to prosper financially. Finally, I have also established that the Bible emphasises a lot on hard work. Seven times it is recorded that “six days thou shall labour”. In light of what the Bible teaches, I am of the view that it is immoral for someone claiming to be a prophet or man or woman of God to tell people he can make them rich simply by praying for them and collecting the little money they have as a seed “planted in him.”

PM: What’s your opinion on Malawi’s government’s Economic Recovery Plan (ERP)? Do you think it’s feasible?

 HK: My first comment on the ERP was that it lacks clarity and a robust implementation plan. I have however heard that the ministry responsible is developing, or has developed a comprehensive implementation plan. Since I have not seen the revised plan, I cannot comment further.

PM: What do you think is missing on the political front that helps change the cost-effective direction of Malawi as a country?

HK: Everything rises and falls on leadership, says Dr. John Maxwell, an internationally acclaimed leadership guru. Leadership is critical to drive our nation towards economic independence. Sadly, our positions of leadership have mostly been occupied by politicians in the last couple of decades.”

PM: “Interesting…!”

 HK: “There has been a serious deficit of leadership at all levels in this country, be it in government, civil society, church, business or at community level. In case others may be wondering why I am arguing that leadership has been a big challenge, let me define leadership using the words of my mentor, Dr. Myles Munroe: “Leadership is the capacity to influence others through inspiration, which is generated by passion; motivated by a vision; which is birthed by a conviction which is produced from a purpose.” In short, what is missing is true leadership.

PM: “There is rampant ‘political prostitution’ in Malawi do you think this is healthy for democracy especially when everybody wants to belong to the ruling party? How does this affect the growth of the economy based on fact that it yields politics of appeasement?”

 HK: “Politicians who move from one party to another at will, without even the consent of the electorate, may be seeking something else other than serving the people of Malawi. Sometimes one is tempted to think this nation is being run by some “rival gangs”, who seek to control the nation’s resources and share the loot.”

“I want to convince myself that I am wrong on this assessment, though the evidence suggest otherwise. Unfortunately, the economy suffers because such politicians seem to be only interested in their political careers and probably the share in the loot.”

“The other challenge is that though the ruling political party changes, the personalities remain the same. At the end, there is only a change of a name and the colour of the party cloth. But since the people remain the same, the nation is given a raw deal as it is handed down the same overused and recycled leaders with the same failed policies, ideologies and levels of thinking. Albert Einstein once observed that you cannot solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it.”

PM: “What qualities must Malawians look for in a leader in 2014 if the country is to transform as an economic powerhouse?”

 HK: “Malawi desperately needs visionary, sacrificial, conviction-driven leaders who will inspire Malawians towards hard work, self-reliance, success and prosperity. Leaders with a proven track record of success in their personal, career or business lives. Malawi must do away with politicians who do not share in the suffering of the common man, who do not queue up for Aspirin at the local hospital because they have the luxury of using taxpayers’ money to seek better medication outside the country…”

PM: “I’m listening…”

 HK: “Malawi needs leaders who are willing to suffer with the people, go to the same hospitals with those who trusted them with the privilege to become their leaders. Malawi needs leaders who should willingly declare their assets BEFORE being elected to positions of leadership, not just because the laws demand them to do so, but because they have integrity and believe in being transparent and accountable to those he/she seeks to serve.”

PM: “So what does Malawi need?”

“Malawi deserves dynamic servant leaders, who do not seek power but to empower. Who do not seek to be worshiped, but to serve. Who do not seek to dominate but to develop and who do not seek to get rich but to enrich.”

PM: “How can Malawi be quickly turned into a self-reliant economic powerhouse?”

 HK: “Malawi must develop a shared vision that clearly focuses on becoming a self-reliant economic state. Then have a team of sacrificial leaders to lead by example not words. Most important, Malawi needs patriotic citizens. Patriotism is lacking amongst the citizens. We go about our daily lives as if we really don’t care what happens to our country. We need patriotic citizens who will take Malawi as their only home here on earth, because it is. We need patriotic Malawians who believe that if each one of us will only sweep his or her front and backyards, we will have a clean Malawi.”

PM: “Is that so?”

 HK: “We need to reduce the number of dependent citizens by empowering them, equipping them and challenging them to work hard. Leader must stop encouraging the spirit of dependence. People shouldn’t be told government will take care of you, and all you need to do is have a free ride. This message from politicians although it brings them votes, it is toxic and is slowly but surely killing our nation…”

“Every man who is old enough to bear children must be told the children he has are his own responsibility! George Clason in his book, The Richest Man in Babylon argues: “Our prosperity as a nation depends on the personal financial prosperity of each one of us as individuals.” I thus believe that for the nation to prosper, we need citizens that are individually prospering financially.”

PM: The final word?   

 HK: “Malawi is the only country on planet earth I call home. I believe there are many Malawians out there in the same position as I am. If we join hands and love this nation and work hard to develop it economically; our children will live in an economically independent Malawi. I believe we are the generation that must plant the trees that will create the shade for our children and their children. This is a noble cause to which I wish to invite every patriotic Malawian to join.”

PM: “Thank you for your time and God bless you.”

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