Chilima: DPP will transform Malawi to achieve self sustenance

Saulosi Chilima is one of Malawi’s most successful marketers. As Managing Director of Airtel Malawi he had one of Malawi’s best jobs. His decision to partner with 75-year-old Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Peter Mutharika in the May 20 elections therefore surprised many. RAPHAEL TENTHANI sat down with Chilima.

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Mr. Chilima, your decision to join politics this time beggars belief. Why have you decided to leave a comfy job as MD of one of Malawi most successful companies to join the uncertain world of politics?

To begin with, I thank God for his grace and the opportunity for me to serve my country and, specifically here, I thank DPP president Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika for the trust and confidence he has in me to work with him to drive the transformation agenda.


Surprise? Yes, I agree with you that probably Prof. Mutharika has indeed pulled a surprise through my appointment.

You are right that my job was very good. But, you see, people who succeed in life are risk takers. Besides, sometimes it is good to forget oneself for the good of many. I therefore take this is as my sacrifice for the country.

Some would say this is an unnecessary risk…

Well, sometimes you have to do this because one has faith. It is said that: “Once upon a time all villagers decided to pray for rain, on the day of prayer all the people gathered but only one boy came with an umbrella”. That is the kind of faith I have. In any event, I am one person who believes that all my life experience and all that I have had comes from God.

The DPP left power unceremoniously following the death of its founder, President Bingu wa Mutharika. I must say things were going from bad to worse in the twilight of Bingu’s rule. Don’t you think by partnering with another Mutharika you’re endorsing what most people say were Bingu’s excesses of power?

Without wanting to appear to be dwelling on or avoiding this point and justifying any such moments, there have been regrettable moments and experiences in this country in the past. Some avoidable, yet others extremely unfortunate.

But I am a very optimistic person and I am sure that our president has his own vision which is different from others. With such optimism I see good in the future. I have hope.

“Every night we go to bed without any assurances of being alive the next morning but still we set the alarms on our watches to wake up…” That is the kind of hope that I have. I am looking for a bright future for our country. I am confident that we can transform this nation.

At 41 you’re relatively a young man, what do you bring to politics that is littered with recycled politicians?

You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do,” Henry Ford once said. I agree with him entirely. I bring to the platform my passion, my determination, my time, hard work and virtually my all as long as the Almighty God up there grants me life. I will do my best to live my values which are: Humility and Radiance

Again we all remember how the DPP used to use its youth wing to perpetrate acts of violence as evidenced by those panga-wilding gangs ahead of the July 20, 2011 anti-government demonstrations. As a young man yourself, what your message to the DPP youth?

As I join and engage with the youth in the party, and in Malawi in general, first is to encourage all of them to have a vision starting with the individual before they think about the next person. This vision or dream helps shape one’s way of thinking in order to align the way to attaining the dream. We need to broaden our industry in order to create jobs for the youth. We need to re-open our technical schools in order to create more and more artisans and improve on the quality of our deliverables.

This is one way of empowering the youth. Once this is achieved and because they are now equipped with the right tools and training, we can then compliment that by giving them a boost to kick start their entrepreneurial desires.

They youth must be fully incorporated in the national development agenda. In any case, they form the biggest percentage of our population and, as such, we should make them play an active part.

Hence in brief the youth must have a vision, stay focused and go and achieve their intended dream. In that way, they may not be susceptible to any abuse by anyone.

Some are saying you’re a rookie to politics who will have to learn a lot of things on the job, what do you say to that?

In everything that we do, we learn. Great footballers were not born great, they became great because they have the right attitude, they had vision, they lived their vision and realised their dream. Great business managers have done the same.

We need to transform our country for instance from being a predominantly consuming nation to one that produces. We need to walk the talk. We have heard people complaining in different places, at church, at wedding functions, at work, at school, at the hospital, in buses, at the clubs…these are people that are very good and technically competent. All they do is criticise without offering alternative solutions.

Some suffer from “analysis-paralysis”. Let us get involved and help one another transform the face of our nation. If we do not do it, who will?

Tell me, who is Saulos Chilima?

I was born on 12th February 1973. I was the first local Managing Director for Airtel Malawi in the year 2010 and at the time am told I was one of this country’s youngest executive officers. I joined the company in 2006 as Sales and Distribution Director, but I have over 18 years experience in various sectors.

I held senior sales and marketing positions in banking and the fast-moving consumer goods sectors, namely the Leasing and Finance Company, Unilever Malawi and Coca Cola and Carlsberg before joining the telecommunications field.

I have served on the board of Airtel Malawi since August 2009 and also on the boards of Indebank (Mw) Limited, Charter Insurance Limited and Momentum Health and I am also a trustee of the University of Malawi.

Academically, I hold a Bachelor of Social Sciences Degree and Master of Arts in Economics both from the University of Malawi. Currently, I am reading for my PhD with the University of Bolton, UK. I am married to Mary and we have two children.

What message do you have to Malawians?

I have confidence that with the DPP regime, we will transform this country to achieve self sustenance. I say this because confidence is demonstrated as follows: “We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future or having any certainty of uncertainties..

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