My first blackout, on my very first day back home on vacation early December, lasted all of an interrupted 19 hours.A recent report on electricity access in Africa stated that Malawi has 14 million of its people living without electricity. For those lucky few with access, supply is not guaranteed—even if one is ready and willing to pay for it—or, as it is with the pre-paid system, one has already paid.
Our nation, literally and figuratively, is living in the dark ages.
Someone will have to use a biggercalculator than mine to find the total cost of thisthe erratic power supply, but to small businesses it is devastating. Easy G, a young man who makes an honest living out of cutting hair from his roadside barbershop in Blantyre’sChitawira is all but grounded, as are so many others, because there is no supply of electricity with which to work.
The cost of doing business for medium to large-scale enterprises has significantly gone up because big diesel-fueled generators don’t run cheap. As a result, everythingcosts much more than when I was last here, just six months ago. In some cases, it’s twice as much.
Already, companies are constantly evaluating if its worth the pain to continue doing business here and the prognosis is not good. Its simple really; if doing business in Malawi isn’t cheaper and better than doing business in Mozambique, for example, then companies will go to Mozambique.
In the face of this, it was amusing to listen to President Peter Mutharikadeliver his end of year message and declare that in 2016 “Malawi became an attractive destination for investment”. Either the president is a hapless optimist, or is hopelessly misinformed. Either way, it’s sad to see. While the president was saying this, the newspapers had been running series of stories of people in Mutharika’s cabinet and in parastatals who are ravaged by terminal kleptomania and cannot help themselves but steal from public coffers. To this day the pillage continues, and the president hasn’t been bothered to fire anyone in anger.
“What can we do?”
For starters, we should not tire of demanding better from those weemployed to get this nation working again and, should they not listen and change,we must exercise our authority by ditching them at the next election.
For far too long Malawians have been taken for granted, their votes stolen by a shameless, special breed of politicians who only pretend to be interested in the poor during election time.
I do not know of any other nation on this continent, independent for over 50 years, never been at protracted war with itself or others, a country blessed with admirable natural resource capital, yet doing as badly as Malawi is. No, we aren’t cursed; that’s a lame excuse I hear far too often to excuseour ineptitude and the erosion of national consciousness at the altar of political expediency.
We complain too much yet we are too nice to our tormentors. We are the world’s poorest country when we shouldn’t, but we don’t struggle with it because we have found comfort in our deprivation. We are gullible and we worship lying politicians when we should be more dismissive of them, assertive with them and demanding more from them.
Peter Mutharika has been president for close to three years now but I doubt if he knows his priority areas, the business plan for each and the turn-around strategy for our vital sectors—from energy to agriculture, from manufacturing to emerging businesses, from health to education.
What infuriates about Malawi, far more than the debilitating frustration of living with everyday challenges, is the realization that we are doomed for a generation because nobody is planning for the next generation.
In the energy sector alone Ethiopia had our problems, and more, but started on the construction of a mega dam some 16 years ago. Now nearing completion, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will generate 6,000 megawatts, and will be the largest hydro-electrical power plant in Africa and the 11th largest in the world.
Rwanda, we all know, faced far worse but look at it now? Tanzania, across our borders, is on an upward trajectory. Within one year of President John Magufuli in office 1423 industries were opened, including a $120 million fruit-processing factory. Some African countries are on the rise, whilst ours is a race to the bottom.
President Peter Mutharika is well aware of the grand corruption of his ministers and cronies. Yet to deal with that, he will close his eyes and hope the public outrage goes away. That is his management style on most of Malawi’s problems: ignore them, pretend they don’t exist and maybe they will disappear.
But there is a big problem. The mood of the people is not good. There is pessimism all over the place and everyone is worried about the future of a country that doesn’t seem to have a government with a single purpose in mind and a leadership with the resolve to fix things. My guess is that eventually—might be soon—something will snap. You can only contain a frustrated people for so long.
People read about the endless cases of corruption in high places, they see their leadership swanning around in fancy custom-made , bullet-proof, luxury Lexus vehicles and they know that only the few favoured and their cronies are splitting the country’s spoils among themselves, while the rest feed off falling crumbs.
Personally I am amazed that the people have remained calm thus far. Talk to everyday folk and you will soon realize that Malawi is burning with frustration and resentment.
Something is going to have to give.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :