So sad to learn about what happened on Wednesday 2nd of May, 2012. A massive group of local people attacked and torched some businesses belonging to refugees and other foreign nationals more especially Burundians in Mponela in Dowa, Malawi.
Such xenophobic behaviours are becoming increasingly popular in the country since not long time ago there were some similar attacks aimed at Chinese businesses as well as other nationals. Slowly, e we are going to tarnish our good reputation that we have always had over the past 48 years. Malawi has an image worldwide of being a kind and warm hearted nation when it comes to hosting and accommodating foreigners hence the reason for adopting “Malawi The Warm Heart Of Africa” as our national slogan.
Wherever we go Malawians are always commended as the most calm and kind people whether being at home or abroad. For this reason it makes most of us proud to be known as Malawians wherever we are across the universe. Therefore it would do the nation no harm if we are to continue to be a warm hearted nation and even to aim at thriving for a more diverse society that accommodates everyone regardless of their race, tribe or nationality.
Most developed economies across the globe today have benefited from having a diverse society and an inclusion of foreign nationals in their systems. It is both economically and socially viable to have a diverse society that incorporates foreign nationals in the country’s social and economical activities.
For instance the USA, their green card system is one of the good example of a system that thrives to attract a pool of foreign nationals to get involved in their national development activities. There are other countries as well who have similar systems in place just to ensure that foreigners are part and parcel in their social and economical development.
If other economies can benefit from having a more diverse society which includes foreigners surely Malawi has the same advantage too when it comes to having foreigners participating in our social and economic activities. Although the only difference is that most developed economies which have succeeded with this approach have done it while prioritising the interests of their own citizens first. They have always ensured that while creating a diverse society their own citizens are not left behind or completely ignored. This is the main problem in Malawi, Malawians are forced to take the law into their own hands because they feel neglected when they see that government has nothing in place to prioritise or protect their interests against foreigners when it comes to small business opportunities.
In Malawi any foreigner can start up a business of any kind ranging from selling “Mandasi” to setting up a high technology manufacturing plant. There is nothing like a minimum capital requirement for a foreigner to set up a business. This is why the Chinese, Burundians and many other nationals have taken advantage by engaging themselves into small businesses which could have been dominated by Malawians.
In other countries like the United Kingdom, there is a minimum capital requirement of £250,000 for foreigners who are interested in setting up a small business. In so doing their citizens small business interests are protected, they are free to compete among themselves when it comes to small ventures.
Though it would be very ambitious and almost unrealistic to suggest that Malawi government should come up with a minimum capital requirement for foreign nationals if they want to set up a small business, but at least this can help to reduce the possibility of any xenophobic attacks similar to what we have just experienced in Mponela from happening again. Malawians will feel free again to compete among themselves doing small businesses which are currently dominated by Chinese and other foreign nationals.
Also the government should come clear on whether refugees are entitled to have the same rights as Malawians when it comes to setting up small businesses or not. The government should also come up with guidelines and measures to monitor whichever route it is going to take regarding the refugees and other foreigners when it comes to setting up businesses in Malawi. In so doing Malawi may wave goodbye to this kind of shameful xenophobic attack.