One-on-one: Nyasa Times interview with Malawi Ngwira

*It’s a person’s name that’s the source of his (or her) uniqueness and creativeness and his (or her) work, they say, but the optimal milieu for the unfolding of his (or her) capabilities and talents lies in his (or her) desires to do better. In this ‘one–on-one’ Exclusive Interview, Nyasa Times Senior Journalist and columnist Peter Makossah, referred to in this Interview as (PM) talks to an internationally recognised consummate Surveyor, Senior lecturer and Programme Team Leader at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland, Mr. Malawi Ngwira (MN) – the first African and Malawian to be elected as Honourary Secretary for the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE…*


PM: “I love your forename, ‘MALAWI,’ how did you get that name?”

MN: “Laughs…My parents gave it to me. I guess they loved their country, Malawi, so much. Typical of true patriots. They gave me this name because they believed I was a covenant child. I love my name, Malawi so much as I love my country, Malawi. I’m so proud to be Malawian.

PM: So ‘Malawi’ is putting ‘Malawi’ on the world map?”

MN: “Laughs…if you say so…!”

PM: You have just been appointed as honourary Secretary for the Commonwealth Association of Surveying and Land Economy (CASLE) how does that feel?

MN: It feels great, and, it is a very humbling experience to be the first African and let alone the first Malawi to hold that position. I am proud to have done my country such great pride.

Malawi Ngwira

PM: Where were you elected?

MN: “I was elected at a Board Meeting held at the offices of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), Parliament Square in London, England.

PM: What is your main role?

MN: “Sighs…As Honorary Secretary for CASLE Europe Region, my main role is to administer and manage the activities of the organisation and liaise with the other five regional bodies in the world. It is a very critical role given CASLE Europe’s position within the organisation…”

PM: “How significant is Casle to the rest of the world including Malawi?”

MN: CASLE is a very important organisation to the world and Malawi in particular, because it works with Europe Region includes the UK which hosts a number of significant bodies that are of critical importance to CASLE as a whole. For instance London, where CASLE operates from is based in London which also happens to be the headquarters of the commonwealth, the RICS, and the seat of UK government. London also hosts government representations of nearly all commonwealth countries…”

“Sighs…The Commonwealth, through the Commonwealth Foundation and the RICS are key supporters of CASLE. In my role, along with my colleagues on the Board, I will be interfacing with these principal organisations and commonwealth government representatives including Malawi, as well as other European governments with CASLE representations  to advance the cause of CASLE not just for Europe but  throughout the Commonwealth…”

PM: “How was your appointment received by the organisation being the first non-European and African, and of course first Malawian, to hold such a position?”

MN: “It has been well received and I’m so humbled to be appointed to this position. I’m so proud to represent my country. As a Malawian, I feel euphoric and honoured to carry the Malawi flag aloft on an international map. My appointment has been genially welcomed by all the committee members and the incumbent President of CASLE, Europe Region, Dr Kt Weddle.”

PM: What’s your professional background?

MN: I attended University of Malawi; University of West of Scotland, UK; Glasgow University; Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen; University of Reading; and Salford University. I am a qualified Chartered Surveyor; Project Manager; and Infrastructure Asset Manager…”

PM: “You must be a well qualified and experienced professional?”

MN: “Laughs…I’ve done well enough to acquire both the knowledge and the experience. I was registered a Chartered Surveyor with the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a worldwide leading surveying organisation, in 1990…I have over 20 years professional work experience in the UK as a Chartered Surveyor; Project Manager; and Infrastructure Asset Manager working for a number of leading public bodies internationally…”

PM: “What else is on your resume?”

MN: “I’m a senior university Lecturer and a Programme Team Leader at the Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. I’m a Programme Leader for BSC (Hons) Property Management and Valuation programme and MSc Real Estate Management, respectively. But also do quite a lot of stuff apart from teaching at the university like research and more…”

PM: “What else do you do?

MN: “I serve on the Scottish Commercial Valuation Board of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors…”

PM: “Is this your first major international appointment?”

MN: “Coughs… NO! In 2011 I was appointed as an executive team member on an International Research Project researching Urban Development issues. The project is funded by the European Commission and has experts drawn from six universities worldwide – university of Salford, UK; North Eastern University, USA; San Diego, California; Cagliari, Italy; and Calabria, Italy. We aim to come up with integrative rural-urban economic development regeneration models…”

PM: “what’s the highlight of your career?”

MN: “I must say when in 2010 /11 I appeared in “WHO IS WHO” in recognition of my professional achievement and services to academia. That’s not only for me, but also a triumph for my country.…”

PM: “Have you ever been involved in charity work, especially for Malawians?”

MN: Yes I have. I believe in the notion that caring is sharing. Between 2008 and 2011 I was the Executive Director of a Scottish based charity, Malawian Initiative for National Development (MIND) having taken over from the then Executive Director, Dr Matthews Mtumbuka (now Information technology director at Airtel Malawi) with whom I worked very closely in establishing the organisation, along with the Malawian community in Aberdeen, Scotland…”

PM: “Are you still running MIND?”

MN: “Not as Executive director. But I still am involved. I’d to step aside as director because there seemed to be too much on my plate. I’m always busy and up and running, so someone had to take charge. It’s not all about me; it’s about helping the people of Malawi…”

PM: When did you become a lecture?”

MN: “I joined Glasgow Caledonian University’s School of Engineering and Built Environment as a Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in the Division of Construction and Surveying in 2007.”

PM: “Give me a speck of background about CASLE?”

MN: “In brief, CASLE was founded in 1969 as a federation of independent professional societies in surveying and land economy in Commonwealth countries…And the Surveyors Institute of Malawi is a member. There are now member societies in 32 countries across the globe, and correspondents in 19 other countries. CASLE is divided into five regions namely Africa, Asia, Atlantic, Pacific and Europe of which I have been appointed its Honorary Secretary.”

PM: “What are CASLE’s aims?”

MN: “CASLE endeavours on the encouragement of provision in Commonwealth countries of adequate facilities for professional and technician education. It also deals with the transfer of technology throughout the Commonwealth, and through programmes of continuing professional development, the constant up-dating of professional skills and the application of rapidly advancing technologies to a wide variety of surveyors’ functions…”

PM: “…And its objectives?”

MN: “CASTLE strives to foster the development of the profession in all Commonwealth countries. It also fosters appropriate standards of education for surveying and land economy and the establishment of appropriate facilities for education and training. Apart from that it also helps in developing professional techniques and practices attuned to national needs…Also Casle facilitates the transfer of technology within the Commonwealth and assisting national programmes of continuing professional development designed to keep surveyors up-to-date. Again, CASLE encourages dialogue between its member societies and national governments on all matters of national policy among others…”

PM: “How do you achieve your aims and objectives?”

MN: “CASLE achieves its objectives through conferences and seminars, lecture tours, publications, manpower studies and direct advice to governments, universities, other educational bodies and its own member societies. We organise General Assemblies and many regional conferences, seminars, workshops and lecture tours…”

PM: “How does Malawi benefit from CASLE?”

MN: “For a country like Malawi and indeed many developing countries, problems of land management are forever at the fore. Most of these land problems could be significantly tackled if land title problems were properly addressed. It is well known for instance that countries like the USA and indeed all western countries only really took off on the road to economic prosperity after they had put in place effective land title registration and administration systems…”

PM: “How crucial is Marine or water asset management?”

MN: “Marine or water asset management is becoming an increasingly important subject area. In Malawi, with the increasing interest in prospecting for oil in Lake Malawi at the moment. We assist in how to deal with potential pollution and its implications on the livelihoods of those who largely depend on the lake. The lake is a major source of livelihood for fishermen and the lives of lakeshore dwellers literally depend on the lake as it is the main source of clean water for drinking, cooking and other activities…”

PM: The final word?

MN: “Apart from the consideration of how best to manage resources such as fish, oil or ensuring the availability of safe and clean water supply, there’s also the whole problem of boundaries.  It is common knowledge that the countries sharing common interests in Lake Malawi, have never properly resolved their boundaries and we offer professional advice in that regard…”

PM: “Thank you for your time!”

*Do you have what it takes to be featured on Nyasa Times’s ONE-ONE Exclusive Interview? Then contact the host, Peter Makossah at [email protected] OR [email protected]

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