Tourism Minister Usi says “Malawi tourism on positive ‘leg-walk’, military museum in offing”

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife, Michael Biswick Usi has said that in the past two years, his ministry has recorded some key milestones towards making Malawi a preferred tourist destination despite facing typical  challenges.
Usi said this when he spoke to journalists on Thursday, January 26, 2023 during the ‘Government Faces the Press’ session at the Central Office of Information (COI) in Lilongwe. The session was themed ‘Zokopa Alendo’.
The minister said his first job when he came to the ministry was to build a team of competent professionals, which is fully aware of the deliverables of his ministry in line with government’s 2063 development blueprint, which seeks to make Malawi an inclusively wealthy, self-reliant  and industrialized upper-middle-income country.

Tourism Minister Usi
“My job is mainly to direct, coordinate and supervise this team as we work towards this empowering and overreaching vision. I am glad that we are making progress despite facing a tourism downturn in in 2020/2021 when the global tourism industry slumped by close to 95 percent due to Covid-19,” said Usi.
He added that his Ministry will soon open a military museum  in Zomba, which will be the first of its kind in Malawi and that people will be able to appreciate the country’s military artifacts as another way of promoting tourism.
“Currently, Malawi does not have a military museum, and I am glad that this will be the first in the country.  Construction of the fence is already complete; what is remaining is to populate the museum with relevant military artifacts,” said the minister, adding that construction of the museum has been made possible with funding from private financiers.
Added Usi: “One thing that I always encourage my team is to be disciplined and to think outside the box. We sit down and develop proposals to funding organizations to help us finance our various projects, and this military museum is one of them. We make sure that we do not always rely on government funding to implement some projects”
The minister also said another achievement is the translocation of animals from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu National Park that took place in 2022. He added that Malawi is the only country that has translocated more elephants than any other country in world, which he said is something that Malawians should be proud of.
“We have translocated 655 animals, including Elephants, buffaloes and Zebras from Liwonde National Park to Kasungu National Park as a way of spreading our tourism products and also to minimize human and animal conflict. We are also implementing various programmes aimed at assisting communities around wildlife game reserves with seed capital to ensure that they engage in productive enterprises than engage in poaching of animals,” he said.
On the development of arts and the creative industry in the country, Usi said his ministry has made tremendous progress in ensuring that the welfare of artists in the country is improved, and that artists are able to earn decent incomes from their creative works.
He said for example, the ministry through COSOMA pioneered the creation of the artists welfare fund whose objective is to allow artists access money to fund their varying projects and also to assist them in their moment of need.
Said the minister: “Currently we are working with the Ministry of Justice to create a legal framework of managing this fund. We are also encouraging and promoting a culture of pride in our traditional dances among people in both rural and urban areas.
“We are doing this through the creation of traditional dance competitions so that people, especially in the rural areas, realize that their traditional dances can also be a source of income. We are also making sure that original creators of these traditional and songs are earning royalties through COSOMA just like their compatriots who play songs using modern instruments.”
The minister also added that the rehabilitation of the Blantyre Cultural Centre (formerly French Cultural Centre) will be completed soon and Blantyre residents will be able to enjoy entertainment at their all time favourite venue.
The minister said they are engaging in various ways to ensure that Malawi is a preferred destination for locals as well as international tourists.
“What is important is that we have established the important discipline at the ministry to create an enabling framework so that tourism in the country grows to its latent potential,” said Usi, adding that a good example is the destination marketing promotion agreement the Ministry of Tourism has made with CD Leganes (Club Deportivo), a Spanish Football Club, which he said required discipline to be achieved.
Principal Secretary in the Ministry, Chauncy Simwaka said the tourism industry in Malawi was mainly kept afloat by local tourists at the height of Covid-19, particularly in 2020 to 2021 when countries closed their borders and international tourism was almost non-existent. He, therefore, encouraged more Malawians to patronize local tourists units across the country, saying most of them have fair and bespoke offerings targeting domestic tourists.
The session with journalists was also graced by directors from various departments in the ministry.
Acting Director of Tourism, Sosten Lingwalanya said the Tourism Investment Masterplan launched in April 2022 has so far started to attract investors in its 10 priority areas. He gave an example of Nkhata Bay and Salima resort projects, which he said have attracted over 35 investors.
He also said the ministry has strengthened its licensing regime as one way of dealing with issues of workplace exploitation in hotels and resorts, where rights of workers are not respected.
“We are now comprehensively looking at issues of workers rights as one of the conditions before issuing licenses for operators in the tourism industry. On top of that we have a toll free line – 437 – for anyone to call to report issues of exploitation or any other related issues for us to deal with,” said Lingwalanya
Director of Archaives, Dr Paul Lihoma said record keeping plays a critical role in the development of the nation, which is why the ministry has gone full throttle in its rebranding process, which includes mainstreaming record keeping.
“We are currently at an advanced stage in our migration process from analogue to digitize all our records in keeping with modern technology. We are also training record keepers from all government MDAs to ensure that there is transparency and efficiency in record keeping and management of information. So far, we have identified eight MDAs for this pilot project, which is being funded by Ray Foundation of New Zealand,” said Dr Lihoma.

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