Looking for the Malawi that Kamuzu Built – Godwin Nyirongo

An agro-based economy with over 2 million youths unemployed, Malawi; ranked 8th poorest country in Africa seems to have lost its glory that it used to enjoy under the founding President Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Several political, economic, health and social atrocities have found their breeding grounds after the death of the fallen hero.

From the year 1964 to somewhere around 1993, economically Malawi was amongst the most stable economies of Africa with an inflation rate of up to 7% and high GDP per Capita growth rates. Kamuzu adopted the Rostow macroeconomic model of “catch up” economics, with import substitution industrialization (ISI) as key to a prosperous Malawi. This enabled the Southern republic to be self-reliant and also ensure that the country was able to produce its own goods and services with agricultural production being given much support due to its ability to generate more revenue. Faced with global economic crisis he later adopted Structural Adjustment Programmes with influence from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank however he made sure the country maintained its path to prosperity. A lot of infrastructures were built most of which are the foundation of current national pride. Among them include Chancellor College (University of Malawi), Kamuzu International Airport, Kamuzu Central Hospital, Kamuzu Stadium, Kamuzu Palace, Kamuzu Academy, several roads connecting various cities and towns just to mention a few. Being a medical doctor himself he also made sure that the health sector was also performing up to standard and surely mortalities were kept at a bay so too are some of the most common health problems Malawi faces nowadays. His legacy cannot be buried in any pit for that would be suicidal to our nation.

Over 15 years now have passed since the demise of this most honored president and within this short period the Malawi people see today is much uglier than of then. Incompetency in the governments we’ve had in the past have perpetuated this downfall.

Following multiparty democracy in 1994, Bakili Muluzi rose to power carrying with him a lot of what can be called “undeserved politics” rather than good governance. His coming saw domestic borrowing, inflation and interest rates, corruption, multilateral debt, criminal activity increase to undeserved rates (with inflation rates rising to over 30%). Forcing potential foreign (and domestic) investors and donors out of the country. The country was worst hit by hunger following a combination of both poor fiscal and monetary policies. His politically motivated economic agendas did not yield the prosperity that many Malawians longed to see no wonder his third term bid was heavily criticized and in the end rejected leading to Muntharika’s ascendance to power.

The coming in of Professor Bingu wa Muntharika brought a relief to the nation to the point that Malawi was ranked the second fastest growing economy in the world after Qatar. Trade policies were reviewed and economic environment improved for both domestic and foreign investors. Inflation rates decreased to a single digit (about 9%). Food was readily available with a surplus in most cases this was due to the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) that he adopted (but which later brought a lot of economic woes). In him Malawians trusted, no wonder come 2009 he was given massive support through the ballot i.e. he won the elections with a landslide victory. He was regarded as “the living Kamuzu Banda” and surely the first president’s title “Ngwazi” was given to him. His second term however was not that which Malawians expected. Executive arrogance was at the center of it all which led to donors holding funds. Forex and fuel shortages led to economic instability forcing the country to undeserved economic situation. It is claimed that he siphoned over $122 million. Poverty struck to another new high level and people lost their trust in him. The president later died whilst in office.

Joyce Banda’s cash-gate scam only made the country’s poverty worse and it is her government’s sins that have led to the current state of affairs. The country now has been very unstable economically, socially and politically with a lot of protest from both civil servants and private community. Inflation still remains high, with a lot of people jobless. The government is failing to support the youths as seen from failures of Youth Development Fund. No light seems to shine at the end of the tunnel unless otherwise.

We are all willing to see the Malawi that Kamuzu built.

Godwin Nyirongo is Director Let’s Develop Malawi Project