Malawi The Poorest Country In Africa: What’s The Problem? – Peter Yakobe

A few days ago most Malawians were shocked to read the latest World Bank ranking that Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa. Personally I wasn’t surprised because that’s the way it is supposed to be according to how Malawi’s current reality. Many people in the country received it as a bad news and some were surprised. The story of Malawi is very sad indeed, yes we are a peaceful country. We rejoice that we have never faced a civil war. We rejoice that we live in peace and harmony, but our people are still living on less than a dollar a day. Our people still cannot access good medical attention. Our graduates are still in the streets hunting for jobs.

Every year the citizens of Malawi wait for the government to provide different subsidies. We demand subsidies in Agriculture, we demand subsidies for fuel, we demand subsidies for electricity, iron sheets, we demand subsidy in almost everything. This has created too much dependency on government. Too much dependency has lowered the creativity of many people in this country. Every year people want to receive subsidies even when they have enough money that can meet their needs.

We have some habits in this country which are reducing people’s creativity and creating laziness instead. Many people produce a lot of children and give them to their parents and uncles to raise them, seriously? Why should someone be burdened with raising children whose parents exist? We produce children and run away from responsibility yet we want the children to access quality education and live good lives, shame.

Every year, our government comes up with a budget with more than 80% of its activities just for consumption. Every time the minister of finance is presenting a budget in the national assembly, we are told we want to buy this, we want to buy that etc. Most of the money is spent on things which do not bring value to the country. This has resulted in low production. How can we produce a lot of goods and services when we have refused to invest? How can someone earn extra income when he is just spending his income uselessly? That is why we are always on our knees for the donors to resume their donor aid. We have come to solely depend on donor aid for everything.

Our education system has trained us to be job seekers and not job makers. It is not surprising that most of our graduates are in the streets seeking jobs, which we cannot guarantee they will find because we haven’t created. If you ask many young people in Malawi’s primary and secondary schools or even universities, they will tell you that, “I am working hard in class so that after my graduation I should be employed and earn a lot of money.” Very few will tell you that, “I am working hard at school so that I can establish a company and produce goods and services for export, and employ a lot of people.” That’s what our educational system has taught us, and I am afraid this may continue for many years to come.

Yes unless our government realizes that subsidies are hurting the country and should be eliminated, the state of this country will remain the same. Yes unless our government through the ministry of finance and economic planning start coming up with national budgets which favour production other than consumption, Malawi will continue growing from bad to worse. Until we focus on producing, we will always be a poor nation.

Only if we start believing that if each one of us will sweep his or her front and backyards, we will have a clean Malawi.  If we start believing that “our prosperity as a nation depends on the personal financial prosperity of each one of us as individuals” this country will move to greater heights. Only if we stop waiting for one true and honest politician to appear and solve our problems, we will prosper. The people of this country must realize that it is individuals who must strive to create a better life, and it is entrepreneurial risk-takers who will come up with new ideas, solutions and opportunities that are beneficial for the society.

Peter Yakobe is the Executive director of Center For Free Market Enterprise in Malawi, and is also a regional director of African Students For Liberty in Southern Africa