Feeding each other dog meat
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, there is a rude but correct term among the Lhomwes used to denote a raw deal. My Mur’ramu (in-law) from the university keeps repeating it each time we don’t make fiscal sense to each other.
‘Tadyekanapo galu apa! [We have fed each other dog meat here],” he often says, while rudely walking away, with his hands in his pockets, when we fail to agree on general ‘fiscus’ issues: for example, short term borrowing (ngongole) between us.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, the other day one was tempted to talk about such ‘dog meat’, when the most powerful woman on earth, Mrs Hillary Clinton, visited our Great Republic and donated a bull to a women’s group in Lilongwe. She also pledged to help the country’s agriculture sector with about K12.4 billion in the next three years; that is, slightly over K4 billion per annum.
How this money is going to be used in the agricultural sector, it was not clear. But Mrs Clinton was obviously impressed with the milk production initiative; hence, more likely the Americans would pump most of the money into that direction.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, in per capita terms or to use the language of one John Kapito, we are talking of about K886 per Malawian in the three years or about K295 per head per annum.
Now, my Mur’ramu would instantly scream that tadyekanapo agalu apa! Apart from the miserable figure-work, there is also the question of priorities—does Malawi need milk and milk products more than a robust irrigation infrastructure to mitigate against climate change that has now caught up with us and made our agricultural sector virtually impotent?
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, you will recall this is the argument the late Professor Moya was making as the basis for his national greenbelt initiative? Of course, the Moya needed a social mouthwash to ensure proper language, especially with Westerners. He also behaved as if he had a plastic head without any ‘network’. But, let’s give credit where it is due, the old man of Ndata knew how to spell out the country’s priorities. Irrigation agriculture, value adding and exporting was one such priority, which still stands four months after his demise. No?
This is the framework through which we, Raw Stuffers, will view any foreign aid this country receives; for example, the bits and pieces from Washington, London, some EU capitals and multilateral institutions. Of course, some of the aid, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) $350 million earmarked for the country’s energy sector has significant multiplier effects on the economy in the long-run.
Some of it also gives positive signals to the donor community out there to continue supporting Malawi. But beyond that, esteemed Raw Stuffers, we remain beggars, at the mercy of Western boardrooms which, in real terms, is not what the global community in this 21st century is all about.
It has, therefore, not been surprising of late to hear some donor representatives give hints that it is high time Lilongwe started standing on its feet.
Esteemed Raw Stuffers, this is the gospel the late Professor Moya was also preaching: Malawi to graduate from Western aid bowls and do her own thing. What then has changed—between Moya’s time and what the donors are saying today? If people want an honest answer, we would say: Nothing, except that the Ndata old man is now six feet under the ground.
And the point remains that Malawi needs to produce, add value and export in all spheres of economic and social endeavour, not structural handouts or ‘dog meat’.
In other words, whichever contender wants to take this country to the next level of governance, relevance and economic independence, must provide a doable framework, one that will see local wealth creation, value-adding and positive terms of trade.
In simple English, people want jobs, relevant career paths, robust businesses, schools and universities that work, a civil service that ticks and is clear of corruption, effective public service delivery—especially in hospitals, a corporate sector that makes Malawi a competitive producer and not a retail shop for South African, Zimbabwean or Chinese factories.
Is this what maybe Mrs Clinton and Mrs Joyce Banda talked about behind their closed doors at the New State House last Sunday? Or, was it about the oil prospects on Lake Malawi as well as the ‘grabiotic’ Tanzanians? Or, was it about Malawi’s strategic position on the al Quaeda path in the region?
Or else, to use the late Professor Moya’s language, the Clinton visit was yet another dog meat distribution exercise?