2014 and thinking outside the box, why the Youth are the biggest losers despite technological advances
This week I promised a closer scrutiny of the three youthful Presidential ticket candidates and how they meet or fail to meet the aspirations of this generation. What I will never say is if at all they fit the cap. But in the many discourses that I participate within seven days preceding this write up, something interesting happened. WhatApp, a sms free application was being bought off for USD16 billion by Facebook. These two initiatives represent young people thinking outside the box.
It is the story of WhatsApp Co-Founders, both rejected by Facebook years ago that I found stimulating enough as a challenge to our young generation. Sometime back I wrote how the Youth were the biggest losers despite engineering most of the Arab spring revolutions. After each revolution, the old guard were quickly recognized as representatives of the people and not the youth who fought the cause. That is the same reason why the Youth today are demanding the resignation of Libyan Parliament, brought down the new Tunisian Government and in Egypt the turmoil still goes on.
Add Central African Republic, Oil disruptions in Nigeria and the new South Sudan Civil War, it tells you that generation transition is very critical to what Africa and countries like Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe will look like.
When Presidents like Jacob Zuma are booed at public funerals, its time his generation started re-examining whether the country needs the "revolution song of 20 years of age" or need to practically address the issues that are at the heart and core of the needs of South Africans which basically are employment, employment security, equal opportunities and access to public resources by all.
This is what has kept my mind dancing the whole of this week. Does Atupele Muluzi, Sosten Gwengwe and Saulosi Chilima represent anything new to this generation. Will their politics border on castigation, leader worship or really drive policy towards mass empowerment, funding for creativity and growth in the private sector?
Are we not asking too much from the three, whose age range is 35 to 41 to shoulder responsibility of reeducation and re positioning of Malawi to become a competitive or even Silcon Valley of Africa like the way Estonia has done in Europe?
I am a student of history and politics and I have come to conclusion that our politics has failed Malawians. The first 50 years had narrow focus and slowly the transition to democracy only worsened out situation to where Malawians stopped having standards and even confidence in themselves.
I know I am touching a raw nerve but that is the brutal truth we need to serve each other if the next 50 years Malawi will at all be different from the current mess and directionless nation we have become in the past 20 years of democracy.
Lets examine last week first. There was a statement from Soulosi Chilima, the DPP presidential runningmate, his focus was on the old glory of the past. The the Peoples Party presidential running mate Sosten Gwengwe launched a motor- cycle Kabaza in Lirangwe and Atupele Muluzi the UDF presidential candidate addressed rallies with nothing really new on the table. All these in the next 20 years will be part of influential thought leaders of Malawi and their beliefs sound more of the same that has got Malawi to where we are.
The lets shift to the Civil Society. Two groups addressed press briefings. The main speakers at one were people like Leon Matanda and Habiba Osman who are young people whom I hold in high esteem and have worked with them at various foras, and on the other there was again my comrades in Youth work Fryson Chodzi, Bright Kampaundi and Fred Kadammanja who once carried authority and bulled everyone who would stifle youth voice.
Unfortunately the two press conferences dominated by young people had nothing to say about youth bu politics. The Matandas press conference focused on President Joyce Banda resigning or being disqualified for some strange reason they could not speak before presentation of papers and the other by the Chodzi's was on something that the DPP is aware of cashgate or something closer to it happening during its reign.
These, include Chilima, Gwengwe and Atupele represent the next generation of thought leaders for Malawi.
I am ashamed that with the last week activities, I would not think the youth of Malawi will represent anything change but more of the same now. They have absolutely no idea that as we finish 50 years of our independence, we need to move outside the box and start addressing real issues.
I was going to be happy if the two press conferences by the "partisan Civil Society" was demanding a signed moral declaration from all Presidential Candidates to do the following should Malawians trust them with power on May 20, 2014:
-If above Government retirement age of 60 to serve only one term and allow democratic succession within the party.
-Voluntary declaration of assets and publishing their assets in at least two most read newspapers at the start and end of their terms.
-Enactment of the 2008 constitution as reviewed by the Law Commission within three months in power.
-Voluntary commitment to have 20 Ministers without deputies
-Voluntary commitment to allow all criminal cases on cash-gate, constitutional and other challenges be prosecuted to the end without being dropped.
-Publishing of all tax returns, contracts and business related to office bearers like President, Cabinet and Members of Parliament
-Freeze in salary increments for President, Cabinet, Members of Parliament and Principal Secretaries for five years
-Commitment to avoid nepotism, giving business to party aligned officials etc.
These are the few but crucial areas I would expect a Civil Society to be advocating towards an election where all candidates pretend to be democrats and listening persons until they assume office at State House.
But alas! Civil Society is speaking as Nicholas Dausi describes them, "Barking dogs" for parties than anything worthy for Malawians.
The problem of everyone talking politics and thinking is a solution to all Malawi woes is deep rooted. Commentators whom I admire like Henry Kachaje postings on social media are more political nowadays than inspiring thoughts he was trademarked with. Even Prophets in Malawi are now without a shame "prophesying" outcomes of elections that the ridiculousness of the whole comedy has reached its peak that all the 11 Presidential candidates have been told they will win, when simple logic tells you only one winner will be President come May 21.
Reverend Zac Kawalala postings on Facebook are now political, that its now difficult to separate Magede Si Wandale, Pato Phoya, Taonga Botolo, Humphrey Mhango, Chancy Mtambo, Suleman Chitera, Malenga Chienda, Ackson Kalaile Banda our politicians on FB from some men and women I thought were thought leaders for Malawi.
Not only religious leaders, businessmen and women like George Mnesa, Mark Katsonga and Helen Singh have all joined politics and trying to make a buck there, everyone else seem to think politics and becoming a politician is a solution to Malawi's problems.
The catch word is youth and politics.
Malawians have abdicated their thinking roles and participation responsibility and now all we talk is politics.
Politics and politicians has failed Malawians for the last half a century, but the amazing speed at which everyone wants to quit their jobs and become a Councillor or member of parliament.
The sad part may be only five to ten percent of them really know what to be a Councillor or Member of Parliament is. Many are promising their stooges jobs in Government and I know of opposition Presidential campaign team members who have already shared position. One has even said he will personally make sure he gets my job. I have laughed just as felt sad on the vision of this so called "New Generation."
But when I argue that Malawians can think outside politics, stop blaming Government for the lost 50 years and start looking at how we can change, I always find everyone trying to convince me that we are a hopeless people that only Government can solve the mess.
Today I want to start looking back at our nation and its people. How they thought outside the box and how some of them were finished by politics. The biggest lesson I want us to critically examine is that politics is not a solution and equally while Government can play a critical role, it is us, US AS MALAWIANS that we can change our country.
Malawians have to stop suspending their responsibility to to develop their country.
I will start with the past.
Malawi's past gives you plenty of lessons of people who worked hard and made it without Government. The first person was Chester Katsonga the father of Mark Katsonga and Davies Katsonga. He built the Lingadzi Inn and another place at 5 miles in Zomba. Of course politics was the cause of his demise and end.
We have Dr. Desmond Phiri, a very proud thought leader and writer self educated through correspondence at University of London. Today you have millionaires who cannot study part time because they are busy attending political party rallies or cases. Knowledge is power, even when you have billions of kwacha you might need some new thinking to stay and match the ever changing world.
These are self made Malawians, ambitious and grew their business outside politics. Many were finished when they attempted politics.
We had Mr. Chinsima who onwed Kudya properties, we had a cinema at Soche and a Hotel, a Lodge at Liwonde called Discovery Lodge and another at Balaka. He owned the land from Naperi river up to St Pius Church and used it productively without politics attached. He created employment, business opportunities for suppliers and provided for hundreds. This is a Malawian worth emulating. His demise saw an end to an empire.
We had great men in Blantyre like Malenga's of Tuwiche bus service, Muluzi shared Jakumusi, James Makhumula of Yanu Yanu Transport, Mr. Damba of Mwanza Hotel and Damba transport, Mr. Kansawa of Tikumbe Limited.
These were Malawians that dared and went into investing and being productive without waiting for politics to change their course of life.
We had many people trekking to South Africa including Dr. Kamuzu Banda where they were educated and many returned and invested in Malawi.
We have Mr. Khondowe of Kang'ombe Investments, Mr. Gondwe of Ufulu Gardens, the Late Sauzande, the Late Chenda Mkandawire, Late Mzumachalo, Albert Kamulaga, Asedi's the owners of Shire Highlands, Kambiri and Boadzulu, the owners of Wankulu, Blue Bird Motel, the Kalinos, Zodiak Broadcasting Corporation, Capital Radio, Power 101, the Phekanis of Chitawira supermarket, the owners of Iponga, the Kaphukas', Jesmans of Ntcheu, mining areas.
No the list of Malawians that have done well outside any political affiliation is amazingly high that a few, about 50 Ministers each Presidential circle and party cronies.
Young Malawians can start setting up goals and trying to find solutions that staying on computer late each night on Facebook working as stoogies of politicians.
University dons should not be embarrassed like John Chisi having to be rejected by Electoral Commission when they can attract millions of dollars for research into our colleges.
Knowledge translation programmes from Research centres should be the focus of the Ministries and private sectors if Malawi will change and transform.
Government, should no longer provide subsidized fertilizers but adopt a model that if one is given inputs this year, he should repay some of it with the crop or cash to buy another set of inputs at 20, 40, 50, then 100 percent price for successive five year graduation period.
The culture of handouts, Malawians should start accepting that we cannot afford free healthcare, free education, free inputs when we can afford to buy chinese dumps like toothpicks, drink anything from sachets to kachaso via spirits and greens.
The most rich and profit making companies are Mobile Phone, Chinese and Micro loans programmes.
In less than 10 years almost 5 million Malawians have mobile phones despite their poverty status. Each buy as litllte as K30 airtime each day "just to greet" their friends. The handsets costs money and mantaining them is costly. The only winners are the phone companies.
When Malawians claim they are too poor to pay for a small hospital fees that could be used to replenish aspirin, you would be shocked the "very poor" after using a free ambulance to Kamuzu Central, Queen Elizabeth or Mzuzu Central, they do shopping from air time to scary looking hair wigs that have no value at all to their lives.
Cosmetics which are skin burning turning our once dark chocolate ladies to chameleon brown and red skins, hair wigs known as mesh, cheap macaroni and spaghetti, cheap slippers and shoes are all hall marks of our markets in Mzuzu and Lilongwe and the shops by Nigerians, Burundis and Chinese continue to be fully stocked while we wonder where our foreign exchange disappears to.
Everything is traded mainly by foreigners as Malawians with money fail to think outside the box and start trading and competing the way Zambians, Tanzanians and Mozambicans do.
Start a tailoring, thats where everyone will end up in the neighborhood. Start a taxi at car rank, everyone will stop thinking of anything, open a bottlestore, 20 will come up and push each other down, start going to Dar es salaam to import things or Johannesburg the next bus will be full of copycats who will just sink their capitals borrowed from Blue or any other authorised loan sharks.
Teachers in rural areas go to dance or do politics than having their free hours in he afternoon developing farms that can transform them.
Those that find a two million will spend it importing car and get a profit of K200,000 in four months yet with green beans you can make K400,000 during the same period at lower production costs.
Asians are breeding chickens, with one company selling 7 million chickens a weak which fetches around 1.5 billion cash from our kanyenya, restaurants and home buyers, include eggs, zipalapasilo and animal feed, you are talking billions from the same class of people whom you call poor and living hand to mouth.
Malawians are poor because we have told them so and continue giving them handouts.
The biggest challenge of this generation of Malawians is to stop thinking like 1964 where we blamed white people, now transfered to Government and start thinking outside the box and develop ones ambition step by step.
There is very strange fear among young people to start up anything. Many think trekking to Johannesburg or Ireland is the easiest solution. I have come to those that do so, they learn basic principle of life. You have to be focused, disciplined and work hard to earn a living.
Youth like Chilima, Gwengwe and Atupele should stop thinking and promising paradise but challenge young people to seize billions of opportunities that do not need Government for one to benefit.
If the next 50 years of Malawi have to rewrite our miserable past, we should all stop looking at politics as a solution and all of us rushing to join it. Lets look at our capacities to develop.
This week I will end with three of my closest friends who graduated at Poly, Chancol and Bunda round 2007. All of them went looking for jobs. The Poly graduate went into teaching in Government, after a few years joined a well paying private school where he still is. He lives with his family because he claims cannot afford a decent house, he is waiting for a dream job. His parents rose through ranks at their work place, we used to live together in Zingwangwa, Kudya before we went to Namiwawa. He has all latest gadgets but no heart to take a risk to be independent when he earns more than an average Malawian.
The second from Chancol we grew up together in Area 18 he still lives with his family too. He could not go into teaching because it is for losers. He stayed two years no work, now he works at Airtel Call Centre for a miserable K45,000 a month. He has the latest phones on loan, drinks with big shots from collage, and to me has no idea when he will be independent.
The Bunda graduate went into teaching at Private school later at Mitundu Secondary School. His earnings are around K76,000. He bought some land, used his skill grew maize, beans and soya. He made K500,000 first year. He expanded his land along Blantyre road to include a dimba. He made his first million in 2009. He now has five dams, all year round production of green maize, sugarcane, irish potato and a quarter he rakes in average of K3 million. He stopped working, he is building his house near Nanjiri.
These are the three close friends and graduates of our college.
The sad part, is that the first two represent the majority of us today. We work and work and work, thinking only of cars, gadgets and appearance. There are few who are taking the risk with much less income than us and are making it out there.
My friend at NBS bank was posted to Mponela, he told me this year he has started farming feeling he missed the boat in town, buy taking a loan to buy a car instead of investing in something worth while.
It does not need a Government for me to sale my produce or my ideas. It takes me, only me to decide my destiny.
Dr. Chinkhuta of Freedom Farms, a mere farmer showed us with organic fertiliser, irrigation and with no academic papers. William Kankwamba from Kasungu harnessed the wind from his own ideas.
Malawi to me is a land of opportunities, I have stopped talking politics. I have had enough of expectations rising up and down. I now believe the next 50 years belong to how this generation defines itself.
We can follow more of the same path, or we can change.
Since I picked my new job, I have had 19 requests from colleagues, family and friends. One wants a loan to buy tobacco because he saw his neighbor has done it. Two ladies, only two ladies want laptops to help in their education,the rest of the breakdown is 1 Xbox game consul worth K500,000, 6 Iphone 5s worth K2.4 million, 5 tablets worth K1 million, smart phones, timberland and some money simply for drinking.
Such requests, save for the laptops make me sad. Even if Jesus Christ was a President, a culture of handouts is entrenched. Lack of priorities we accuse Government and politicians is much in us. Lack of personal vision and goals looks like our national pride.
For Malawi to change, lets stop talking or joining politics for once, lets start working within our families, communities and areas, from there we will be able to demand services, accountability and better leadership from our politicians.
I dare all Presidential candidates to immediately allocate 20 percent of their campaign funds to small revolving loans for youth and women instead of asking them to wriggle and paint themselves for you.
Malawi watsopano, wopanda ndale, ndiwotheka..........
This debate has been enriched by Mtheto Lungu, Kondwanie Chirembo, Chancy Mtambo, Dennis Imaan, Fungati Ntintha, Betcherani Tchereni Mbuya, Zalimba Khanje, Tarsizio Malumbo Ngoma, Kondwani Farazi Chikadza, Verson Maseko, Ignasio Walinase, Elias Nyirenda, My own Uncle and sparing partner Timothy Nundwe, Aleke Mphasi, my dear brother Kondwani Banda and Mcleod Chimulenje who I hope will agree that we can develop by leaving Government from our priority thinking. If you have more ideas lets argue email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will post as many ideas as possible. Malawi at 50 should be our priority now!