There is no doubt in my mind that there are a series of mini crises happening around us. Maybe none too serious to bring us to our knees… yet! We have water shortages in Blantyre, power and fuel shortages country wide and a general lack of foreign exchange. Left unchecked these can have debilitating effects on our economic growth. Various players have promised to resolve or ease the current pressures but when? The question I keep asking myself is will Malawians will come out of all these events any smarter?
There is no doubt that water is a bare necessity of life. Blantyre Water Board has been accused by many of incompetence and I tend to agree. But how can Malawians get out of this problem? Unfortunately there are not many options. Drilling boreholes and wells in urban settings is not advisable taking into the account sewer tanks that tend to contaminate underground water. However Malawians could learn not to contaminate natural water sources like rivers and streams and use water collected from these sources for some household chores. We have literally choked out waterways with plastics, industrial waste and silt from cultivation. The environment is being put under to much pressure it is doubtful it will ever recover.
Yesterday Barack Obama was speaking in Shanghai, China. He touched on the need for Shanghai and Chicago, sisters city’s, to collaborate in building energy efficient buildings – buildings that requires less energy to heat and cool, buildings that provide more natural light and buildings that are built using environmentally friendly materials and technologies. How efficient are our buildings, both residential and commercial? Do we make enough use of the free solar and wind resources we have? How about all the gray water that goes to waste? Are we not digging ourselves deeper into a pit by not harnessing these natural and renewable sources of energy that are around us in abundance?
Most people love to drive but there have to be limits. We can no longer afford to have a few families living in the same area each driving their child to the same school. We can no longer have neighbours, most probably working in the same office block or vicinity, each driving their gas guzzlers to work. The same applies to inter-city travel. We are simply burning too much fuel, fuel we don’t have. Fuel we have to use forex to purchase, that takes days to transport and that we have very limited storage space for.
Best Buy Malawi is an initiative that started when I was a young boy, it died, resurrected, went into hibernation and seems to be trying to make a comeback albeit not a very strong one. While the initiative is great, it lacks general political backing and widespread public support. I seems like nothing but rhetoric. While I don’t hold Marxist views I believe that protectionist policies help in times like these. They help save forex and they help boost local industry. Such policies should get people thinking. They should get banks to refocus from generating revenue on forex commissions to making interest on money they lend to locals to produce. Protectionist policies should get people’s creative juices flowing, remind people how important it is to recycle and be efficient.
But will we come out of all this thinking along or at least some where along these lines? I am yet to see!