Friday, July 12, 2013
Best Malawian must roll out now
Two decades ago Malawi was awash with jingles and stickers of the “best buy Malawian”. Even my exercise books had them. It seems the advent of democracy led us to abandon anything associated with the pre-1994 era. Various products had some stickers of buy local, and the public radio run a dozen of adverts. It was not about protectionism but an active way of promoting local industry. I loved the jingles airing on my father’s wooden Nzeru Radio. How we wasted tax payer funds on Makiyolobasi airing bigotry baffles me. Over the years, Malawi has signed various trade agreements that commit us to gradually reduce tariffs on imports. Consequently, we are not going to stop foreign products in the country as it is against the rules. Worse still our trading partners can retaliate, and in other circumstances, file complaints against us for unfair trading practices. I think it is time that we considered rolling the best buy Malawi campaign at the highest level of the country. I mean at the level of President Joyce Banda. When the president speaks, businesses and other entrepreneurs listen. Her words are policy. It is also the time to let local businesses realise moments of high tariffs on imports are fast fading into oblivion to protect them against competition. It is also time they realise the best way to support the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) is to buy local and in the process create jobs, an initiative the president takes dear to her heart. Read her NABW history. It’s about jobs and economic empowerment. There are many advantages of encouraging Malawians to buy local products. It is not a matter of protectionism, but it gives us confidence. A nation that can fend for itself, and take care of its own. Similarly, major businesses can be on the fore front to buy produce from a group of organised farmers or other producers. Simply, support local before we pay our hard earned foreign exchange, usually for services that are no different or even of low quality across the border. The onus is simply on us, our minds, but we need to get the initiative kicking right at the top. Rolling out a best buy Malawian campaign or slogan is critical factor in creating local jobs. With our extended family system, a job for an individual leads into over six mouths being fed or underprivileged kids/orphans having something to survive on. If we are importing onions, tomatoes, pumpkins, eggs and other locally available products, we surely do not care about the welfare of our own people and the opportunities they seek in producing such products. If we import some of these products, all we are doing is create jobs in those countries at the expense of our own people. Why should Malawian businesses create jobs in Zimbabwe or South Africa? We can let comrades Bob and Msholozi handle that. Businesses must be told or must realise that there is more to corporate social responsibility than traditional media-photogenic philanthropy we see in this country. There is nothing more important to corporate social responsibility than buying local or supporting local industry and in the process create the much needed jobs. Corporate social responsibility is not just donating food at a hospital and going to town about it. It is against the very foundations of human norms, just as it is for believers of any children. The pinnacle of corporate social responsibility is better expressed in saving our foreign exchange reserves through buying locally produced goods. By foregoing certain imports, scarce foreign exchange can be used to buy medication for our hospitals. Such social corporate, though indirect, has a human face and gives capitalism credibility as a model of business. It helps local producers of varying degree create jobs. We all win in the end. There are a lot of climate change benefits as well to buying local. Imagine how much diesel is burnt in getting onions from countries in the region? There are heaps of such products in our major supermarkets. Such imports are contributing to the pollution of the environment and the effects of climate change are properly documented such as floods and dry spells across the country. Why would a supermarket at Ntcheu Boma stock onions from a foreign country, yet the Tsangano Turn off market is a five minute drive away? Why should a supermarket at Mzimba Boma stock onions or mangoes from abroad when Jenda is an hour drive away? The idea is not complex, but the effects are that we are creating jobs in foreign countries and consuming products with a huge carbon foot print and destroying our environment. Next time, before corporate executives brag about their corporate social responsibility, serious questions be put forward on how many local jobs they are creating or destroying. It’s time the president launched the best buy Malawian campaign and the rest can be history. After all, presidential words are policy. For businesses and the consuming public, it is the best support you can give the president in creating jobs. Not donating to her campaign or donning colours of her party. We are in this as citizens who care about the future of the country.