Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year’s Eve Thoughts: Part 2

International Entrepreneurship: NICO leading the way

International entrepreneurship is the study of cross-border entrepreneurial behaviour focusing on how actors discover, enact, analyze and exploit opportunities in the creation of new goods or services.

I have always been impressed by leadership of one Felix Mlusu (MD of NICO Holdings), who I understand is preparing to hand-over the baton to my friend Vizenge Kumwenda. Vizenge was one year ahead of me at Chichiri Secondary School and I have always known him as a smart, intelligent and hard-working lad. I am not surprised where he is now. Soon he will be leading one of the most innovative companies in Malawi. NICO is a very dynamic and visionary company and this boils down to leadership and international entrepreneurship.

McDougall and Oviatt’s (2000, p. 903) defines international entrepreneurship as a “ combination of innovative, proactive and risk seeking behaviour that crosses national borders and is intended to create value in organizations”. A modification of McDougall and Oviatt’s (1994) definition of entrepreneurship is given by Stevenson and Jarillo (1990, p. 23), for them entrepreneurship is “a courageous managerial value creation process through which an individual engages innovative, proactive, calculated risk-taking behaviour designed to prosecute foreign business opportunities presented by multinational market successes and imperfections for financial and non-financial rewards”. Firms always strive to achieve growth and make more profits; one way of doing so is to expand the market for their products or services by going into international markets. The reasons for planning to internationalize seem to be the same for all the firms (i.e. profit, expansion, market opportunity)

I believe NICO has shown that international entrepreneurship after realising that Malawi is a small market and they can only increase value for their company by investing abroad. If I am not wrong NICO is now operating in Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania and Zimbabwe. A couple of months ago I sat with Vizenge over breakfast in AVENIDA hotel in Maputo. His mission was to explore further investment in Mozambique. I know they will do it.

This is what our leadership should be promoting. I would be surprised if Malawi Government or its leadership has ever taken any interest to ask NICO how they can support them to grow their international operations. My bet is using Zero Deficit Budget Government has been seeking ways to tax NICO.

What does a country gain in internationalisation? Exactly what our dear President is accusing Game Stores and Shoprite. You repatriate the profits and dividends. You create a market for your goods and services. You create employment and learning experience for your highly skilled citizens. Take for example Peoples (formerly PTC). Operating outside Malawi means you have outlets for your Malawians raw and processed goods. If you open operations in a highly sophisticated market, it means your home producers improve on quality to meet market requirements. It means your dividends and profits will be a forex inflow for the country.

It is high time Government takes interest and sits down on the table with companies like Press Corporation, National Bank, NBS, Mulli Brothers, MTL, and the little that we are left with to strategise and help grow these companies out of Malawi.

Let 2012 be a year of smart thinking Malawians and we will not achieve this if we look inward. Let us look outward. The world is too busy to wait for Malawi. We are irrelevant and a destruction with our strange ideas.

Happy New Year from Chihoro Castle

New Year’s Eve Thoughts: Part 1

The Malawi leadership first needs to understand its own current trade and investment strategy and how its policies are affecting the strategy. Both domestic and foreign investors make decisions on the basis of prevailing policies and the policies have to convince them that they will make a profit. For foreign investors, policies also have to allow them to repatriate their profits back home. For leadership to make public demand to know location of investors’ bank accounts and accuse retailers like Game stores and Shoprite of stealing Malawi’s forex is sad.

Let’s start from the beginning. Government had a choice to either accept or deny Game stores and Shoprite opening up shops. I assume when they were allowed, Government understood how the retailers operate. Since capital account is closed, Government monitors any repatriation of profits and dividends. The two stores operate in 10-15 countries in Africa and have a defined business model that provides for re-stocking products from South African, local suppliers and other supply countries. What is required is to know their supply chain management and try to make a breakthrough in getting a bigger share.

Obviously the retailers are not saints but they should be treated as partners because they are partners. Their contribution to the economy is huge which Government on their own cannot provide. They have created employment, pay taxes, procure services on local market, have local bank accounts, pay electricity, telephone and water bills, buy Malawi fuel(when available) etc. Game Stores (Zambia) is the most profitable Game stores in Africa. Maybe it’s not a good yardstick but as the article states, 60% of its employees drive to work. It tells a story of the kind of employees Game has employed. Shoprite has 16 shops in Zambia (has 2 in Malawi). The two retailers are productive investors in SADC and it is up to each country to maximise the benefits that they bring.

Why then Mr President the outburst? In trying not to accept responsibility, our leadership is everyday scratching for blame targets. Blame the British; blame NGOs; blame gays; blame IMF; blame Americans; blame opposition; blame tobacco and cotton buyers; now blame foreign retailers! Please don’t make us a laughing stock! Malawian people are smarter than what you are portraying. We all know that Malawi’s tragic fall has fingers pointing in one direction: Bad and misguided policies! These (too many to reproduce) have led to lack of foreign exchange and low prices of our crops which has had ripple effects in the whole economy. Now we don’t have fuel, drugs, electricity, water, and decency. The fact that Game and Shoprite repatriate their dividends and profits is not a reason for our lacking forex as they have always repatriated since they opened operations. You could do justice to the people that employed you (Malawians) by giving us in figures the contribution of Game and Shoprite to our economy against the forex they repatriate. This should include the PAYE; Corporate tax, VAT; utilities; employment etc. Then you can go back on the public platform and make more accusation as to why foreign retailers should fund our Zero Deficit Budget.

Where does Malawi go from here? I discuss this in Part 2 of my New Year’s Eve Thoughts

Happy New Year from Chihoro Castle

Monday, 22 August 2011

My Daughter Speaks

My daughter happens to be one of the most talented bloggers I know. I look up to her writing and I liked this one so much I thought I'd steal it from her. For more, take the time to visit her blog:

So I found this ancient treasure (not kidding, it falls apart even more with every page I turn) in a charity shop while waiting for my friends to turn up for lunch (they’re both black fyi so I was in there a LONG time). Written in 1892, during the Victorian era (when Africa was nothing more than an exotic mystery to many*) by an English writer, I was intrigued, to say the least, how a white man came to tell a story of “the most beautiful of Zulu women”.

A sleepless night in, a cup of strong coffee and several chapters later, I was a little bemused when the narrator confessed: “I believe her blood was not all Zulu… her eyes were softer and larger than those of our people, her hair longer and less tightly curled, and her skin was lighter”, revealing that “the beauty of Nada was rather as is the beauty of the white people” as her grandfather was a white man.

Now this tells me two things (maybe more): (a) Just when you thought that beauty was JUST beauty, turns out there are TWO kinds of beauty, and one of them is superior (b) Nada is “fairest” in the land of the Zulus because she has Caucasian blood in her.

What troubles me is the fact that these are the opinions of a black, Zulu man- portrayed and presented to us by an English writer. In a world defined by “us” and “them”, is this how “they” really imagined us- somehow believing that “their” beauty was more beautiful than “ours”? It took reading a few chapters of this book to realise that perhaps the white Englishman, writing over a century ago, saw that the black man regarded himself as inferior even before the black man understood the implications of such seemingly harmless thoughts. And perhaps, if we will learn to accept beauty in a multitude of places, then people are just people; there is no “us”, no “them”, just people. Guard your minds, follow my blog (Hahaha that was a joke but it made me feel important) .

(*Africa remains nothing more than an exotic mystery to many today)

Friday, 19 August 2011

“It’s DPP’s Time to Eat”

I was chatting with my good wife Fula and we agreed that I should change my name from simple Watipaso Mkandawire to “Hon. Prof. Watipaso Chihoro-man Wa Mukandawire”. My wife will now be called Ms Fula Wa Mukandawire.. Oh Yes.... Wa Mukandawire Woye! Inunso Woyee.

Fula at first thought it was not a good idea to add Professor, but I convinced her that despite having not taught at any University, I have written enough trash both, on my blog and on Malawitalk and Nyasanet to earn the Professorship. My local Community University in Watford run by my good friend from Kashmir will present the award to me before Christmas.

You see, things start happening in life when you elongate your name. Michela Wrong summarised change of name so well in her book entitled “It’s our Turn to Eat” when she argued that “the give-away is the moment a leader adds an extra segment to his name”. Sounds familiar? The give- away is also when wardrobe changes. You wear Rolex. You carry flywhisk. You carry a walking stick. Remember Ngwazi Mkango Wamuyaya Dr HKB? Remember Mzee in Gikuyuland? Remember General Field Marshall Idi Amin Dada or Kaka? Remember Prof. Dr Alhaji Yaya Jamme? Remember Yowere “Kaguta” Museveni? Remember King Phata of Ngaluland? Remember Julius “Mwalimu” Nyerere? Remember Bakili “Kuntunda wokumbamanda” Muluzi? Remember Daniel “Totoitich” Arap Moi?

Fula had initially argued that the change of wardrobe and acquisition of assets has nothing to do with adding prefixes to names. “You have to have a business or a job that earns you real kwayelas”, she reasoned. But she forgot that Wa Mukandawire dreams in colour and had already figured how he will earn the kwayelas. You see, I have not only added prefixes to my name, I have now qualified as one of the banana mafia as my name makes me the son of Ngaluland. Fula was so impressed and she immediately filled my glass with that wicked red drink she enjoys most, encouraging me to spill the beans.

Then her eyes shot up, Ahhhh, is that the reason why the Sergeant of Diesel Petrol Palibe prefers to be called Zakhala? No No No, I interrupted Fula. The Sergeant’s strategy and mine are different. The sergeant’s strategy is to destroy this Mandasi woman. Wa Mukandawire’s strategy is to join in the eating. Fula lost interest and plainly told me that it was my bedtime and my declaration meant I was denied of the wicked red drink......and more. It was a long empty night!

Saturday, 13 August 2011


MALAWI is slowly but surely isolating itself from the World Community. Following the Budget Statement read by Hon. Ken Kandodo (MP) and most likely major contents provided by HE President Wa Muthalika, Malawi has been missing out in most international meetings. Not only are most of the meetings critical to Malawi’s development agenda, travel, to these regional and international meetings is an incentive for civil-servants for their continued professional duties in Government.

It is common knowledge that the take-home pay by most civil servants is obscene and these hard-working (including lazy) civil servants survive and acquire assets through allowances that they receive when they travel on duty.
More often than note, those in leadership positions are easily fooled by shallow-minded rent-seeking advisers. This is typical of what we are seeing in our country today. The Mzati Nkolokosa article is one case in point, where he argues that the agitation for demonstrations has nothing to do with the economic challenges the country is facing, but rather the anger by Northerners because of the policy on quota. Because of short-term benefits they enjoy, the advisers fail to see the bigger picture.

Whilst Civil Society, opposition parties and Churches are advocating for street demonstrations, civil servants denied of their privilege of trips abroad, are actively demonstrating silently as the country grounds to a halt and isolates itself from the world family. Malawi’s voice is simply silent and physical bodies absent in most international fora including in countries where we have diplomatic offices.
Invitations to various meetings/conferences are issued to Ministries and in turn Ministers and Principal Secretaries ask the Big Kahuna as to whether they should attend. More often than not, the answer is a big No. Civil Servants end up filing away the invitations. "Why bother to send the invitation to Malawi Embassy or High Commission in that country to represent the country"? Obviously the hosting country will call the Malawi Embassy or High Commission as to whether Malawi will attend. The Ambassador or High Commissioner having no clue about the meeting, let alone whether the “M” Politburo has agreed to Malawi’s participation, simply says, I will get back to you. The meeting takes place, no apologies from Malawi and no one attends and no one bothers to find out what decisions have been taken. That is now the order of the day. It is probably embarrassing for most Malawi’s civil servants and diplomats to sit behind the new flag which represents the new working order where only one man knows it all.

Of course our beloved President once experimented with the travel ban in COMESA when he was Secretary General. The result of the experiment is why today we have the Professor as our President. Silent demonstrations!
Yes we may smoke out street demonstrators but can we smoke out silent demonstrators? After August 17, perhaps Silent Demonstrations adopted by civil servants will serve us right.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Is JB and BM two sides of the same coin?

BM was so appealing to the grass roots, so is JB. BM was comfortable with people of all class and mainly the grass roots. BM was genuinely compassionate and free-giving, so is JB. BM had a sense of humour, so does JB.

The difference perhaps as is the case with a coin is that JB may be “Heads” and BM probably “tails”. That is not to say one can decide in a coin that Heads is better than tails or vice versa. The difference between Heads and Tails is that when tossing a coin, one is made to choose the different sides. For the purpose of this story, let us say JB is Heads and BM is tails.

Let us start from premise of why the two are two sides of same coin apart from similarities described above. Both JB and BM emerged soon after the country was governed by “the so called” educated elites who looked down upon Malawians. Whereas HKB repeatedly reminded us how he found us “literally naked”, B”W”M has questioned the shallow thinking of Malawians and organised lectures to remove our ignorance. Both HKB and BMW ruled with a “know it all” attitude and never tolerated criticism and those that criticised where either fed to crocodiles or smoked out! HKB and BWM both lived a “life of pomp”, swimming in luxury.

BM had to emerge out of shadows of HKB and no wonder when I visited Sanjika Palace for the first time in 1997, standards had gone down considerably. A waiter serving luncheon attended by over 100 people including visiting Asian business captains had “mamina” (mucus) nearly defying gravity and dropping into the bowl of beef curry he was serving. Esteemed senior UDF’ers sitting next to me sent him packing.
If JB were to win the next elections, she would emerge and try to take over from King of Ndata and as a “mandasi woman” she will be trying to fit into the big boots whilst selling mandasi.

Well. As Malawians we have to continue experimenting. I believe that as a Malawian who is past his life expectancy, I would rather choose Heads over tails. Yes I like mandasi, but that is not the reason why I would choose Heads. I believe in JB not because I think she will be a saviour but because she will make a better President than BM or BWM. JB is self-made and ambitious. She will however re-write Malawi’s and SADC’s history by becoming the first female President in Malawi and SADC. She will pay special attention to “tomato” and “mandasi” sellers. She will dedicate her energies to education and business growth. She will provide a platform for team work. She will provide Malawians with warmth in her “Chi Joyce Banda”.

But, here is caution to the “Heads” I have picked. This will only be possible if those in PP are able to establish a governance structure that will not make her “King” or “Queen” of Mandasi Sellers. There will be a need for a PP governance structure where party (PP) will not be synonymous to JB and vice-versa. I can only hope that PP will be the first party that will introduce decentralisation that will make the grass root make more decisions regarding their political and economic lives.
Is JB ready to lead Malawi? I want to believe that she is more than ready. Her interview with Brian Banda was impressive. If what she says is what she believes in, then we have a gem that will make us shine. I am aware that when she was Foreign Minister, one of her weaknesses was yielding to Peter Muthalika who took centre stage in international meetings despite being a mere Adviser. Perhaps as she showed during Brian Banda’s interview, at times being humble and respectful is no weakness.

I however doubt if people surrounding her are ready to support and create the first successful female President of Malawi. I doubt that they share her vision and her outlook to life. I however agree with her on her take on the so called recycled politicians. They are first and for most Malawians. One would ask, what is the difference between the current Cabinet and BM’s cabinet? I would say the only difference is that they fear BWM than they feared BM, otherwise most remain opportunists. How I wished JB teamed up with the recent DPP “fall out” DP.

When I was in Malawi soon after 20/7, the overwhelming message I got was, Let us support JB. My cry is, “let us help build PP into a modern party that will introduce civilised and professional politics”. Then other parties may emulate what it takes to run a professional party. Imagine MCP being democratic!

The Presidency is for JB to lose. Perhaps the magic is in the “Chi Joyce Banda”. Ife ndiye Tatopa!.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Malawi TenderPreneurs ...HAKE! Kasi ndi  LUTING'I IYI  (Is it Looting)

Malawi TenderPreneurs ...HAKE! Kasi ndi  LUTING'I IYI  (Is it Looting?)

It amazes me when guns go out blazing from the "holier than thou" DPP leadership calling Malawians "thugs and looters" following the July 20 demonstrations!  Agreed, there is no justification for lawlessness and looting during such demonstrations,  but hey, do not throw stones when you live in a glass house.

When I read South African papers about the bad boy Julius Malema and his $16 million mansion with a bunker built from a US$13,000 monthly salary, I suddenly realised that this new breed of business persons rightly called TenderPreneurs are killing Africa.  Malawi has it's share of TenderPreneurs.

These TenderPreneurs (TEPs)  have enriched themselves over the last couple of years under  DPP  Government and every single day new TEPs are emerging. TEPs emerge because political leadership need "hero worshippers" or "praise singers" who have no time to question bad policies or bad governance. They hate the country and simply love themselves. They care less of a girl from Mbwindi village who at tender age of 3, barefoot, if lucky, has one meal a day, has to help her widowed mother dig mice and carry carry out household chores instead of being in school?  

In the current Malawi, it is common knowledge that Lucrative contracts are given to political loyalists, tribal affiliates and family members who overnight become rich (not wealthy) and with their briefcases full of new business cards go around the world claiming to be Malawian business elites! Remember, We had them during MCP and UDF regimes. Interestingly, many of the previous TEPs finally know where to find a shoe repairer and those posh cars have but disappeared.

Well, one would ask, what is wrong with rational beings grabbing opportunities? What is wrong is that TEPs and their promoters are simply looters. Think about it. These loyalists and those in leadership positions have been looting the public coffers willy nilly over the last couple of years with dubious businesses and projects.  When they wake up in the morning, it is always about what else is available for free? 24/7 they loot and loot and loot, scheme new ways of grabbing public resources. They are simply LOOTERS.    They   are not ashamed to show off their newly acquired riches, building obscene houses and multiple "White elephants" that would make the truly  wealthy beings wonder and blush. Their newly acquired riches makes them arrogant and in their minds they believe that they have done what Napoleon could not do. They grab whatever comes into their way, be it wives or contracts or properties? 

Now, here is the irony.  A simple Kawale-man, chihoro-man, mbayani-man, double-bend man, out of anger and the long-suffering due to lack of jobs and other economic opportunities joins a protest march. In the process, as they pass the high street, someone shouts, "the shop belongs to a TEPs. The marchers to pounce on the shop and help themselves to a few drugs, some bread, toothpaste, cement, sobo, blankets etc and ... Guess Who throws the first stone?  The same TenderPreneurs , the same looters, the same so called leaders who have milked us clean as we watched!

 July 20 was about the fight against systems that TenderPreneurs and LOOTERS have built to sustain their newly found lifestyle. They even wonder why car-less povos  complain about lack of fuel or black-outs when they have no electricity in their homes.

As Malawians prepare for August 17, let us show the TEPs that we are not like them. We are a breed that is preparing for a better Malawi, where there will be no place for " LOOTERS In Leadership.