Munawwarah Islamic Organisation has become the first Islamic organization in Malawi to come out of the cocoon to condemn mass protests organised by Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA) scheduled to take place on January 17.
Addressing journalists on Sunday, January 13 in Blantyre, Munawwarah Chairperson Erick Jaffali Ali said reasons raised by CAMA are not satisfactory to hold demonstrations.
“…as civil society organization, [we] would like to express our disagreement over the impending demonstration organized by Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA). With hindsight over the political and economic climate in the past 8 months, we are of the view that the country is just recovering from the sickbed. Therefore, we should not expect too much from the current administration in the meantime,” said the chairman.
The chairperson also said CAMA should not forget that problems rocking the country were inherited from the previous regime.
He cited the sour relationship between the previous regime and donors as one of the factors that contributed to the trailing economy after donors pulled out their aid support.
Munawwarah further said CAMA should take advantage of the current administration ‘which is a listening and responsive to issues affecting citizens.’
“The country experienced fuel and forex scarcity, therefore with all these economic ills; we shouldn’t expect the economy to transform overnight. The government has opened its door to dialogue; therefore, we shouldn’t act as if all options are exhausted. Thinking of conducting demonstrations, in our view as Munawwarah, sounds too forward,” he said.
CAMA has vowed to go into streets against government’s failure to address the current economic challenges which, it says, have come as a result of Kwacha devaluation.
Several churches including CCAP and Anglican have also expressed their disagreements with the demonstrations saying they don’t know the objectives of the protests as there is still room for dialogue.
Malawi Muslims’ mother body Muslim Association of Malawi is yet to make statement on the matter.
Meanwhile reports reaching this website indicate that divisions have rocked the demonstration’s organising committee with some pulling out saying they want to give dialogue with government a chance.
The demo is organised by the Consumer Association of Malawi (CAMA), whose mandate I believe is to make sure that the interest of the consumers are protected and no business entity is taking advantage of the consumers regardless of the situation prevailing at a particular time. So CAMA makes sure that the business world conforms to the trade regulations and abide by that. No consumer should be taken advantage of. What happens when a trader flout the trading regulations and start disdavntaging the consumers? How does CAMA help consumers in that situation?
But the current situation is a different one. Traders are just responding to the rising cost of goods and services. Especially that Malawi doesn't produce most of the goods it consumes. So these traders have to import most of the goods they sell. That means, they need more foreign currency to bring in the much needed goods. How do countries get foreign currency? Countries get foreign currency through exporting locally made/manufactured goods to other countries. This means, if a country doesn't have enough capacity to export goods and services, then it will experience foreign currency shortages. This is the case with Malawi. The country does not export alot of goods to earn the much needed foreign currency.
The other issue deals with exchange rate. The country's currency value depends much on the economic activities taking place between the country and other countries. i.e. import and export. But for the currency to be strong enough, it needs to have trade surplus where it's exports is greater than it's imports. In other words, you are earning more than you are spending. That surplus will sustain the value of the country's currency. Because normally we are paid in foreign currency in our export trade,it means we will have extra forex.
So the debate here is a two way thing. What are we doing to make sure that this sufferings are not a forever thing? Are we really paying attention to the manufacturing industries so that within few years we will be able to export enough and earn enough foreign currency. If this is the case with Malawi then is worthy waiting for the fruition of such policies. But if the story is about auto pilot.Hoping that things will normalise on its own,then Malawi's woes will see no sunshine again.
What is the way forward?
The problems Malawi is facing,needs the input of both the citizenry and the government. The government should be willing to listen to the good suggestions from the people. While the people should be willing to work with the government to enhance productivity in the country. Is only through improved productivity will Malawi's current problems be solved to a manageable level. Otherwise, demos, talking and tag of words will not take Malawi anywhere. Honestly, where will government get the much needed foreign currency without exporting something? Borrowing is something that countries should by all means avoid. Because these loans put burdens on future generations who will require to pay principle and interest on a loan they never benefited from. But if the manufacturing industries are revived and new ones (through inviting investors to come and invest in Malawi) are initiated, these problems might be for a short while. But a word of caution, the multinational institutions like IMF, World Band, etc; will not advise you to invest their grants in infrastructure development, because they take pride in seeing you as a third world country, as a poor country who will go to them begging time and again.