The Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Kikkan Haugen, has called on the Malawi Government to find new ways of conducting its business if the country is to move away from the current economic stagnation.
Haugen also challenged authorities to consider scrapping off some of the country’s policies that are said to be scaring away potential foreign direct investment to the country.
He was speaking in an interview on the sidelines of a cleaning exercise which was conducted at Cape Maclear in Mangochi. The cleaning exercise was meant to raise awareness on the need to preserve Lake Malawi as a heritage site listed under the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
Haugen said Malawi seems to have lost direction for its development policies which he said is worrisome considering that the country has all the required
attributes that can help a nation to be among the developing nations of the world.
“We should begin to ask ourselves as to why Malawi is still poor when the country is enjoying one of the best goodwill environments which is a catalyst for development. Why is it that we are failing to attract investors yet we have peace? Why is it that life in Malawi is tough compared to countries that are at war?” Haugen queried.
He further suggested that authorities put in place policies that will help the country to utilise its resources for the betterment of the people as opposed to the current state when a lot of the country’s resources are lost to corruption.
“Life in Malawi at the moment is very slow and full of corruption. I have examples of some investors who took about six years to open businesses in Malawi. The process is tiresome and full of corruption.
“This ends up frustrating foreign investors who are forced to go to other countries,” he said.
He also took time to slam the impact which the Malawi Investment Forums have had on the country’s economy, saying the forums cannot yield desirable results if Malawi keeps in place some of its bureaucratic ways of doing business.
“We have had several investment forums but the results are very minimal. Maybe it’s time we think of removing some tax barriers that are preventing investment into the country. The country is not able to sell itself to the outside world, this is a big problem for any country that wants to develop,” he said.
Haugen suggested for the need to make use of the country’s tourism potential in order to attract tourists that can bring in businesses into the country. He said working with neighbouring countries like Mozambique and Tanzania can also help improvement of the country’s tourism profile.
“The introduction of visa and its associated fees has had a big damage to the country’s tourism sector such that government needs to seriously review this decision to make the country attractive to tourists,” he said.
He even doubted if the country can become rich if it starts oil exploration on the lake, saying the benefit of the current fresh lake is more than what the country can gain if oil is explored on the lake.
“Malawi stands to lose a lot if it allows Lake Malawi to be delisted from Unesco’s list of heritage sites. We need to guard and treasure this with all our hearts,” he said.
Godfrey Mfiti an environmentalist with Institute for Sustainable Development recommended that the government and other stakeholders seriously establish how Malawians can benefit from the country’s natural resources.
Efforts to talk to government Spokesperson, Nicholas Dausi, proved futile as his phone was out of reach.