South Bend, Indiana(MaraviPost): Last Saturday December 16th Malawi Diaspora listened and sparred with a delegation of Malawi technocrats and Politicians led by Dr. Grant Kabango who serves as Deputy Governor of Economics and Director of Reserve Bank of Malawi and Ambassador Edward Y Sawerengera based in Washington DC.
The Meeting was organized by The Reserve Bank of Malawi in Conjunction with Malawi Investment and Trade with the Support of the Malawi Embassy in Washington DC to sell the Diaspora Investment initiative that has the approval of Malawi Parliament and of course the Peter Mutharika led Government.
In a sometimes confrontational give and take Grant Kabango showed poise and understanding of Malawi Banking regulations. Malawi diaspora was of course sceptical as almost 10 years ago they faced Dr Kabango about the same issues with no follow up. Earlier as I chatted with some of the attendees doubts were raised and many questioned the motives of the team from Malawi. Even in the questioning some accused the delegation of coming to America just to earn allowances.
Dr. Grant Kabango Said their first stop was in South Africa where they held the same forum with Malawians. After South bend they were going to Seattle, Washington to share and listen to Malawians. They had planned trips in New York and On to European countries.
The delegation however with a Powerful power point presentation emphasised that this time the Malawi Government was very determined to make Malawi Diaspora start investing in Malawi. Mr Mizati from Foreign affairs Ministry assured the participants that his office had been assigned the responsibility of coordinating this initiative. Mr Mizati also promised that Dual Citizenship initiative was still on Governments priority Agendas and was not dead. Mzithembi Mbekeani Financial director from the Reserve Bank explained that now People who open foreign accounts in Malawi Commercial Banks can easily transfer funds between their US Banks and Their Malawi Bank. Forex restrictions no longer existed.
CEO Clement Kumbemba of Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC) assured the attendees that his job was to facilitate and make it easy for Malawians to invest in the homeland. He encouraged Malawians that faced difficulties in bringing heavy Equipment in the country or wanted to start a major investment initiative in Malawi to contact his office directly. He said the Policy is there to lift barriers that had discouraged the diaspora from investing in the past. “Our aim at the MITC is to ensure that we make Malawi an investment destination of choice,” says MITC CEO Clement Kumbemba.
However the star of the evening was Ambassador Edward Y Sawerengera who won over Malawians by his openness and willingness to accept that there are corrupt politicians who make initiatives such as this fail because of greed. However he emphasised that it was all our responsibility to expose politicians or technocrats who behave this way. He also assured all Attendees that the Embassy was open to all Malawians at one time to Applause from the audience he shared his personal cell Phone Number. He assured everyone that he was here to serve Malawians and any Malawian visiting Washington DC should make sure to visit the Embassy of the Republic of Malawi located on 2408 Massachusetts Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20008.
The idea of encouraging Diaspora investments and other contributions is not new. As a matter of fact we can say Malawi is coming to this a little bit late than other African countries such as Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. On 2 December 2011, The President of the General Assembly at the UN highlighted the important economic contributions of Diasporas and stressed the need to help them achieve their full potential.
“Our collective action must be directed towards supporting Diasporas, so that their contributions to development might achieve their full potential,” said Nassir Abdul-Aziz Al-Nasser in remarks to the 2011 Forum on Diaspora Economy, which were delivered on his behalf by his Chief of Staff, Mutalq Al-Qahtani.
The evening ended on a positive note with the delegation from Malawi posing for group photos and exchange of business cards with the attendees. In all it was an encouraging night to all of us who care for our Homeland.
They say giant leaps are great, but there is power in small steps. Even a single, small step toward something you really want breathes life into that thing and announces that you are ready. It gives you energy toward the next step.
Small step indeed, but in the right direction.
Elwin Mandowa is the Managing Editor of The Maravi Post