Karisimbi Partners was fortunate to recently be engaged by an advisor to the new president of Malawi to join a team evaluating the economic state of the nation by engaging in early dialog with key private sector players, development partners and policy influencers. Our primary purpose was to learn from those on the ground, to listen well and begin to help outline the priority issues and challenges to be addressed by the new administration.
It is a great honor to meet and work with any head of state; particularly one as passionate and inspirational as Joyce Banda. This recent article in The Guardian provides a good portrait of the new president, her country, and how she endeavors to use her experience thus far to lead Malawi further and higher than has seemed possible in recent years.
Why is it that resource rich countries across the continent often continue to languish in poverty and remain far behind development goals and promised milestones? This is a question often asked and highly debated over the past 50 + years. I would posit that stories like Rwanda, and potentially this early chapter in Malawi’s new start hold the answer. Leadership makes the difference.
People want justice. They long for fair play and predictable, logical decision-making from leaders. They want to rally behind someone who puts the interest of others ahead of their own. They want a merit-based society and the opportunity to show the world that they are capable of defying the odds and developing a country rich in industry and services, displaying dynamic growth and worthy of investment in key sectors like financial services, agri-business, and tourism.
In speaking with many CEOs and other executives less than two weeks after her Excellency was sworn in, the pride and hope of the Malawian business community shined through. Emerging from an increasingly unjust political environment which saw the exit of critical development partners, punitive business regulations and a crippled economy, they know the challenge is great and that tough decisions must be taken by new leadership to address the errors of the past. In the short term things may get worse before they get better. Without a doubt, this is a defining time for the country, its people and in particular the new president who must put aside past wrongs to embrace the future and all its potential. The leaders we met with had many thoughts, opinions and perspectives on what was needed to ensure success moving forward.
Despite being intended for the new president at this specific time in the country’s history, the recurring themes of their counsel represent simple truths for us all:
- Surround yourself with the right advisors
- Rebuild and maintain key relationships
- Take the hard decisions to correct mistakes of the past
- Always tell the truth
We are excited to see this story unfold and look forward to supporting Malawi’s growth short and long-term.