Print options

June 19, 2013

Africa Must First Tackle Poverty, Says Ex-Malawi President

by Peter Clottey

Malawi’s former president says democracy and independence alone are not the ultimate answer to addressing the growing poverty levels in Africa.

But Bakili Muluzi also says the democratic strides Malawi has achieved will remain meaningless if citizens continue to live in abject poverty.

“Independence alone is not enough. Democracy alone is not enough People don’t eat democracy,” said Muluzi, “We have to provide employment and put food on the table for our people. I think the time has now come for our countries to look at strategies where the people’s sufferings can be reduced. Let us put our resources together to reduce this poverty, which our people have been suffering from a very long time.”   

In an interview with VOA, Muluzi called on current leaders in Africa to implement measures to address the challenge of poverty on the continent. He says that it is unacceptable for Africans to be poor, blessed as they are with enormous natural resources.

“Almost 64 percent of our people live below the poverty line, [and] that is a big concern,” said Muluzi.  “We need to be looking at the suffering of our people. We need to be looking at how we can transform our economic activities for the benefit of the people.  That is my plea to our leaders on the continent.”

He agreed with those who say many politicians in Africa often fail to keep pre-election promises to address poverty when they are elected to power.

Muluzi also said governments have yet to use their country’s natural resources in the effort to improve the living conditions of citizens.

Many African countries, he said, have yet to take serious and pragmatic steps to find solutions that might reduce poverty.

“We should definitely [be] finding strategies to ensure that whatever resources that are coming from minerals are put to use to reduce the poverty of our people,” Muluzi said. “The issue has been the way the economic policies were being put in place. We need to change the way we have been doing things because things have not worked.”

Muluzi says the African Forum, which is group comprised of former African heads of state, plans to meet to come with a strategy to engage current leaders as part of an effort to combat poverty on the continent. The group, with more than 35 members, is chaired by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano.

“These concerns of poverty have been expressed in our committee and we are saying let us do all that we can to advise our governments through whatever forum we can use in order to convey the sentiment,” continued Muluzi. “Because, indeed, we have a responsibility to help our own government so that they can understand the feelings of the people on the ground.” 

Muluzi said he was hopeful that the African Union has taken serious notice of the challenges of poverty and was devising measures to address the problem.
Clottey interview with Bakili Muluzi, Malawi’s former president