Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mountain too High (Part 1)

I was in Swaziland and had just missed the reed dance. Muluzi beat me to it. As i landed at Manzini airport, the bare breasted maidens were leaving for their various homes after entertaining the men of Africa and guests. I could just imagine Bakili's smile on seeing a mixture of makanda and D7s. Although reed dance is a celebration of virginity, in Swaziland virginity is defined as "Women who have not given birth before". So the bare breasted maidens you see are mostly "virgins in a Swazi way" Air Malawi From Swaziland, I missed my SA flight to Malawi (probably preoccupied with annoyance after missing the reed dance) and I had to turn to Air Malawi. The Johannesburg staff were very helpful and managed to get me a seat. "We fly on Saturdays to Blantyre but this week we will fly on Sunday", they told me to my amusement. "Ndi mini bus"? I mused. Then the shocker came. I wanted a one way ticket and it was going to cost me US$840! I was told all cheap seats were taken!
Forget it. I turned back to SA. I finally managed to get a business class ticket on SA which I got cheaper than flying our mother QM. Well cheaper, because I also used my miles on SA. On my flight to Malawi, I sat with the cream of Malawi. That is when the stories started about what is happening at home. I heard that the management of the new Chinese hotel and conference centre, which had been given to Sunbird, will be given back to a South African company that initially won the bid. The PP Government had rescinded the decision of DPP Government to award management contract to the South African company. I was actually surprised that PP Government had given this mammoth task to Sunbird who cannot even manage the small hotels that they are currently managing. I still give PP credit for realising their mistake. Of course the SA Company will now have a stronger bargaining position. The infrastructure looks beautiful. Time will tell how we utilise "Bingu colour dream" which of course is part of the reason our economy is bleeding and our debt has grown considerably in the last 5 years. I was keen to understand more on our approach to tourism. Well Press Corporation had "colour dreams" of turning Cape Maclear into tourism Mecca. What surprised me is that Malawi’s tourism strategy seems to be based on 5 star infrastructures (hotels) and yet we don't have 5 star entertainment, services, customer service, human resources etc. Take for example Mangochi. As a tourist, what can keep me for than 1 day in Mangochi? Day 1, I swim and go to watch birds and watch nyau dancers. After that I might as well leave. Our strategy also does not include domestic family tourism. In my view the Cape Maclear Press Corporation project will fail unless the whole model is changed. Press Corporation could be the anchor investor but the concept and model should include many small Malawi investors and thus each takes a small risk and benefit from a fuller concept. This works like the "Shopping Mall" concept. I was however glad to hear about the initiative at Majete Game reserve. For the first time, we have the Big 5 at Majete. I hear over 100 elephants were moved from Mangochi to Majete and that facilities have been upgraded. I will be keen to hear from those that have visited.

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