Carlsberg's new face
In times of economic hardships like now, it is very rare to hear good news from companies, especially in the manufacturing sector. Things associated with the corporate world in such situations would usually be terminology such as supply shortages, down-sizing, closure, restructuring, retrenchments, streamlining, re-orientation and the likes.
It therefore came as a pleasant surprise recently to hear Carlsberg Malawi announcing the re-branding of its beer bottles. Carlsberg beers are now looking more sleekly and comparable with even those brands imported from South Africa or Europe.
For a long time, I have wondered why Carlsberg Malawi cannot export its beer products into the regional market. Why should imbibers in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania or Mozambique drink Carlsberg beer imported from Denmark? What is wrong with our Carlsberg beers?
I would like to believe that the improved packaging of the Carlsberg beers is a step-forward towards an export drive of Malawi made Carlsberg beers at least into the southern and eastern African regional markets.
The next thing should probably be another look at the taste of our beers by the master brewers at Carlsberg Malawi. The question the company needs to ask is that apart from being a status symbol, why do some Malawian imbibers prefer foreign brands? This is probably a subject for another day. For now, let's just say cheers to our new look and attractive Ndirande-made beers. That certainly calls for a Carlsberg. Thumbs up Carlsberg Malawi.
Wake up call for Paladin
A few weeks ago, I published on this column a letter I sent to Paladin Energy's Managing Director John Borshoff in which I complained about the company's lack of respect for Malawians through their non-responsiveness to media queries from Malawi.
A few weeks ago, some two courageous community groups in Karonga, where Paladin Africa operates the Kayelekera Uranium Mine, organised protests against the company's unfulfilled social responsibility promises as well as its failure to support local businesses and farmers through its preference for imported items for its food and other provisions.
To put the record straight, Kayelekera is an important project in the country which every Malawian should be proud of as it is significant not only for job creation, government revenue contribution and foreign currency earnings but also as a flagship foreign direct investment in the country which can encourage other international corporations to consider investing in Malawi.
However, the perception about the company among Malawians is not positive not because the people just don't like the investment but because of the way management of the company has conducted itself since their establishment.
Despite their profile as an established company from a developed and democratic country, Australia, where corporation operates based on acceptable corporate governance principles such as transparency and accountability, Paladin Energy's image in Malawi is that of a closed, secretive, agrarian and mysterious giant that has ring-fenced itself as a foreign island within Malawi.
For example, apart from employees and senior government officials, which other Malawians can claim to have set their foot in the Kayelekera Mine complex in Karonga?
Can't the company organise study tours for primary, secondary and university students at the company to enable them appreciate the business of mining uranium in their own country?
Can't the company invite journalists and civil society leaders to visit its operations and engage with management in seminar like sessions where comprehensive information would be provided complete with question and answer sessions?
The protest which failed to take place against the company a few weeks ago should serve as a wake-up call to the company about the intense negativity of its business among Malawians.
Their stated commitment to uphold transparency and accountability about the Kayelekera Uranium Mine is not enough. They need to demonstrate that actively and walk the talk. Otherwise, they should expect more resentment and civil action in the coming years as Malawians are no longer a passive society that sits back and watch helplessly when other people are exploiting their resources over their heads in the name of foreign investment. Thumbs down Paladin Energy.
to Limbe Police'
Can you please give a thumbs-down to the Limbe Traffic Police through your helpful column. Minibuses are terrorising all other drivers in Limbe because of traffic policemen's failure to control their unruly behaviour. They stop, wait and pick passengers at the traffic lights around Standard Bank right in the eyes of traffic officers. The lights will turn green, then red ...then green..it doesn't bother them! Meanwhile, all other road users either have to just wait, honk or form another queue to pass them on the left. This should not happen in a city like Blantyre. Something is seriously wrong with the traffic police cops in Limbe. Corruption perhaps?