By Kondwani Magombo
Mangochi, September 14, Mana: Minister of Information, Gospel Kazako, on Monday described the country’s National ICT Policy and the Malawi Digital Broadcasting Policy as “myopic” and “counterproductive” saying they limit the growth of local businesses in the sector.
The minister observed this at Sunbird Nkopola in Mangochi at the commencement of a four-day review process for the National ICT Policy and the Malawi Digital Broadcasting Policy.
Kazako said the local TV industry, for instance, operates on Free to Air arrangement unlike their counterparts with foreign origins who operate on commercial basis and yet the local industry is supposed to pay levies, license fees and other tax classifications to government.
“A million-dollar question is: ‘how can someone who is not getting anything for the services rendered be expected to pay fees and levies’?” wondered Kazako, and continued: “Such myopic reasoning is the catalyst for the downward spiral of our broadcasting sector and the subsequent impoverishment of those who depend on it to survive.”
He said the trickle-down effect of such “unfavourable” policies is that local companies do not generate revenues to expand or sustain their operations.
Kazako further observed that the trend has made millions of Malawians wallow in poverty due to lack of employment for a long time while, on the other hand, the foreign companies that enjoy commercial airing generate revenue from Malawian subscribers and repatriate the profits back home to grow their economies.
“On this view point, I seriously plead with you to reflect with utmost soberness on the work before you and attempt to ensure that the reviewed policies will serve Malawians better,” Kazako told the government officials.
The minister also said it is high time that the country graduated to 5G services to quickly catch up with the rest of the global village and enjoy the exploitation of the digital dividends that go along with the advanced ICT technologies.
According to the Principal Secretary for Information, Enerst Ntchentche, the two policies under review expired in 2016 and 2018 respectively thus the country has had nothing to refer to for guidance for the past 2 to 4 years.
He said without the two guiding tools, the ministry has been “on a life-saving machine” and that there’s need “to expedite the process before the oxygen cylinder runs out of the much needed oxygen to keep the ministry moving”.
The minister has given the government officials nine months (up to June 30th 2021) to get the policies concluded in readiness for implementation at the onset of the 2021/22 Financial Year.