Author Archives: Josiane Blanc

About Josiane Blanc

Josiane is a recent graduate with a degree in film studies and a diploma in print journalism. Josiane can’t imagine anything more rewarding then being able to experience a new culture, camcorder in hand. She has worked on film and journalism projects with students in Ecuador prior to this experience, but this will be her first time to Malawi. Josiane will be working as an Education Officer at the Malawi Institute of Journalism in Blantyre, Malawi.

Malawi’s motion pictures to contribute to economic development?

“Very few people look at the film industry as a business here in Malawi”, said Shemu Joyah, the director of the film Seasons of a life, during a public lecture given at Blantyre’s sports Club on April 29th.

According to Mr. Joyah, the movie industry is a viable way to generate additional revenues for the country in addition to attracting tourism.

“Nigeria’s film industry started 20 years ago. Today you will be surprised that Nollywood is the second largest filmmaking industry in the world generating revenues of 20 million US dollars yearly”, said Joyah.

For Joyah, Malawi has the potential to create movies up to the industry’s standard but the lack of funding makes it very difficult for any aspiring filmmakers and scriptwriters to make their way into the business.

Malawi’s government has an estimated 20 million kwacha annual budget dedicated to culture (approximately 117 000 Canadian dollars) which is not enough to support the Malawian art industry. Joyah’s first movie, whose cost amounted to $ 60 000 US dollars, was funded using his personal savings.

But the lack of funding is not the only thing holding Malawi’s film industry back: Accessing  information and obtaining the necessary authorisations to film is still very difficult in Malawi. According to Mr. Joyah this is mainly cause by the fact that employees working in public institutions do not want to take any decision because they are afraid they will lose their jobs.

“I went to different institutions like the court, Chancellor College and the airport but they rejected my demands to film in these locations without giving me any good reason”, explained Joyah.

It took Mr. Joyah two months and several phone calls to receive a letter from the national court denying him the right to film inside their premises. However, he admits that the situation as eased a little since his movie was awarded in Canada, Tanzania and Italy.

“To my surprise, the people who couldn’t provide the support at first where willing to when the film received recognition” he explained.

Joyah sees a great future for Malawi’s film industry  internationally even though he admits that art in Malawi is still a “newly born baby”.

“Films offer great inside of our culture. This happens only when we are able to tell our own stories and sing our own songs”, he said.

Seasons of a life is the only Malawian film currently available on the international market. The last fishing boat, Joyah’s second long feature film is to be launched in June.

 

 

 

 

 

Health & Fuel: A follow up on Malawi’s shortage impact on health services.

The inaccessibility of oil in Malawi causes a considerable slowdown in regard to the overall productivity of the country. While hospitals have developed strategies to ensure continuous access to resources, their employees and patients are still queuing up nearby the pump.

According to Dr. Themba Mhango, the director at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), some patients are unable to attend appointments due to fuel shortages.

“At the moment about 50% of the patients with diabetes who are booked to come for sight-saving laser treatment are defaulting and when we call them to trace them, they almost always say it is due to no fuel or the cost of transport that has increased.” Said Dr. Mhango.

Malawi’s shortage has been going on for three years now. With people sometimes waiting six to eight hours without any guarantee of accessing the fuel, life has just taken another pace has lining up for gas is now part of everyone’s weekly reality.

QECH is a 1 300 bed public hospital receiving about 500,000 patients per year and spending nearly 2 million kwacha (approximately 12 500 Canadian dollars) a month on fuel. They managed to work around the shortage by creating contacts at gas stations so owners can inform them in advance whenever a delivery is about to happen. However, their work is still indirectly affected by this situation.
“Some staff may report for duties in the morning and then later disappear because they have gone queuing for fuel at the gas station.” Explains Dr. Mhango.

At Mwaiwanthu hospital, recent agreements with the Minister of Health have highly enhanced the life of the management team who no longer fear fuel shortages during the frequent power outages.

“It takes about 20 liters to run the hospital’s generator for six hours. Before this January, we had to find the fuel ourselves. Now we prepay for the fuel who is delivered to us.” explains Dr. Edgar Kutchindale, admitting that although this is a privilege it does not cover any of their staff members. Individuals must still queue up to buy gasoline or are forced to buy it off illegal vendors which requires them to pay up to three times more than the original price.

In the past few weeks, police attempted to implement better security on black market and began arresting the dealers who are keeping the oil in their houses. According to Christian Sidande from the Malawi Human Rights Commission; 1000 liters were confiscated last week.

These new interventions by the authorities appear to be favorable for the buyers. “With the outlawing of consumers buying fuel in containers has strangled the black market, hence we are seeing an improvement in the availability of fuel supply, we can ably fill up our vehicles at the gas  station,”  said Dr. Mhango.

However, for Mr. Sidande, the recent availability of fuel is only a temporary balm on a wound.

“In the last two weeks 90 million liters were bought by government. Their problem as eased a little for a short period of time but the president admits still not having a solution yet.” Said Sidande.