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06/22/2011

Malawians could be big winners in new national lottery

National Lotteries Board Door Plaque
Malawi's National Lottery Board has pledged to fund public projects with proceeds from ticket sales. Photo by Sarah Feldbloom. 

By Sarah Feldbloom

In Canada, it’s not uncommon for people to believe lottery companies play on people’s fantasies, encouraging them to hand over money with no real benefit to themselves or society. So I was interested to hear from Davie Saeluzika that he thinks the national lottery could greatly improve the lives of Malawians.

Saeluzika is the finance and administrations manager at Malawi’s National Lotteries Board (NLB). Right now, he’s working to launch what he hopes will be Malawi’s first successful national lottery service, one that will give back to Malawians by using a percentage of the proceeds from lottery sales to fund public projects.

“This is a country that is in development, but there is a lot that still needs to be done,” he says. “You want as much as possible to give Malawians a better life.”

The question is whether the initiative will be effective and sustainable.

The lottery is a new concept in Malawi, as it is in many poor countries where most people don’t have the disposable income to buy tickets. But it may become popular as the prosperity of the country changes. Saeluzika says that right now is an ideal time to launch a new national lottery because the Malawian economy is expanding.

“Just recently, we were categorized as one of the fastest growing economies in Africa,” he tells me. According to an article published in Malawi's The Nation newspaper early this year, it ranks as number six.

Saeluzika says previous lottery companies “lacked the capabilities and financial muscle” to maintain a good product. But the new five-year national lottery licensee plans to use new technologies to ensure accuracy, he maintains. They will also launch a marketing campaign to educate Malawians about how the national lottery works.

“It’s not common to most Malawians,” says Eliza Kapakasa, a 36-year-old grocery store employee in Blantyre of NLB. “They should do a lot to help people recognize the lottery.”

Saeluzika is concerned effective marketing will be the biggest challenge for the new national lottery providers. They’re working against a reputation created by the first licensees who failed to honour wins of its largest prize, lotto 5, and a public that is neither knowledgeable nor eager to play.

The practice also comes with some cultural baggage. “Malawians associate gambling with bad behaviour,” says Kapakasa. It’s seen as decidedly un-Christian, according to her. 

Saeluzika explains the lottery can help Malawi achieve further prosperity by collecting taxes covertly from those who don't pay and investing them in public infrastructure. More than that, he wants the national lottery to succeed so money can be put into a fund and used for charitable projects, such as rehabilitating schools and clinics.

The new national lottery is slated to launch this month, and Saeluzika is looking forward to it.

“What you’re selling somebody is a dream,” he tells me, nodding his head with confidence.

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Africa Without Maps


  • There's so much more to Africa than predictable headlines about war, famine and AIDS. From Ghanaian beauty pageants to music in Malawi, Africa Without Maps provides a rare glimpse of life in Africa from Journalists for Human Rights interns on the ground.

    Funding for the jhr bloggers is provided by the Government of Canada's Youth International Internship Program.

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