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Covid variant worries industry

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James Chimwaza

The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) and economic experts have expressed worry over increasing cases of Covid in some of the country’s trading partners, saying it could stifle economic recovery.

In recent weeks, the news media has been awash with reports that Covid cases have been on the rise in South Africa, Malawi’s largest trading partner on the continent, and Botswana.

Just over the weekend, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union and Australia imposed travel restrictions on Malawi and other Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries.

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In an interview, MCCCI President James Chimwaza said while it was too early to tell the possible impact, the country’s response to the new variant would determine its resilience.

“There is a political stage where political statements are made all over but we are just hoping that sooner, rather than later, we will have a sober response to it so that it minimises shocks in the business.

“Anytime that travel is disturbed, logistics are disturbed and there is a shock to the business,” Chimwaza said.

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Director for Centre for Research and Consultancy Milward Tobias said the new variant and increasing number of cases in some countries must concern Malawi from both health and economic perspectives.

“We have also heard that some countries have put us on travel ban. That denies our economy foreign exchange we get through visitors whether through tourism, conferences and other travel purposes.

“With the vaccination exercise ongoing, I am hopeful the extent of damage will not be as previous waves; as such, there is cause to believe the economic consequences will not be severe and too long,” Tobias said.

Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences economist Betchani Tchereni said the country has learnt some aspects of preventing the spread of the virus and that a good number of the population has been vaccinated.

“We have and are embracing e-commerce in the country to the extent that we have been able to participate in international business through online activities; however, understanding that there could be some travel bans, the economy may still suffer.

“We need to embrace e-commerce even more, get ourselves accustomed to online business,” Tchereni said.

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