Business captains and trade experts met in Lilongwe Wednesday to bang heads on how best Malawi could craft an effective export strategy which could help the country to realise her economic transformation aspirations.
The meeting came after the first National Export Strategy (Nes) yielded very little results with export growth remaining minimal at the time imports are growing exponentially.
Opening the meeting, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Ken Ndala, said the first Nes was too ambitious.
He said when Malawi launched the Nes in 2013, the main goal was to raise exports as a share of imports from 51.5 percent in 2010 to 75.7 percent in 2017.
He said this was to be done by ensuring an increased rate of growth of exports in value terms from 9 percent per year between 2001 and 2011 to 13 percent per annum from 2013 to 2017 through diversification of exports into higher value addition products and clusters as well as supporting existing clusters.
He said a Nes review revealed a number of factors that led to the dismal performance of the export strategy.
Ndala cited, among others, deficient resource mobilisation with heavy dependence on development partners and donor agencies as among key challenges of the strategy.
“Low level of investment in productive sectors both in terms of FDI and local investment in manufacturing projects with high value addition.
“In addition, the Nes was over designed and too ambitious to be realised within a five-year period, given the prevailing conditions,” Ndala said.
He added that the Nes reflected more of an Industrial Policy rather than an export policy as very limited actions for effective export promotion, facilitation, export development, aftercare, and policy advocacy were planned.
Ndala added that there was weak and ineffective collaborative framework between ministries and agencies.
“Malawian products and services are not very competitive on the international markets because of the higher costs of doing business compared to other competing countries,” Ndala said.
He added that despite the challenges in implementing the Nes, the country still registered some notable achievements including the development of the trade, industrial and SMEs policies such as the Control of Goods Act; the operationalisation of the Buy Malawi Strategy and the National Trade Facilitation Action Plan.
Commonwealth Trade, Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate Trade Adviser, Yinka Bandele, underscored the need for Malawi to consider focusing on developing its agriculture value chain to boost her exports.
Bandele said adding value to agricultural products could help Malawi to create jobs and boost production of various crops in the country.