The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) and other private sector players have said the industry lacks competitiveness and necessary information to embrace and start trading under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The AfCFTA became operational on January 1 2021 and trading under the pact started on July 1 after countries submitted tariff lines by June 30.
However, two and half months later, there is little or no action from local businesses to either import or export under the pact.
MCCCI President James Chimwaza said the local industry and all stakeholders needed to be organised to meet standards before delivering on the international markets.
“We must raise our game. We have to improve on what we produce because we are competing with other players from all other countries; so, it is not an overnight thing,” Chimwaza said.
In a separate interview, Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Chamber Executive Director James Chiutsi said there are a number of factors that have affected the private sector’s involvement in regional trade.
“The government has not publicised this extensively. Also, SMEs are not oriented on main products and competitive standards.
“Due to long-distance trade dealings, it is required that SMEs start trading in large quantities which is a challenge as of now. The Covid situation may also contribute in that many borders are still closed and many SMEs are reluctant to get tested and some can’t afford testing fees,” Chiutsi said.
However, Ministry of Trade spokesperson Mayeso Msokera said said all players can now export under the agreement by declaring their exports with the Malawi Revenue Authority at the borders.
“There are criteria used to ascertain the originality of the products. It is also important to look at the regulations that we have, for example the Control of Goods Act which lists products that require licenses before importing or exporting,” Msokera said.
The AfCFTA will bring together all 55 member states of the African Union covering a market of more than 1.2 billion people, including a growing middle class, and a combined gross domestic product of more than $3.4 trillion.
The pact entered into force on May 30 2019.