The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), an umbrella body for private sector players in the country, feels the next decade is scaring as its members face stiff competition from counterparts within Africa.
The chamber says most products it lobbied to be protected under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) have been included on the sensitive list to be covered within the first 13 years of implementing the pact.
The development has sent private sector players shivering over possible intense competition.
According to articles of the AfCFTA, least developed countries, Malawi inclusive, will be given three opportunities including a list of goods that are categorised as non-sensitive products that will be traded for free in the next 10 years.
The second opportunity entails that sensitive products will be traded for free in the next 13 years from date of ratification and lastly an exclusion list containing local products that will be protected and will attract duty if imported.
MCCCI Director of Business Environment and Policy Advocacy Madalitso Kazembe said the requirement is that non-sensitive products must be 90 percent of tariff lines, sensitive products must be more than 7 percent of tariff lines while exclusion list must be not more than 3 percent of the tariff lines.
“We gave our advice accordingly on the products that we felt needed protection but, at the end of the day, based on the structure of the agreement, it is leaning more towards opening up as such most of the products that we recommended for protection were included on the sensitive list and will be open after 13 years,” Kazembe said.
But in a separate interview, Ministry of Trade spokesperson Mayeso Msokera said the private sector should not worry as influential products have been protected under the exclusion list.
He, however, could not list the products, saying they are bound to change upon negotiations with trading partners under the pact.
“We are convinced that all the products that might be sensitive to the private sector have been categorised under the exclusion list; meaning that our private sector is protected from any fears of imports.
“We are talking about 234 tariff lines which is a big number of products when you look at Malawi’s basket,” Msokera said.