Malawi’s imports, exports decline


By Chimwemwe Mangazi:

Malawi’s imports from the rest of Africa have been on the decline over the past five years, the International Trade Index on Trade Map has shown.

The index shows that Malawi’s imports averaged $589.3 million [about K442 billion] from $1.2 billion in 2013 to $758 million in 2017.


Among the top products the country imported in 2017 were machinery, mechanical appliances, nuclear reactors, boilers parts, tobacco, plastics, salt, plastering materials, lime and cement.

During the same period, on the other hand, the country only managed to export products averaging $380.9 million [about K285.6 billion] from $303 million in 2013 to $296 million in 2017.

Among top products that Malawi exported last year include tobacco, residues and waste from the food industries, prepared animal fodder, oil seeds, miscellaneous grains, coffee, tea, and spices.


Economics professor at Chancellor College, Ben Kalua, said this could be a result of many factors, including sourcing productive inputs internally and failing to pay for the imported inputs.

“This is a very interesting dynamic because Malawi is a heavily import-dependent economy in terms of production, manufacturing even in agriculture. So, down from over a billion dollars imports, there are two things that could have happened.

“It could be that we have improved our capacity to source inputs locally, which I highly doubt. The other one is that, no matter how big our required input levels are, we have been unable to sustain payment for those imported inputs,” Kalua said.

Economics Association of Malawi (Ecama) Executive Director, Maleka Thula, said the trend is expected as Malawi imports some strategic goods every year such as fertiliser for agriculture production, pharmaceuticals and fuel.

“If we have not exported more during the period, it means that we have not enhanced supply-side factors-meaning that we have not increased production to allow us to export more,” Thula said.

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