In a paper titled ‘Malawi Growth Development Strategy and the Minerals Sector’, Malunga says the minerals sector is the driver for economic development in most African countries.
He says South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana and Angola are some of the countries that have benefited from the minerals sector.
“It is, therefore, surprising that Malawi has downgraded mining, in Malawi Growth and Development Strategy III (MGDS), as a low key priority area. The country continues to dwell much on social development and not economic development.
“Economic development comes from private sector growth whose revenue to government should meet the needs of social development. What the country should do is to speed up conclusion of Development Agreements, enact the Mines and Minerals Bill, promote import substitution and oversee speedy development of rare earths, niobium and graphite projects within the next three to five years,” Malunga says.
He says the exclusion of the minerals sector in the MGDS III as a key priority sector slows down progress that was gained in MGDS II when the sector saw generation of geo-scientific information necessary to trigger exploration activities in the mining sector.
Malunga says the local economy should graduate from tertiary industry to secondary industry through proper planning and realising full benefits of economic diversification.
He says the country imports mineral-based commodities such as lime, fertiliser, ceramic products, coal and steel which can be produced locally to promote import substation and save foreign exchange.
“Malawi has a lot of limestone deposits that can be used for manufacture of agriculture lime, chemical grade lime and cement. We import fertiliser when we can manufacture our own through locally based minerals such as rock phosphate and pyrite.
“We continue to import ceramic products such as sanitary ware and tiles when we have clays. We continue to export scrap metal instead of recycling to metal products such as reinforcement steel and flat metal sheets,” he points out.
Malunga also says Malawi continues to import coal for steam generation when the country can develop our coal deposits for domestic use (coal briquettes), agro processing and energy generation.
“Malawi has immediate potential to generate export revenue through graphite, rare earths, niobium and uranium. The projects are well spread to steer regional economic growth.
“Real opportunities are emerging in the renewable energy sector and battery industry to support exploitation of the above minerals within three to five years. These projects can be developed with a short period if the government can be serious with timely conclusion of development agreements and timely enactment of the new Mines and Minerals Bill that will put into effect the Mines Taxation Act,” Malunga said.
Launching MGDS III in Lilongwe recently, President Peter Mutharika said the blueprint has departed from the formulation of multiple thematic areas by organising itself around key priority areas.
He said the five key priority areas presented in the strategy were chosen on the basis of their alignment to the Sustainable Development Goals, the AU Agenda 2063 and Malawi’s economic and development needs.
“As such, MGDS III is designed to spur growth and remove barriers to development. For the next five years, the key priority areas shall be agriculture, water development and climate change management, education and skills development, energy, industry and tourism development, transport and ICT infrastructure and health and population,” Mutharika said.
Unlike the MGDS II, the new five-year development plan is built around a theme that aims to improve productivity, turn the country into a competitive nation and develop resilience to shocks and hazards.
The MGDS III also consolidates the efforts that Malawi is making to reposition itself as a global player.