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Pressure mounts on foreigners running small scale businesses

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Sosten Gwengwe

The business community is calling on the government to stop foreign nationals from running small scale businesses in the country saying they are taking up opportunities for Malawians.

This comes against a background of an influx of foreign nationals especially Chinese, Indians, Burundians, and Nigerians in the country’s cities and town operating grocery shops and other small scale businesses.

In recent weeks a debate ensued on social media where small scale business operators have been expressing worry on the development.

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Others, however, are of the view that such businesses spur economic activity in such towns and districts.

In an interview Chibuku Products Limited (CPL) Business Development and Corporate Affairs Manager, Gloria Zimba, said there is need to ensure that foreign nationals operating in the country have made a substantial investment and are creating employment for Malawians and not bring unnecessary competition to small scale traders.

Zimba said some of the foreign nationals are sponsoring locals in smuggling of beer from neighboring Zambia into the country which is stifling their business.

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“We need to review our policies as a country, if these foreigners want to do business in Malawi they should make an investment not less than $200 thousand (about K150 million) and employ not less than 10 Malawians.

“Some two weeks ago we discovered a huge quantity of smuggled beer in Kasungu, when we went in to investigate we found that there some foreign nationals have hired some Malawians who are trading the smuggled products on their behalf,” Zimba said.

Chairperson of the National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Nasme), William Mwale, added that the foreigners have a competitive advantage in that they have easy access to capital from relations abroad to upkeep allowance they receive every month as refugees. Minister of Trade, Sosten Gwengwe, said they are already looking into laws that govern foreigners doing business in Malawi.

“As a ministry we are looking at our business licencing laws and the devolution of some licencing powers to local councils. All foreign businesses are supposed to obtain trading licences from the Ministry of Trade headquarters. Once all pieces of legislation are looked at properly, we will have a way forward on the matter.

“…in the meantime we are consulting stakeholders on the 60/40 procurement rule and reserving some goods and services to be procured from Micro Small and Medium Enterprises which are owned by black indigenous Malawians,” Gwengwe said.

In a separate interview spokesperson in t h e Department of Immigration, Joseph Chauwa, said according to law, foreign nationals especially those under refugee status are not allowed to run businesses anywhere in the country’s cities and towns but in the refugee camps.

“When we find them we arrest them and they pay a fine, if one is arrested for the third time it becomes a criminal offence and is sent to jail. It is just unfortunate that they go back in the towns opening shops,” Chauwa said

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