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Reflecting on Buy Malawian

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It has been two years since the government rolled out the Buy Malawian campaign, an initiative meant to encourage consumption and usage of Malawian products and services.

The Malawian consumer is considered as having a huge appetite for foreign products, a trait that is seen as a threat to the success of the crusade.

Lately, foreign products have flooded the market and some local producers are worried that they may not be able to sustain their businesses as the foreign products often offer cheaper alternatives to products made on our home soil.

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While acknowledging that the development is an inevitable consequence of globalisation and free trade agreements that Malawi has signed, the local companies have expressed concern that the state of the Malawi economy and the volatility of the kwacha may put them at a disadvantage to profit from the international market.

The Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) earlier confirmed being aware that some goods and services imported into the country may have anti-competitive effects on locally produced goods.

The commission’s Executive Director, Wezi Malonda, said while it is the responsibility of the CFTC to investigate and deal with any incidences of anti-competitive conducts whenever they arise, the issue of safeguarding the domestic industry from imported goods and services does not fall under the regulatory scope of the commission.

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“It is the subject of another policy framework, which is beyond the scope of responsibility of the CFTC,” Malonda said.

But, Malonda said there are other policy frameworks that can be used to protect infant domestic industries that have been isolated for protection from import competition to allow them mature.

However, she said such endeavours are championed through a deliberate policy that identifies and protects them for a specific period.

“It is rare to have a blanket protection for an indefinite period as this may create industries, whose growth is stunted due to non-exposure to external competition,” she said.

Prevailing economic challenges, characterised by high inflation and interest rates, has left many people with reduced buying power forcing them to opt for cheaper products, most of which are manufactured abroad.

Entrepreneur and former President of the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Newton Kambala, said in the absence of interventions to improve the availability of essential factors of production such as electricity and water, it will be difficult for Malawi to sustain supply of its products on the highly competitive market.

But he said while Malawians may be forced to buy foreign products because they are cheaper and available, the implications to the economy in the long term can be devastating.

He said industry needs quick interventions to reverse disruption of productions processes following persistent power outages, if the government is really sincere about promoting products made on Malawi soil.

“Every product has a distribution system and in the product supply chain, people are happier to deal with someone, who can keep on supplying them but, if your products are not regularly on the market, people are not eager to support you,” he said.

Power has been cited widely as being a binding constraint affecting production processes key to availability of Malawian products on the domestic as well as international markets.

The operating environment is now considered as one of the factors making it difficult for locally-made products to be competitive.

But government is optimistic that the strategy will play a key role in spurring investment and local manufacturing.

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