Efforts to promote regional economic integration may be fruitless if corruption is not uprooted in offices concerned with cross-border trade such as the police, immigration and Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), local cross-border traders have said.
The traders made the remarks recently at Engucwini in Mzimba North during a panel discussion on the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) regional economic integration awareness project being implemented by the National Initiative for Civic Education (Nice) Trust.
They said they incur unnecessary costs in the course of their businesses due to corrupt officials who demand bribes from the traders when in transit.
“It is disheartening to have officers, especially from police, demanding money to ‘clear’ our goods in roadblocks when we have actually already paid the required taxes to MRA at the border. Even when you show them the documents and receipts, they still demand some money. We want to learn from you as why this is the case,” said Chrissie Mkandawire, a local trader in the area.
Officials from MRA, police and immigration took turn responding to questions and concerns raised during the discussions.
Featuring high on the debate was corruption which the traders said was frustrating small-scale cross-border traders, hence denying them space to grow their businesses.
Regional Prosecutions Officer at Northern Region Police headquarters Christopher Katani said the police do not condone corruption.
“I should warn you not to make any payments to our officers where they cannot issue a receipt for the payment that has been made. If they insist, touch base with higher authorities. Our job is to enforce laws; so you should report any suspicious demands by our officers so that we take appropriate action,” Katani said.
Permit and Border Affairs Officer in the Department of Immigration Alexander Chilumpha and team leader at MRA’s Domestic Taxes Department Welloce Bulla made presentations on their respective institutions’ role in the regional economic integration process.
With funding from GIZ, Nice is implementing a pilot project on Sadc economic integration in a few selected districts including Mzuzu and Mzimba North. The project aims at bringing awareness to the citizens, especially businesspeople doing cross-border trade, to know the benefits of Malawi being a member of Sadc.
Nice District Civic Education Off icer for Mzimba Nor th Chifundo Thungwa asked for unified efforts by various stakeholders to ensure that local traders understand the benefits of economic integration in the Sadc region.
Among other s , regional economic integration has the following benefits: market enlargement for businesses; preferential treatment such as tax exemptions; access to high quality but low cost products; access to employment; poverty reduction and promotion of peace.
Sadc is an inter-governmental organisation headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana formed with an aim of furthering socio-economic cooperation and integration as well as political and security cooperation among the 15 southern African states including Malawi.
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