One of the country’s renowned local entrepreneurs says Malawian companies can produce quality and competitively priced products if well supported through right policies and credit facilities by the government and financiers respectively.
Mikes Trading managing director Mike Chilewe – whose company produces trailers and other steel products, has since challenged fellow local producers to “raise the bar” in order to compete favourably with imported products following the launching of the Buy Malawi Strategy by the government.
Chilewe, in an interview yesterday, commended the government for coming up with the strategy which, he said, will enhance economic growth through holistic participation of all players in the supply chain.
“This is a welcome development because Malawi cannot sustain the current status where the appetite for imports surpasses exports,” said Chilewe.
“With this initiative, Malawian producers such as Mikes Trading will improve on their production, including on quality issues where we’ll have to raise the bar in order to compete favorably with the imported commodities,” he said.
He said Mikes Trading is happy to be a model of how a local company can become a means of import substitution as its products have been well accepted on the market because of their high quality.
“With support from fellow Malawians, we have been able acquire state-of-the-art-machinery which has helped us improve efficiency and quality of our products,” he said.
Chilewe said, however, Malawi’s products in general have to improve on quality and durability as well as competitive pricing which drives competition management.
“That way, we could easily compete with imports which have flooded our markets,” he said.
He said the government has a key role to play if the strategy is to become successful through protection of the local industry by putting in place restriction measures like controls in importation of things Malawi can easily produce for itself such as poultry and dairy products, trailers, cooking oil, cement, sugar and others.
He said there is also need for empowerment of Malawian entities through specialised training and access to cheap loans, including financial bail outs when a company is in financial trouble.
“Even in the United States, ailing companies are bailed out by the government to save them from complete collapse. We can do the same here in Malawi,” said Chilewe.
Local companies also require improved access to long-term credit facilities but challenged fellow Malawian business people to embrace a culture of loan repayment.
Malawian companies, said Chilewe, should also invest in capacity building and produce on a large scale.
“Currently, we are only getting a small piece of the cake as foreigners dominate our economy,” he said.