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Year Ender: Reforms that brought hope in Malawi’s trade

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The year 2015 has been an eventful year in terms of industry and trade in the country.

Among other things, government’s special focus on trade coupled with public sector reforms in trade policy seems to have brought a lay of hope in as far as trade and investment for the country is concerned.

Already, the reforms saw Malawi climbing up the radar in the World Bank doing business ranking for the first time in many years, moving to 141 in the 2015 rankings, from 164 in 2014.

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The year also witnessed Malawi hosting the first ever Malawi Investment Forum (MIF) which attracted several high profile international investors.

At the end of the two day forum, the country had attracted investment interest worth more than US$1.1 billion.

Malawi also participated at the Global Africa Forum in London, United Kingdom early this month where President Peter Mutharika led a Malawi business delegation to the forum to woo investment especially into the country’s energy sector.

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Malawi also undertook trade missions in Dubai, Malta and the United States of America and the country was part of the historical launch of the COMESAEAC- SADC Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt in June 2015.

Malawi was part of the signatories to the agreement will will see the country participating in a grand FTA of 600 million people with a combined GDP of US$1.2 trillion.

However, the private sector feels that not much was done to improve the country’s economy through industry and trade.

The Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) through its Malawi Business Climate Survey for 2015 singled out cost of finance as the biggest obstacle to doing business in Malawi with a score of 9.7 points.

The survey also indicated electricity, telecommunications, and uncertainty in economic and regulatory policies and crime, respectively as other major obstacles of doing business.

Trade and Industry Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha mentions the hosting of the Malawi Investment Forum as well as improvements in Malawi’s ranking on World Bank Doing Business Index among the top achievements for the ministry during the year.

“The improvement in the business ranking is a step in the right direction. Government’s target is now to break into the top 100,” said Mwanamvekha.

However, MCCCI president Newton Kambala says the results of the 2015 Malawi Business Climate Survey show that the business environment is not improving.

“The business environment is actually deteriorating. This survey reflects how policy and regulations impact on businesses,” said Kambala.

Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (Ibam) president Mike Mlombwa cited high interest rates among key factor that choked businesses during the year.

“Business has been tough in 2015. Production scaled down even though more investors have been coming through,” said Mlombwa

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