Minister promotes ‘Best Buy Malawi’ campaign, taste for imports hurting economy

Government wants citizens to embrace the ‘Best Buy Malawi’ campaign after a growing appetite for imported foreign products among Malawian consumers is raising concerns about the trend’s possible impact on the national economy.

Mwanamvekha: worried when companies even import fish instead of value-adding to local types of fish, especially Chambo

Mwanamvekha: worried when companies even import fish instead of value-adding to local types of fish, especially Chambo

It is reported that Malawi’s import bill hit $2.8 billion in 2014 against $1.3 billion in export earnings.

“We want Malawians to embrace the ‘Best Buy Malawi’ campaign, where we urge locals to buy locally made products because imports are hurting our economy,”said Industry and Trade Minister Joseph Mwanamvekha.

“I get worried when companies even import fish instead of value-adding to local types of fish, especially Chambo,” he said, referring to Malawi’s most popular home-grown fish.

The “Best Buy Malawi” campaign, which was first launched decades ago, was revived by President Peter Mutharika when he came to power in June of last year following a deluge of foreign products into the local market.

Over the past year, imports – of both goods and services – have been twice as much as the country’s exports, revealing a strong local appetite for foreign commodities.

According to official data from the Reserve Bank of Malawi, the country’s import bill hit $2.8 billion in 2014 against $1.3 billion in export earnings.

Exports are expected to grow this year to $1.6 billion (roughly 754 billion Malawi kwacha), while imports are projected to jump to $3.3 billion (some 1.6 trillion Malawi kwacha).

This, observers say, will put more pressure on the local currency and negatively affect the country’s trade deficit and balance of payments.

Although the government launched a national export strategy in 2012 and re-instituted the “Best Buy Malawi” campaign, Malawians continue to import goods and services – including many that could be locally produced.

Generally, along with motor vehicles and electronic gadgets that are not manufactured locally, traders import almost everything, including tomatoes and table eggs.

Many Malawians believe imported products are of better quality.

Aubrey Mchulu, a local business journalist, says for Malawi to do well in international trade, it must improve its business climate, which is currently marred by obstacles such as an unreliable water and power supply, high lending rates, poor infrastructure and excessive red tape.

He said due to the unreliable power and water supply, businesses were forced to incur extra costs by purchasing standby generators and water tanks.

In the end, production costs go up which are then passed on to consumers through higher prices for goods and services.

“To favourably compete on the international scene, we must demonstrate that our production costs are lower,” said Mchulu.

“For instance, if a good-quality shirt made in Malawi is the equivalent of 2,000 Malawi kwacha [roughly $4] cheaper than those made in China or Thailand, we would be in business,” he added.

Mchulu suggested that patriotic support for locally made products was also needed to avoid an unnecessary drain on the country’s foreign exchange reserves.

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7 thoughts on “Minister promotes ‘Best Buy Malawi’ campaign, taste for imports hurting economy”

  1. Concerned Malawian says:

    this is another fucked up minister. by just saying that without changing policies on the ground do u think it will change anything?

  2. Chibwe says:

    Quality and pricing are major disappointments for Malawian businesses and products. You must begin from there with the campaign, otherwise we the consumers have no problem to support it.

  3. Bongololo says:

    This campaign does not address the underlying issues that make people prefer buying stuff from abroad. At least conduct a study to determine what’s really at stake than just trying to shove products down the throats of consumers. It doesn’t work that way!

  4. The Truthful One from the West says:

    The Minister is displaying shallow thinking. What drives up the import bill are strategic products which we do not manufacture here such as fuel, fertilizer, pharmaceuticais and machinery including motor vehicles. Even the cheapest soaps which are made locally rely on imported raw materials. As for tomatoes I am amazed that the Minister does not know that Malawian suppliers often fail to fulfull whole orders leaving traders such as shoprite with shortages. The Minister is being superficial and shows a worrying deficiency of original and innovative thinking.

  5. Mmodziyekha says:

    B4 best buy Malawian should be best created by Malawian and the prices should be fair atleast and availability should also be the concern otherwise idont see the reason to import tomatoes

  6. Hoitty says:

    You should start with a campaign called produce quality products then we can start buying. You can’t compare universal crisp with lays or simba, Malawi lifebuoy with Southafrican lifebuoy, Malawi juices with Akunja. Kuno kuyambira mabotolo a majuice ndionyasa. Compare and contrast.. Packaging nde zero attraction aliyense amauser same ugly bottles for juice, peanut butter or honey, soya piece,glycerine.

  7. Malindima says:

    The main culprit is Electricity challenges. Daily power interruptions and delays to supply power are unbearable! I invested K15m in 2008 in a project of which I paid K6m to Escom and spent K9m on buildings and machinery in a remote area in Mchinji. It took 4years for them to instal electrical line and another 1 1/2 years for them to give me power. This supply of power has never been a smooth flow till today as there arecdaily technical problems affecting production. I have lost my money completely and would rather import already manufactured goods than investing in local manufacturing.
    This minister and his government should sort this challenge before they start their daydreaming campaign! We don’t want their campaign song before they can sort out this electricity shit!

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