Malawi bans Chinese retailers to trade in rural areas

It’s now official that Chinese traders owning retail shops in rural areas have to move to towns and cities by 31st July, 2012, according to a directive by Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Karonga District Commissioner Emmanuel Bambe on Wednesday disclosed that district councils have since been advised to stop issuing licenses to Chinese traders as that will now be the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

He said this was in line with an agreement signed between Malawi and Chinese governments.

“Business people of Chinese origin are supposed to do their businesses in towns and cities and not in districts hence the decision to move them out,” he said.

As economic ties between China and Africa deepen, hundreds of thousands of Chinese migrants, like this store owner in Lilongwe, Malawi, are discovering the continent. Photo: Benedicte Kurzen for The New York Times

Malawian traders, he said, can’t fairly compete against Chinese retail traders whose goods are relatively cheap.

He, however, said Chinese nationals intending to operate industrial businesses would be allowed to conduct their businesses in the district after renewing their licenses with Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The DC said he had received a petition from some Malawian businesspersons in the district demanding the removal of Chinese traders.

But barely a week later, he also received another petition from youth groups demanding that Chinese traders should continue operating their businesses in the district.

On one hand, those calling for the removal of the Chinese traders argue that the foreigners are stealing business from the locals which could make many indigenous traders close shops.

On the other hand, those in support of the Chinese traders argue that the foreigners offer lower prices than those offered by the local traders. They add that the Chinese traders have employed many people from the districts and forcing them out would render the people jobless.

Bambe, however, stressed that the council will go by government’s decision in the wake of the agreement signed between the two governments.

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