Malawi intensifies capacity building for agricultural sector’s SMEs for increased exports

The government, under the Malawi Nacala Rail and Port Value Addiction Project funded by the African Development Bank, is conducting interactive capacity building workshops for Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs) involved in Agro-business in order to contribute towards increased exports.

The facilitators and their participants pose for a photo after opening the ceremony

The produce that is being targetted for export

The workshops, the first held in Blantyre on Wednesday and the second in Lilongwe on Thursday, are being coordinated by Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC) and facilitated by Enclude, a Dutch-based consultant for the Malawi Nacala Rail and Port Value Addiction Project.

Officially opening the first workshop at Malawi Institute of Tourism’s Alendo Hotel in Blantyre, MITC Chief Executive Officer Clement Kumbemba said SMEs are the next important source of employment and that it is government’s wish that Agro-businesses should not only grow and create employment but also to to contribute to increase exports.

“We at MITC would like to see a growing SMEs sector that can effectively contribute to development of our economy,” Kumbemba said.

“Government is creating an enabling environment and providing direct support to SMEs so that you can deal with your business challenges.

“This workshop seeks to knowledge and skills to help you set up new business ventures or expand existing businesses. I would like to agree with the saying that ‘SMEs are an engine of economic growth and development’. As you are aware the Malawi population is very youthful, as two-thirds is aged below 25 years. The development implications of this demographic pattern are enormous.

“While education is the most obvious investment, down the line SMEs are part of the solution because they provide livelihood, off-farm employment, nurturing creativity and expanding the economy’s export earning capacity. Many well performing economies like India, China and Malaysia are thriving because of the contributions of SMEs, which are already playing an important role in Malawi but they can do more,” Kumbemba said.

The project’s team leader, Dick Maganga said their target are agro-business SMEs that specifically deal in crops like groundnuts, soya, pigeon peas, sugar beans, sunflower, cassava, paprika, bird eye chilies and rice.

Maganga said the project’s other beneficiaries are farmers groups, agro cooperatives and their members who are being encouraged to increased their production and the project managers in turn find them suitable markets through the recognized agro SMEs.

He said these SMEs are encouraged to add value to the produce they buy from farmers by processing it rather than sending unprocessed for export as well as the local market.

“This value addition is what will make a huge difference in our exports rather than exporting unprocessed produce which in turn comes back to us processed but as an import,” Maganga said.

He said the project for exports takes advantage of the increased and rehabilitated Malawi Nacala Rail Corridor that affects several districts in the Southern and Central regions of Malawi such as Mchinji, Lilongwe, Salima, Ntcheu, Balaka, Machinga, Mwanza, Neno, Blantyre and Nsanje.

One of the participants in Blantyre was Maggie Chimpukuso, a small scale farmer in Balaka, who says she grows soya, groundnuts, sunflower and pigeon peas and she also buys from other surrounding farmers which she exports her processed produce to Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Another SME, Gerald Ganizani plying his trade as GG Investments, said he was very grateful to be part of the workshops and his expectations from the workshop is to acquire more knowledge on proper business management and how to identify proper international markets.

MITC is an organization established by an Act of Parliament, The Investment and Export Promotion Act, to become an integrated Investment and Trade Promotion Centre with an encompassing mandate of investment promotion and attraction and export promotion.

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