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.
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.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :