UK tips Malawi on sustainable growth attainment

The United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) has tipped Malawi to “up its capacity to generate foreign exchange” by increasing level of exports in both volumes and value in order for the country to achieve its development vision espoused in the Malawi 2063 agenda.

FCDO Acting Chief Economist Nick Lea made the tip in Lilongwe on Thursday during a high-level panel discussion, which the National Planning Commission (NPC) organized in collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom government, Trade Mark East Africa (TIMEA) and the World Bank.

Beer–Malawi will not achieve growth if it remains reliant on subsistence agriculture and maize, even if we achieve incremental productivity gains–Photo by Watipaso Mzungu, Nyasa Times

The discussion was held under the theme: ‘Priority Policy Options for meeting MW2063 and Milestones of the First 10-Year Implementation Plan (MIP-1)’ and focused on opportunities for MIP 1.

Panelists to the discussion included Colleen Zamba, who is the Chief Advisor on Sustainable Development Goals and International Relations, World Bank Country Manager Hugh Riddel, TIMEA Chief Executive Officer Frank Matsaert, Phoebe Kasoga of Plan International Malawi, Sofie Geerts from the Government of Flanders and chairperson of the cooperating partners in Malawi and the Principal Secretary (PS) for the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development Dr. Winford Masanjala.

Delivering his keynote address, Lea said for Malawi to realise its vision, there is a need for the country to up its capacity to generate foreign exchange by increasing level of exports in both volumes and value.

He also emphasized the need for the government to consult and engage the private sector in the implementation of the development agenda.

“Private sector will provide most jobs and incomes in Malawi in the future. It employs and pays workers, and creates funds for Government through taxation. We therefore need to nurture it. The question is how we can make Malawi a place where both domestic and foreign firms want to invest, want to employ and want to export,” he said.

In his remarks, the British High Commissioner to Malawi, David Beer, challenged that Malawi will not achieve growth if it remains reliant on subsistence agriculture and maize, even if we achieve incremental productivity gains.

Beer said no country has moved to Middle Income Status on the back of this, stressing that the only pathway is through diversification into higher value products and agro-processing that the country can export.

“Only exports will drive such high growth. And only investment, and in particular foreign investment will make this happen,” he said.

He added, “So what can we do to make Malawi a more attractive investment destination? This is the critical question. Malawi is competing with other countries for investment, many of which have ready access to seaports, large markets and well established transport corridors.

How can we compensate for this? Firstly, and most importantly, is to listen to what investors and exporters need. I encourage policymakers to make the private sector an integral part of all conversations relating to economic policy, to pursue them with questions, and to proactively solve their problems.”

The High Commissioner, too, recommended that business players are consulted carefully and iteratively as laws are being considered and drafted – and that those laws are focused on what will increase investment and grow businesses, because this is what will create jobs.

“And I would encourage counterparts to look at what works in other countries – the success of Uganda, whose GDP per capita is nearly double that of Malawi, after being at roughly the same level in 1990. Or of Rwanda, which is surging ahead. There are practices and decisions in such countries that Malawi could greatly benefit from.

In his contribution, Dr. Masanjala said Malawi has limited state capacity to mobilize adequate resources for the implementation of all the projects lined up under the Malawi 2063.

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