When President Peter Mutharika declared, during the launch of Buy Malawi Strategy (BMS) early this year, that 30 percent of goods and services procured by public institutions should be from Malawian companies, he had good intentions.
His Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism Joseph Mwanamvekha stressed the same sentiments at the Sixth Annual Lake Conference of the Malawi Institute of Procurement and Supply (Mips) in Mangochi in September.
He called on procurement officers from the public and private sector to exercise “emotional intelligence” when dealing with this matter.
But barely eight months on, Mips, the academia and other commentators have expressed mixed views on the practicability of the President’s declaration.
Mips acting president Bernadette Maele told Business Review this week that while it is possible to fully implement the strategy, there are a few things that need to be done if the strategy is to succeed.
She said: “Public Procurement Act Section 28 subsection 1 and 2 gives power to all government and parastatals to ensure that they put in place measures to help local firms secure businesses, but the problem that we have is that the officers are not empowered to make procurement decisions that would favour local firms.
“These people need to be empowered to avoid tendering complications as some firms may come back to contest against the bidding decision.”
Maele observed that apart from putting deliberate policies, there is need to empower local businesses so that they should familiarise themselves with the bidding preliminaries, market strategy and etiquette.
“Malawian firms, especially the small and medium enterprises [SMEs] lack financial capacity to help in transportation and increase production. They have no idea on market strategies. Only a few know about the tendering documents, business registration, value addition and pricing,” she said.
Expressing his views on the same, Fredrick Mangwaya Banda, head of business administration at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, said unless Public Procurement Act is amended, the workability of the strategy is questionable.
He said: “Buy Malawi Strategy may not work because Malawian firms cannot compete favourably with foreign firms and their production capacity is small because we have infant industries. As a result, foreign firms are dumping their products here by way of selling their products at lower prices.
“In the absence of the requirement from the Public Procurement Act mandating procurement people, we may not succeed. It might just be a white elephant.”
Banda said there is need for clear policy directive to ensure that the declaration is a success.
Controller of Stores Fredrick Mzoma said while targeting 30 percent of government contracts to be given to local suppliers is possible, there is need for practitioners to put up a proper enabling environment and institutional frameworks if the strategy is to be fully implemented.
“Those of us who are the practitioners should come together and put up a proper enabling environment and put institutional frameworks so that this shouldn’t only be something that we should talk about, but should also cover the laws of the country in terms of trading and fairness,” he said.
Mzoma said there is need to relook at the country’s trade laws, procurement laws and align them with the government’s policy direction.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi called for collaboration between the public and private sector and change of mindset if the strategy is to be fully implemented.
“Those countries that are doing better now have had to support their local industries and this is what we need in this country if our industries are to grow,” he said.