Consultants have described the five-year National Export Strategy (NES), implemented between 2012 and 2018, as “too ambitious and over-designed”.
The consultants, CITC from Mauritius, released the findings during a stakeholders’ validation workshop in Lilongwe on Monday.
Their review was done between November 26 2018 and June 10 this year.
Presenting the findings, Dev Chamroo, one of the consultants, said except for tobacco exports, exports of other targeted products in the strategy have not increased at a time imports have been rising.
He said: “The performance of NES I remains under par with regard to increasing exports and reducing imports. The trade gap remains wide.”
Chamroo noted that in 2014 exports peaked to 20.2 percent of imports with the following years the country registering negative growth in exports.
As a long-term goal, the strategy targeted to raise exports as the share of imports from 51.5 percent in 2011 to 75.5 percent in 2017 and also 93.4 in 2022.
But Chamroo said the strategy reflected more on an industrial policy rather than an export policy as limited actions for effective export promotion, facilitation, export development, aftercare and policy advocacy were planned.
“The strategy rests primarily on the export of goods with no concrete provision for building the exports of services, more particularly exports of higher value-added services,” he said.
Chamroo also faulted weak collaboration between responsible ministries and agencies as well as what he called a ‘disconnect’ between the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism and other sectoral ministries driving exports such as Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development, Ministry of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining and Ministry of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology.
The review also found that Malawi over-relied on development partners to implement actions contained in the strategy.
The consultants have recommended that the design of NES II should be in line with realities on the ground with specific regards to the capacity of the economy, and that the strategy should be homegrown.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Principal Secretary Ken Ndala commended the consultants for the comprehensive review of the strategy, which he said will assist government to reflect on key challenges and achievements surrounding the implementation of the first strategy.
“We will understand challenges or missed opportunities in the operationalisation of the action plan,” he said.
The objective of NES I was to develop three priority clusters, namely oil seeds products, sugar cane products and manufactures.