A mid a wide trade gap in favour of China, the local private sector has said it is geared up for the Malawi-China Investment Forum which will offer a platform for the country to increase exports to world’s second largest economy.
The forum slated for next Tuesday in Lilongwe, is expected to attract 100 Chinese investors at a time Malawi’s exports to the Asia’s economic giant are being dwarfed by imports.
Figures from International Trade Centre, a subsidiary of World Trade Organisation (WTO) show that Malawi exported goods and services worth $55.8 million (K40 billion) to China in 2015, representing 5.2 percent of Malawi’s total exports.
In contrast, Malawi imported goods and services worth $303.8 million (K219 billion) from China, creating a negative trade balance of $248 billion (K179 billion) in favour of China.
Despite the trade gap seen to be widening, China has been making deliberate moves to reduce this gap by empowering Malawians through various training programmes and also offering duty-free status for more than 50 goods from Malawi.
Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) is touting the Malawi-China Investment Forum as one way of boosting trade and investment between the two countries.
The forum is expected to attract companies from Anhui Province in areas ranging from agriculture, agro-processing, industry, manufacturing to education.
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) president Karl Chokotho said in an interview on Tuesday the country needs industries to deal with issues of high unemployment rate, among other challenges.
He said: “Industries are a solution to everything; whether it is to deal with taxes or unemployment, we need them.
“We expect more local companies to register as the private sector is keen on attending this meeting because China is more developed. Therefore, Malawian investors will learn a lot from the interaction.”
Chokotho said such investment forums have proved to be beneficial to the country as evidenced by Malawi Investment Forum 2015 where potential investors showed interest to invest in the country.
Mitc spokesperson Deliby Chimbalu said, so far, investors from the sectors of education, agriculture, manufacturing, trade and government officials have confirmed their participation.
She said: “There are 15 delegates in the education sector from 10 companies, nine in the agriculture sector from six companies, 50 in industry from 41 companies and 14 government officials from Anhui Province.”
Chimbalu said, so far, Mitc has received over 50 confirmations from local companies but they are expecting many more.
“We are encouraging those that have not registered to do so through our office because this forum has been organised to provide them a platform to network with their counterparts from China,” she said.
Mitc says the forum presents a unique opportunity for Malawi to sell its investment opportunities to Chinese investors.
Through this forum, Malawi is seeking the possibility of transformational Chinese investment and also empowering local entrepreneurs through possible ventures. n