The Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (Ibam) has cautioned government to tread with caution on the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) Protocol on Trade in Services which Malawi signed recently.
Of the 15 Sadc countries only nineâ€”Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambiaâ€”signed the protocol in Maputo, Mozambique on August 18.
Angola, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola and Botswana did not sign the protocol.
The agreement will see companies and consultants from the nine Sadc members providing services in each otherâ€™s countries in six priority areas of communication, construction, energy-related, finance, tourism and transport.
But Ibam president Mike Mlombwa has said government should ensure the protocol benefits Malawi.
â€œGovernment should always be careful in the way it negotiates and implements such protocols.
â€œWe have seen government getting it wrong on a number of trade agreements such as the Kayerekera Uranium Mine Project in Karonga.
â€œThis time around we ask government to involve indigenous businesses in the whole process,â€ he said.
The protocol aims to deepen the regionâ€™s trade integration and sustainable growth to meet challenges globalisation poses.
â€œRecognising the importance of services trade for growth and development and [being] mindful of the need to diversify Sadc economies through greater services trade, [we are] convinced that an integral regional market will create new opportunities for a dynamic business sector and strengthen the regionâ€™s capacity, its efficiency and competitiveness,â€ reads the protocol in part.
Asked whether Ibam sees it as an opportunity, Mlombwa said it all depends on how the protocol will be implemented.
â€œAs Malawians, we lack technical expertise in different areas. What we want is that foreign investors should partner local companies to ensure skills transfer,â€ he said.
The protocol will apply to all measures such as laws, regulations, rules, procedures, decisions or administrative actions affecting trade in services taken by central, regional or local governments.