Malawi’s intra-Africa trade, agricultural trade in particular, is costly when compared to countries outside the region due to non-tariff trade costs, a new United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has revealed.
The revelations come at a time businesses in Malawi have singled out both non- tariff barriers as one of the key challenges in intra-Africa trade, ultimately affecting business profitability and revenues.
The report titled Non-Tariff Trade Cost of Intra Africa Trade 2020 indicates that for Malawi, intra-Africa goods merchandise is more costly with countries in East and West Africa and in most cases, trade with these countries is more costly with Europe, the United Kingdom (UK) and in some instances even China.
“The bilateral intra-Africa non-tariff trade cost for most African countries is higher for trade in agriculture products than for trade in manufactured goods. Agricultural trade with Europe, China and the UK is less costly for Malawi than trading with countries in the same geographical grouping,” reads the report.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism is optimistic non-tariff barriers will ease going forward thanks to the newly- established online platform, tradebarriers.africa, which allows traders moving goods across the continent to instantly report non-tariff challenges.
The online platform, established last month by the Unctad is meant to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade which slow the movement of goods and cost importers and exporters billions of dollars annually.
“Malawi will now be able to file complaints and obstacles encountered in the process of moving goods and services across the continent online or through SMS at any time.
“Government will facilitate the transmission, monitoring and resolution of the complaints by concerned Governments in a transparent and quicker manner,” said Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism spokesperson Mayeso Msokera.
He said the ministry will facilitate the resolution of the complaints as it has appointed officers to serve as national focal points.
“There are officials mandated to receive NTB complaints in real-time and resolve them within given deadlines to enhance and facilitate cross border trade between Malawi and other Member States of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” he explained.
Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Smea) president James Chiutsi in an interview admitted that non-tariff trade barriers are a cost to most traders plying trade within Africa.
“Regional trade has great potential but non tariff barriers have poised a challenge to us for a long time. Non tariff barriers negatively affect local traders and this calls for collaborative efforts to deal with the situation,” said Chiutsi.