Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) says challenges to acquire land, especially that held under customary law is frustrating investors and may affect the country’s economic growth.
Mitc chief executive officer Clement Kumbemba said in an interview if land challenges can be sorted out then investors and the country will benefit.
He said: “There is need that we give investment matters serious attention, but what is affecting most investors are issues to do with land.
“For example, in Salima, I know of an investor who is on the ground with equipment ready but cannot start production because of customary land challenges.”
In Salima, two chiefs are fighting over a pieace of land where an investor is ready to open a commercial farm while in Mzimba another investor, who wants to set up a coffee plantation, has had his seedlings uprooted several times, according to Kumbemba.
During the laying of the foundation stone for the Lilongwe Grand Business Park in Lilongwe last week, President Peter Mutharika warned public servants against frustrating investors when they want to open businesses.
The President said between 2014 and now, government has registered investment pledges worth over $3.7 billion (K2.7 trillion).
Said Mutharika: “These investments mean more jobs and more income generation in our economy. But let me take this opportunity to urge responsible departments to encourage the spirit of investment. I am informed that there are some public officers who deliberately frustrate investors. This is being unpatriotic and you must stop forthwith.”
“I want to hear that there are no more delays in processing necessary investor applications for sector permits, land and other pertinent licences. I urge all heads of public institutions to find winning ways of fast-tracking investment projects but without cutting corners.”
The World Bank Sixth Malawi Economic Monitor report notes that despite land ,being an important factor of production, is underutilised.
The report notes that weak land rights undermine investment, job creation and resilience of Malawi’s productive sectors.
“Weak land rights cost the government about $10 billion [K7.3 trillion] annually in foregone ground rent from estates and urban areas and contribute to annual losses of about $14 million [K10 billion] due to insecure tenure,” reads part of the report.
The report noted that Malawi’s land institutions have historically promoted a dualistic system, with significant differences between stallholder subsistence farming and estate commercial farming, thus, most smallholders lack documented land rights, which undermines tenure security. n