There has been a shift in trade between Malawi and Zimbabwe with the latter having imported more goods from the former in the past two years, figures from Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) show.
This means Malawi has for the past two years exported more goods to Zimbabwe than it has imported, shifting the trade balance between the two Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries in favour of Malawi.
Zimstat figures, which Business News has seen, show that for the past two years, Zimbabwe has imported goods from Malawi worth $45 million (K31 billion).
In comparison, during the same period, Malawi imported goods worth $6 million (K4.1 billion), creating a positive trade balance of $39 million (K27 billion) in favour of Malawi.
Primary exports to Zimbabwe, according to Zimstat, include sugar, rice, cotton, oil seeds, natural rubber, sorghum and groundnuts.
From Zimbabwe, Malawi imports coal, iron
and steel, cement and fabricated construction materials, trailers and semi-trailers, leather, processed foods, beverages, furniture, agriculture pesticides, pharmaceuticals and veterinary medicines.
Zimbabwe High Commissioner Thandiwe Dumbutshena, in an interview in Lilongwe last week, said while Zimbabwe traditionally enjoyed a favourable balance of trade with Malawi, in recent years the trade balance has shifted in Malawi’s favour.
But on investment, she said a number of Zimbabwean companies, including Dairibord, Zimbabwe Reinsurance Company Limited, Innscor Holdings, Seed Co and Lake Harvest have now established a strong presence in Malawi.
Commenting on the challenges faced by traders and transporters on the borders, Dumbutshena said most of them emanated from cumbersome import and export documentation but have been ironed out by customs and immigration officials from the two countries.
“Ministry of Trade officials from the two countries meet occasionally through the joint trade and customs committee whose mandate is to solve challenges faced by importers and exporters,” she said.
Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) chief executive officer Clement Kumbemba, in a separate interview last week, said Zimbabwe is a market that needs to be nurtured because even small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can export without problems.
“As Mitc, we normally take SMEs to Zimbabwe trade fairs because it is a market that can easily be explored. We want to encourage small companies to increase exports to countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and even South Africa if we are to reduce our trade deficit which currently stands at $1.3 billion [K899 billion],” he said.
Experts argue that intra-regional trade—which focuses on economic exchange primarily between countries of the same region or economic zone—has the potential to increase trade activity in Sadc and boost their economies. n