Malawi lagged behind on trade in services compared to its neighbours having exported $75 million (K33 billion) in 2012 signalling the need to do more to create jobs and earn forex.
World Trade Organisation (WTO) international trade statistics 2013 released recently indicate that Malawi’s total exported commercial services comprised 35.9 percent transportation, 44.9 percent travel while 19.3 percent were fetched by the rest—tourism, telecommunication, energy and finance.
According to the report Malawi’s exports in services lagged behind neighbouring Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania an indication that the country needs to do more to obviously bring in more forex.
The WTO data indicates that Zambia raked in $375 million, Mozambique $633 million, Tanzania $2.3 billion and Ethiopia fetched $2.6 billion from the sector.
In an interview on Wednesday, Ministry of Industry and Trade spokesperson Wiskes Nkombezi said government is doing a lot to promote the sector.
“We would like to have trade in services come out clearly in the revised trade policy. We are aware of the importance of the sector that is why we are negotiating with members of trade blocs including the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc),” said Nkombezi.
He, however, argued that the figures in the report might be misleading because of economic size, noting that in some sectors including banking Malawi is way ahead.
Malawi generally suffers a trade imbalance with exports being dwarfed by imports.
But WTO chief of staff Arancha Gonzalez last year noted that the services sector is vital to trade especially to landlocked countries.
The WTO chief said one of the key findings is that services play a greater role in international trade than previously thought and argued that landlocked countries must pay attention to the sector unlike manufacturing and agriculture which are affected by ‘landlockedness’.
Last year Malawi launched the National Export Strategy (NES) whose goal is to match long-term export and import trends.
The NES is aimed at providing a clearly prioritised road map for building Malawi’s productive base to generate sufficient exports to match the upward pressure on Malawi’s imports. The NES further aims to maximise the direct contribution of exports to economic and social development.
But the NES considers services as mere enablers which provide a conducive environment. The NES further argues that the majority of services transport, energy, finance, communication, construction and tourism under the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) services negotiations are major enablers for the productive economy.