Ministry of Trade has submitted to the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat Access Market Offer, a list of 7 800 products from Malawi to be traded in a market of 1.2 billion people.
In an interview yesterday, Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe said a majority of the products are agricultural, but the country has also come up with the National African Continental Free Trade Area Liberalisation Modalities which were recently gazetted.
The minister said they have almost finalised the issue of rules of origin to ensure that 231 products from Malawi are protected from some external traders.
Said Gwengwe: “Our agenda as a government in line with the Malawi 2063 is to have an industrialised country.
“We are ready as a country for this market and there is momentum that is being built around the AfCFTA agenda.”
He said there is need to move towards value addition at small-scale so that Malawi should look at the linkages in the value chains.
“We have been engaging with AfCFTA and the private sector and we agreed on certain tariffs to protect Malawi. We can’t just open up fully,” said Gwengwe.
He said to mitigate capital requirement gaps, the Egypt-based African Export and Import Bank will come up with trade financing and adjustment facilities for the private sector to participate equally despite economic shocks that countries may face.
Trade experts say Malawi needs to move with speed to participate in the AfCFTA to avoid playing catch-up when other countries have moved forward to benefit from the market with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion and potential of increasing intra-Africa trade by 50 percent.
In the current budget, government passed some taxation measures to reform the taxation regime to align with the AfCFTA demands.
In an interview yesterday, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry president James Chimwaza said the private sector is ready to seize the AfCFTA market opportunities, but urged a quick shift from prolonged planning to implementation stage.
He said: “We need to work closely with the Ministry of Trade to ensure that we do not over-expose ourselves to other participating countries.
“Malawi stands to benefit a lot from AfCFTA, but what we need to do is to identify our niche or potential special products that can quickly be produced and reap from the market.”
In October this year, AfCFTA secretary general Wamkele Mene said Malawi has sufficient natural resources to compete favourably in the continental free trade area by taking advantage of existing value chains.
He said the benefits Malawi will accrue from the trade window are long-term, stressing that there are no immediate benefits just like for any other country.
Ministry of Trade assistant director of trade Diamond Chikhasu said in an interview yesterday that Malawi has protected products that are adequately produced locally such as tea, sugar, coffee and chicken.
He said the country has also liberalised products not produced locally such as salt, fertiliser, vehicles and fridges whose taxes have been removed to make them cheap, but in some instances government will be imposing levies to collect revenue. Malawi ratified the AfCFTA earlier this year, where 54 African countries will be trading among each other.