The negative trade gap between Malawi and regional trade blocs such as Comesa and Sadc continues to widen, with figures showing a $491 million (about K363.3 billion) gap last year.
This means that Malawi continues to import more from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) and Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) as compared to exports, according to figures from Trade and Law Centre (Tralac).
The Malawi Intra-Africa Trade and Tariff profile shows that Malawi exported $318 million (K235.3 billion) worth of goods compared to imports at $809 million (about K598.6 billion).
The country’s growing trade balance comes despite various policies and strategies, among others, the National Investment Policy and National Export Strategy (NES) to boost exports.
University of Malawi’s senior lecturer in the economics department Exley Silumbu in an interview said Malawi needs to diversify its exports to address the country’s trade balance.
“Malawi has other constraints other than the low export base. Some of these include the increase in cost of production, which has made our exports become expensive compared to exports from other countries, targeting the same market,” he said.
Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Principal Secretary Ken Ndala, in an earlier interview, said Malawi has to enter into more trade arrangements that seek to open foreign markets for its exports.
“The way forward is for firms to embrace the reality and we hold hands in focusing and repositioning towards expanding to other markets.
“This is more the reason we undertake trade negotiations to facilitate exports while also safeguarding our nascent and strategic industries,” he said.
Ndala said government is committed to addressing other problems related to high cost of production and doing business exacerbated by energy shortfall, high transport costs, difficulty to access affordable finance and inadequate skilled labour.
According to the figures, between 2017 and 2018, Malawi’s imports from and exports with other parts of Africa increased by seven percen country’s main imports from Africa in 2018 were unused postage stamps, unmanufactured tobacco, mineral or chemical fertilisers and cement at four percent each, organic surface-active agents pesticides and herbicides at three percent each and motor vehicles at two percent.