would like to commend government for the recent efforts to launch the Buy Malawi Strategy.
Our country is endowed with natural resources and the first step towards meaningful utilisation of the resources starts with a bold decision to change our mindset on our buying habits.
We need strong, repeated messages from our leaders telling us to make a conscious decision to buy local products to unlock a positive ripple effect through the value chain and the entire economy. A message from the top, as well as leading by example, carries a lot of weight. And there is no better time to adhere to this message than now when our economy has suffered big time. If we all start buying local products, it will help companies to generate enough cash flow to invest in efficient technology to improve quality and cost.
Most of our local products are of low quality compared to the same competing imported products. But time has come that we should deliberately opt to buy our local products despite the low quality just to support and grow local companies.
Concurrently, our local companies should work on improving the quality of their products to match their international competitors. Our eyes are on Malawi Bureau of Standards to enforce quality standards, and their recent efforts to enforce hygiene standards are commendable.
A recent article by economist Henry Kachaje suggested that some local products are expensive because of heavy cost structures. I would like to encourage our local companies to immediately work on producing goods that should be cheaper than competing imported products. Streamline overheads and invest in technology that will bring quality at a lower price.
My request to government is to remove, suspend or reduce import taxes on some inputs required to produce goods locally so as to give local companies time to grow. Government should listen to the challenges of manufacturing companies and provide the necessary relief and support.
Professor Ben Kaluwa recently commented on the need for enterprises to access capital at affordable rates. At 40 percent interest rates, it is difficult for companies to expand their machinery to produce better quality products. The Buy Malawi Strategy should be augmented by bold decisions to immediately drop interest rates, even if it means having a two-tier interest system where money for manufacturing is accessed at a lower rate than for general consumption. In our neighbouring countries, interest rates of even 17 percent are considered way too high. China even charges negative interest rates.
I would like to encourage existing and upcoming manufacturing companies to venture into products that are not produced locally at present.
I have always wondered that we grow maize but we do not make our own cornflakes? We grow cotton but why do we not have a thriving clothing manufacturing industry; we grow plenty of fruits, yet we hardly produce fruit juice. Is the cooking oil that we buy from our local companies coming from local legumes or it’s all imported and simply packaged? I understand that butter comes from milk and we have cows can our existing companies start making our own nice bread spread?
Our zeal to industrialise will only materialise if we start asking ourselves ‘why?’ and stand up to the action of improving the existing products and expanding our range of products.
The Buy Malawi Strategy should be a song in everyone’s mind. Whenever we go in a shop we should ask ourselves how many of Malawi products are in my basket? If there is none, be troubled. Even our children should be made to understand that by buying our own products, we are creating jobs, thereby developing our country.
I understand that in South Africa and Kenya, citizens are suspicious of any foreign products. In Kenya they would rather pay higher for a local product than buy a similar cheaper imported product. I have set my mind to buy as many local products as possible. How about you?
Let us buy Malawi products; let us build our industries and our country! n