The Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamvekha on Tuesday expressed his disappointment over Malawi’s poor showing in the area of trade facilitation as manifested in the Ease of Doing Business rankings by the World Bank.
In the bank’s 2015 survey, Malawi is ranked 162 out of 187 countries in terms of ease of doing business.
Speaking during the launch of one-stop-border post (OSBP) in Chipata, Zambia, Mwanamvekha said Malawi can do better when it comes to facilitating trade in order to be competitive at the international arena.
“This [the ranking] is not a good reflection of our trade facilitation systems,” said Mwanamvekha.
Trade facilitation implies the simplification, harmonisation, standardisation and modernisation of international trade procedures with a view to reducing the transaction costs and time in local and international trade.
The minister told the meeting, which was also attended by Zambia’s Minister of Transport and Public Works Yamfwa Mukanga, that despite several government efforts, many barriers to trade still remain which Malawi firms are facing.
Mwanamvekha said it is clear that Malawi must do better when it comes to facilitating trade and helping local companies compete internationally.
He said the OSBP concept is necessary in trade facilitation reform programmes being implemented by the Malawi Government with neighbouring countries including Zambia.
According to the minister, the OSBP would help reduce the number of disruptions and processes associated with cross border transactions and eventually ease trade and movement of people.
He revealed that in order to improve international ranking, Malawi has embarked on a number of trade facilitation reforms including OSBP and national single window to rationalise multiple processes in import and export procedures and ease the bureaucratic burden placed on businesses.
Mwanamvekha stressed that improving the efficiency of trade procedures will enhance the competitiveness of Malawi’s exports in regional and international markets.
He also stated that the public-private partnership in the area of trade facilitation “is a must” in view of modern technological advances taking place in the trading regime.
On his part, Mukanga also asked all economic operators dealing in trade facilitation matters such as ports, freight forwarders, roads authorities, logistics, trade policy, border administration, transport infrastructure, and customs administration to continue collaborating and supporting each other.
The OSBP is part of the Nacala Road Corridor phase four project whose major scope involves the rehabilitation of a 75 kilometre road between Liwonde and Mangochi and also the construction and establishment of two OSBPs between Malawi and Mozambique at Chiponde and between Malawi and Zambia at Mchinji.
The Tunis-based African Development Bank (AfDB) is financing for the project, which is expected to be completed in December 2016 to the tune of $81.4 million.
Both Malawi and Zambia are landlocked least developed countries and face similar trade challenges associated with their location. They are also members of the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) which has embraced the regional trade facilitation integration agenda. n