Cross-border traders operating in the country have cried foul over poor business performance owing to the prolonged closure of land borders in neighboring countries and the high cost of the Covid-19 test certificate.
Countries bordering Malawi, including neigbouring Mozambique and Zimbabwe, have kept their borders shut despite the regional economic hub, South Africa, re-opening its entry point Beitbridge which borders Zimbabwe last month.
Cross Border Traders Association of Malawi president Esther Tchukambiri said despite the reopening of the South African land border which could ideally bring businesses back on their feet the closure of the two land borders in Zobue in Mozambique and Nyamapanda in Zimbabwe as well as the K37 500 Covid-19 certification are impacting negatively on business.
In an interview, on Tuesday Tchukambiri said most cross borders traders in Malawi are experiencing a slowdown in their businesses because of operational interruptions in movement of shipments in the process restricting cross-border trade.
“Our Businesses are on the verge of collapsing because the only way in and out now is air travel. Flying alone is very expensive and when we add the K37 500 for a Covid-19 certificate to the travel costs, we really are losing out as business.
“It is our wish to see the government reduce this cost or emulate what neighbouring countries, for example Zambia, are doing where the government is providing these certificates for free because we find this detrimental for businesses that are already struggling,” she said.
According to Tchukambiri, traders are now using trucks to transport their cargo which is also becoming costly and risky as most goods are getting lost before they reach their destination.
“We resorted to online shopping which has numerous challenges including loss of property and high cost of buying and getting the goods into the country,” she said.
On his part, Chamber for Small and Medium Enterprises executive secretary James Chiutsi also indicated that businesses continue to face a challenging business environment in view of the travel restrictions and high costs travel regulations.
“We have several members in the import and export business that clearly lost their incomes. The reciprocal effect was that these businesses are failing to satisfy their needs and remain in business,” he said.
Ministry of Trade spokesperson Mayeso Msokera was yet to respond to an emailed questionnaire but in an earlier interview, he admitted that the Covid-19 pandemic hugely affected volumes of trade between Malawi and its major trading partners who adopted measures to mitigate the spreading of the virus.
Cross-border trade has been a major feature of Malawi’s economic and social landscapes with available data indicating it plays a large role in Africa, Malawi inclusive.
In the Sadc, for example, cross border trade is estimated to amount to $17.6 billion per year, approximately 30 to 40 per cent of total regional trade.