Ministry of Trade has urged small and medium enterprises (SMEs) involved in cross-border trade to venture into export business and contribute to economic growth than merely basing their business on imports only.
The development comes amid observations that cross-border traders engage in buying goods abroad and sell locally, a development that requires foreign currency.
Ministry of Trade assistant director of trade Diamond Chikhasu said in an interview yesterday on the sidelines of an annual general meeting of Cross-border Traders Association of Malawi that traders need to diversify by venturing into exporting business.
He said: “SMEs should be aggressive as a majority of them engage in import business, but we encourage them that the export business is for everybody not just large companies.
“Recently, we secured 50 000 metric tonnes of pigeon peas to Indian market, we have deliberately allocated 10 000 metric tonnes for SMEs to participate in the trade than leaving the opportunity to big companies”.
Chikhasu said another trading opportunity is available through an agreement with the South Sudan Government where SMEs can take advantage to export more value-added agricultural products.
He said SMEs are a critical sector of the economy that employ many people; hence, they need to be supported to grow into large enterprises to grow the economy.
Cross-border Traders Association president Esther Tchukambiri admitted that they have been engaging in imports and trading due to lack of information on availability of markets.
She said they are delighted that the Ministry of Trade is beginning to consider them as an important player in trade by allocating them some quantities for exports to India.
“Most of traders lack knowledge. We can consider exporting, but when you don’t have ready markets it becomes a futile undertaking; hence, concentrating on imports and trading,” said Tchukambiri.
She decried the impact of Covid-19, which has led to closure of businesses while others have scaled down by concentrating on the online trading.
Tchukambiri said the depreciation of the kwacha is also dealing them a big blow as it is becoming expensive to source foreign exchange to import goods.
She asked government to simplify the issuance of import certificates, which requires traders to travel to the Ministry of Trade for processing.
The annual general meeting is expected to elect new office bearers, including regional sub-committees for effective operations of the association.