A number of British-based companies will be visiting Malawi this week at the invitation of the Malawi Government to view for themselves the potential for trade and investment with Malawi.
The British High Commission greatly welcomes this initiative by the Government of Malawi, and has been working with the Government to stimulate private sector interest in Malawi. This is in addition to DFID support to help create the conditions for economic growth and to improve the business environment in Malawi, including support to the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre.
I greatly look forward to engaging with the companies visiting from the UK. We have seen an increase in the number of British-related companies showing an interest in Malawi. This reflects the effort by the current government to gradually move the country onto more of a trade and investment footing, which we encourage. H.E. President Mutharika has been clear that this is the direction that Malawi needs to take to gradually move from aid dependency. Since my time in Malawi, this is probably the most significant effort I have seen by any government to encourage overseas trade and investment.
This agenda is common to both the British and Malawi governments. The British High Commission also has objectives to increase trade and investment between the UK and Malawi as part of our prosperity agenda. Our data indicates that bilateral trade is at less than £80m and larger investments have tended to be historical rather than recent. While Malawi’s key export markets will be regional, we believe there is more that can be done to raise the profile of the opportunities in Malawi and for increased trade with UK companies too.
That should be of mutual benefit. The British and Malawi Governments share the same objectives and will work together to achieve them. We have been supporting the Malawi Government and the MITC to make connections with UK companies, complementing this initiative by the Malawi authorities. Malawi has many attributes it can promote, as the Minister of Trade and the MITC have recently highlighted – a stable country without a history of conflict, an English speaking democracy with a functioning rule of law, a range of opportunities opening up.
Of course there are challenges to doing business in Malawi, and it is important that the authorities tackle these, including more competitive tendering, countering corruption and reducing bureaucratic hurdles. Malawi also needs to appreciate the extent of competition from other countries to attract overseas trade and investment. The Malawi authorities will have to be focused and work swiftly to address these challenges, and to ensure they respond to the interest they are generating so as not to lose out to competitors. A cross-government approach is needed to punch through bureaucratic delays. I greatly welcome the Ministerial sub-committee that has been set up to do this.
It is also important to us that Malawi has the right policy frameworks which ensure benefit to the country and reduce poverty through commercial agreements, but which are also internationally competitive and attractive to the private sector. British companies have a strong reputation for quality, innovation and integrity which we believe will be of great benefit to Malawi’s economic development.
I encourage the public, civil society and the media to see the benefits of trade and investment to their and Malawi’s economic future. As President Mutharika rightly states, the Government cannot cater for all of Malawi’s needs without greater involvement of, and contribution from, the private sector, both domestically and internationally. It is important that potential investors feel a sense of welcome.
We look forward to working hand-in-hand with HE The President, the Government of Malawi and the private sector in Malawi on this new, welcome approach they have adopted. It is in both our interests that this agenda succeeds.