Prosper Ndlovu in Lilongwe, Malawi
ZIMBABWE and Malawi businesses should synergise operations and position themselves to tap into the vast market opportunities under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
In her remarks during the on-going Zimbabwe Malawi Solo Trade Exhibition here, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Malawi, Dr Nancy Saungweme, said the two countries possess huge opportunities if businesses scale up collaboration to harness widening regional market supply chains.
ZimTrade is coordinating the three-day trade exhibition in conjunction with the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC) and the embassy under the theme “Kulimbikitsa ubale pamalonda”, which means “fostering trade relationships”, as part of efforts to grow trade and business networks among companies in the two countries.
Over 20 Zimbabwean companies drawn from various sectors including processed foods, building and construction materials and related services, agriculture inputs and implements and household electricals and furniture, among other products, are participating.
“Our strong desire and endeavour to have this exhibition here in Lilongwe is testimony of the trade and investment opportunities that exist in Malawi and the need to further explore them,” said Ambassador Saungweme.
“There is need to capitalise on the proximity of the two countries to increase trade therein. Companies in both countries are encouraged to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) that offers preferential market access to qualifying products. Trading under the AfCFTA presents enormous business opportunities for the Pan-African private sector, SMEs, women and youths as the continent takes this bold move towards boosting intra-African trade.”
Dr Saungweme said ZimTrade, as the national trade development and promotion organisation in Zimbabwe as well as the Zimbabwe Embassy in Malawi, were committed to assist businesses from both countries to establish and strengthen mutual business linkages.
The first ever trade exhibition in Lilongwe, comes as a follow up of a market survey that ZimTrade carried out in Malawi in 2019 with the assistance and facilitation by MITC and the Zimbabwe Embassy in Malawi.
The survey identified opportunities for Zimbabwean products in sectors such as; fast-moving consumer goods, agricultural inputs and implements, household and office furniture and building and construction sectors.
“We are pleased that as a result of these previous efforts and engagements, some of the companies established mutually beneficial partnerships and contacts, which culminated into business orders and some have since established long-standing relationships with their counterparts here in Malawi,” said Dr Saungweme.
Malawi is a net importer of several products, which presents huge opportunity for Zimbabwe. According to TradeMap, Malawi imported products worth US$2,94 billion in 2019 globally.
This was dominated by machinery, mechanical appliances (US$294 million), unused postage, revenue or similar stamps, bank noted (US$282 million), and electrical machinery and equipment (US$237 million).
Other top products imported last year were fuels, fertilisers, vehicles and parts, pharmaceutical products, articles of iron or steel, plastics, among many others.
However, trade between Zimbabwe and Malawi remains quite insignificant despite the good political relations that exist between the two countries.
“Although this is a challenge, it also presents opportunities in itself,” said Dr Saungweme.