Malawi is doing everything possible to become a dependable partner and team player in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, as the member countries make progress economically, said President Professor Peter Mutharika on Wednesday in Lusaka, Zambia.
He was speaking during the 20th session of the COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit in Zambia.
The summit is being held under the theme: ‘COMESA, Towards Digital Economic Integration.’
The Malawian leader said as a country, Malawi was doing its best to improve its economy so that it could participate in regional economic affairs as a stronger country.
“What we have always wanted is attaining a deeper integration as a means to socio-economic progress in the region. We have learnt that there are times we achieve more by cooperating more than competing,” Mutharika pointed out.
He said Malawi’s economic path as a member of COMESA, has been a steep road to climb in the last four years, but said he was delighted to report that there was progress against the odds.
“When I came to lead Malawi in 2014, we found a very difficult economic situation. We had a deficit that nearly equaled our annual national budget. But we just had to cut down on spending to improve the economy.” Mutharika said.
He added that, “We had to take the route of tough austerity measures, which included cutting down on travel, which may have limited our participation in some forums.”
Mutharika said four years ago, inflation was at 24 per cent but now the country has managed to attain single digit inflation, with interest rates moving from 42 per cent down to 16 per cent.
“We have taken our foreign currency import cover from the lowest point to the highest point in our economic history. From an import cover of two months to an import cover that now stands at six months,” the President added.
Mutharika said all macro-economic indicators were pointing to the fact that Malawi’s economy had stabilized and that it was also growing steadily.
“Our local currency is now stable and predictable. We have taken GDP growth rate from 2.4 per cent. In the 2018/2019 financial year, we expect growth to be at four percent in 2018 and rise to six percent in 2019,” he emphasized.
The President said the country was implementing a robust foreign direct investment programme, which made Malawi significantly improve on the global doing-business index.
Mutharika said Malawi’s goal was to have smaller Government with a bigger private sector.
Secretary General for COMESA, Sindiso Ngwenya said he was happy to report that the theme of the 2018 COMESA Summit was being implemented through several interventions which have already seen the digitization of the COMESA yellow cards and regional customs transit bond.
He said in the coming months, member states with support of the secretariat would be rolling out the digital certificate of origin among others.
“These acclaimed trade facilitation instruments are intended to reduce costs and improve competitiveness, creating a COMESA borderless economy through the use and application of information communication technologies and software applications,” Ngwenya pointed out.