Government ready to support local SMEs — Gwengwe

By Sylvester Kumwenda, MANA

Government is ready to support young Malawians who would venture into small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) by introducing regulations to protect their local productions on the market.

Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe made the remarks Wednesday in Lilongwe when he announced the rolling out of the new Control of Goods Act agreed by Parliament in 2018 which became effective on July 10.

The accompanying Control of Goods Regulations which are Control of Goods (Public Interest Thresholds) and Control of Goods (Import and Export Licence) came into operation on July 24.

The new law aims to sanitize and regulate the importation and exportation of goods and commodities in Malawi, as well as to promote local industries by giving some economic space to the local industries.

Amongst other, it empowers the Minister to restrict, ban or allow export/import under licence from or into Malawi.

“The philosophy of the Tonse government is to rebuild the nation, and as we do that the small and medium scale businesses should be the building blocks,” Gwengwe said.

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“We should give some economic space to local indigenous Malawians for them to be able to participate in the value and supply and value chains.”

He said this is a totally new law as the former law was repealed — as such all previous import and  export licences will become annulled come August 7 and people need to acquire new licences.

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Gwengwe added that the free-for-all regimes exploited Malawians and deprived them of economic opportunities in their own country, but government is eager to help small local industries to strive.

He, therefore, called upon the youths to take this opportunity and venture into local productions of various goods and value addition.

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“We have been importing small things like mops from South Africa until recently when some local SMEs started making mops and opening shops.

“From our point of view, if you can make many of these, we will move in to protect your small production so as it grows by restricting importation of such small things.

“The point we are making as a ministry is to encourage SMEs to spot anything that they think they can locally produce including toothpicks, and be able to challenge us, and as a Ministry we will move very fast to protect such,” challenged Gwengwe.

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Under the new law, some of the goods for which an import permit will be required include meat, fish, poultry, fresh milk, fruit and vegetables, cement, grains of any variety refined and crude cooking oil, soap, fertilizer and second hand clothes exceeding one bale.

The law has also banned imports of underwear such as women’s panties and bras and men’s boxers.

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On the other hand, goods to require an export permit include implements of war, petroleum products, gemstones like garnet, quartz and Corondum in their unmanufactured state, scrap metal, hides and skins, cotton lint and seed, soya beans amongst others.

Gwengwe said these items have made strides in local productions and need to be protected, but there will also be other small items to be looked into when the situation demands, so as to further protect small emerging local productions.

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The new law, the Minister said, is also one way of supporting the Buy Malawi campaign and one of the notable changes in the Act is the need for the Minister to make consultations if the office is to make any changes.