Kenya and Malawi governments have been challenged to chart the way towards accomplishing the task of realizing the full potential of the business opportunities that exist between the two countries. Noting that trade and investment potential between the two countries is immerse, both Malawian Minister for Trade and Industry Eunice Kazembe and her Kenyan counterpart Amos Kimunya emphasized on the need to develop and strengthen bilateral trade between the two countries for the benefit of the citizens. The Malawian minister who was the main guest during the launch of Kenya Solo Exhibition in Blantyre, Malawi over the weekend called upon Kenyans to explore investment opportunities that exist in Malawi and take their expertise in areas that Malawians are yet to exploit.
Hon Kazembe said that her government is in the process of transforming Malawi from a predominantly importing and consuming country into a predominantly producing and exporting country. She said for this to be achieved her country is ready to open it investment doors to foreign investors who are willing to do so. The minister added that her country boosts of investment policies that are liberal and as such provide freedom to and security to invest in any sector. On the same she added that the government of Malawi is currently reviewing almost all economic laws that impeach on doing business in the country. On common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) she said the customs unions has moved the region a step forward in regional integration process and she called upon member countries which includes Malawi and Kenya to support the process by putting more emphasis on trade within the COMESA market.
On his part Kimunya urged Kenyan’s investors to venture into joint partnership with Malawians in order to improve level of supply of goods and services between the two countries. He said that trade between the two countries can said to be a success if only high numbers in terms of volumes and value of trade can be registered “the current figures of US$ 58 millions in favour of Kenya and US$ 1.7 millions in favour of Malawi are too low to boost of” noted Kimunya. He asked business community in Kenya to take advantage of the recent growth in Malawi’s economy, political stability and dependable reform systems by investing heavily. He however noted that for business between the two countries to thrive Malawians must also be ready to come and invest in Kenya. He said it should not be an issue of stopping one partner to build the other to catch up but build the two up together.
Currently trade imbalance between the two countries is big and growing in favour of Kenya. In the last ten years trade between Kenya and Malawi has grown from US$ 4millions to US$ 70.1 million. Trade minister noted that Kenya provides an ideal opportunity of doing business in Africa due to its location, reliable infrastructure and the coastline connectivity in terms of wider hinterland of the East Africa Community that brings together five countries. He said currently Kenya is working around the clock trying to nurture the East Africa community so that bigger market of 130 million people is created to the benefit of both local and foreign investors who would invest here and later present the same to the wider Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and SADC.
Kenyan minister also noted the effort the government is putting in place to address the issue of instability in both Somali and Southern Sudan saying stability in these two areas would go along away in bolstering chances of doing business in this region. Kimunya said that the issue of piracy in the sea is posing a great threat to trade between East Africa and other regions and hoped the effort being put in place would yield positive result. Kimunya said with peace the two regions has a great potential of doing business in, he said Somali is one of the top ten exporting market for Kenya despite the current problems, hence need to invest for peace.
The minister said after noting the opportunity both EAC and COMESA the government is embarking on a serious program to grade up the port of Mombasa as well as putting up 1.4 meter gauge railway line from Mombasa to Kampala and another one from Lamu to southern Sudan and link with southern Ethiopia. Kimunya urged the joint commission for trade between the two countries to hold a meeting to address issues that may hinder trade between the two countries. He noted that the last time such a meeting was held was in 2002 yet there are so many other issues that have arisen. He said this the only way the two countries can have a chance to focus on the bilateral discussions for the vital political good will for trade to thrive, strengthen and open up strong business and economic ties.
Malawi is accredited as one of the fastest growing economies in the world after registering annual growth rate of 7.5% and the economy registering 9.7% in 2008 as compared to 8.6 in 2007. The country also maintained a single digit inflation of 8.7 in 2008 with a stable exchange and interest rate dropping from as high as 35% to 15%. Investment opportunities that exist according to Minister Kazembe include agro processing, manufacturing, leather and infrastructure development among many others.
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