Thursday, December 9, 2010

‘Best Buy Malawi’ campaign good for private sector

Best Buy Malawi, a campaign tool aimed at wooing Malawians into developing a taste for locally manufactured products and services, has been lauded by the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), which is counting on the campaign to boost local industry productivity.

MCCCI president, Matthews Chikankheni, feels that one way through which local industry players may develop rests on promoting consumption of local goods. He says farmers in agricultural production stand to benefit more since over 82 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for survival.

Chikankheni says it is no surprise that operations of most of the country’s industries are linked to agriculture, assuring the local producer of more returns from their field work.

He says the other workable mechanism is by providing incentives to local manufacturers, a development he says will also help boost employment levels. With the country’s long-held dependence on the extended family system, Chikankheni sees many people benefitting from the same.

“It is encouraging that His Excellency the State President, Ngwazi Professor. Bingu wa Mutharka is in the forefront advising Malawians to promote local industriesby developing a preference for local products and services over foreign products,” says Chikankheni.

However, Chikankheni warns that the only huddle facing the initiative is unreliable electricity supply. In other words, he feels that blackouts are becoming a disservice to local industry operators because the costs of using generators and other power supply alternatives are high.

But Industry and Trade Minister, Eunice Kazembe, assures the voice of the private sector that energy development is at the heart of the country’s development blue print, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Among others, the strategy envisages the establishment of new hydro-electrical power plants in the Southern and Northern region. It is hoped that the new facilities, once completed, will help utility power supplier, the Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), meet domestic demand.

Already, Malawi exports some electricity to Zambia, an indicator of the potential the country has in becoming a net exporter of electricity to neighbouring countries.

“I am happy to say that the current administration is committed to making electricity available to all; we are also committed to reducing power interruptions because we want to develop our industries and fulfill government’s policy goal to turn from a net importer to a dominant exporter of goods and services,” Kazembe assures.

President Mutharika has repeatedly asked Malawians to prioritize local products while, at the same time, imploring local industries to improve on products and service quality in a bid to satisfy customer requirements.

Press Corporation Limited CEO, Prof. Mathews Chikaonda, has often advocated for a collaborated approach in dealing with the problem of power interruption, at one time suggesting that private sector players could financially bail out ESCOM under mutually agreed terms. This was during a Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority consultation meeting on proposed new ESCOM tariffs two years ago.

Chikaonda bemoaned that some companies were loosing millions in missed business opportunities due to electricity outages.

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