By Richard Chirombo
Funding uncertainties have marred implementation of the Business
Growth Scheme (Bugs), a component in the Business Environment
Strengthening Technical Assistance Project (Bestap) being implemented
by the Ministry of Industry and Trade, raising fears over its
The project, approved in 2007 and co-financed by the World Bank and
European Union, seeks to support capacity development and investment
climate reforms in order to accelerate economic growth.
According to ‘African Tax Administration Forum’, Malawi is ranked 133
out of 183 economies, with Singapore leading the pack as the
top-ranked country in the ease of doing business.
One of the entrepreneurs, who claimed that his application was
approved nine months ago, said in an interview on Wednesday that Bugs
officials have been tossing him left and right whenever he inquires
about the where-abouts of his money.
“All I am told is that funding disbursement stopped because of donors’
reluctance to release funding,” said Ndirande-based Saulosi
Mtambalika-Kapwepwe, one of the would-be beneficiaries.
He said this disturbed his business plans, and forced him to keep on
waiting since he depends on entrepreneurship and is currently
However, belated delays in carrying out some aspects of the project
are not new. For example, soon after project approval by the World
Bank Board, administrative hiccups affected project implementation in
the wake of delays in finalizing administrative arrangements needed to
operationalise the use of European Union (EU) co-financing for
activities that WB and EU agreed to jointly finance in the project.
Kapwepwe said it was unfair to subject beneficiaries to pro-longed delays.
“Bugs is our only hope because other government initiatives, including
the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, have been politicized while
Bugs is managed by professionals who follow donors’ guidelines,”
He added that the uncertainties surrounding the scheme had left him
without other economic options since he, and his brother, Kingsley-
who work as business partners- are not formally employed.
But, when contacted for comment, one of the officials at Bugs in
Blantyre, Jones Mauluka, referred this reporter to the Principal
Secretary (PS) for Industry and Trade, Newby Kumwembe. He said the PS
was the one mandated to speak about the scheme.
Project officer for Bestap, Shadrick Ulemu, also declined to comment.
He said Kumwembe was the only one who could comment.
However, when contacted to comment on the delays and reports that
government has started looking for potential donors, Kumwembe pushed
the matter back to Bestap, saying the project officer was
better-placed and mandated to respond to all issues pertaining to
“Talk to Mr. Ulemu who, as Bestap project officer, is well-positioned
to answer that. I am just the coordinator, by virtue of chairing the
steering committee,” Kumwembe said.
Added Kumwembe: “These (Bestap officials) are the technical people and
well-versed with project implementation. Definitely, they will give
you the information. If these technical people are not able to give
you the information; then, I don’t know what they are supposed to be
Further efforts to talk to Ulemu did not yield any results as he
preferred to communicate with this reporter through his secretary.
Even when told that the P.S. was the one who instructed this reporter
to talk to the project officer, she maintained that Ulemu could not
speak unless he got authorization from Kumwembe.
Meanwhile, a member of the steering committee told The Sunday Times
that a meeting held six months ago resolved that all matters
pertaining to Bestap and Bugs be referred to the PS for Industry and
The source also said Bugs was still spending K1 monthly on rentals and
operational costs, and that at least 137 people whose applications
were approved are yet to get their disbursements.
In Africa, Bestap supports industry and trade initiatives, public
administration, finance, regulation and competition, micro, small and
medium enterprise, export development and competitiveness, among