Malawi is doing everything possible to become a dependable partner and team player in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) region, said President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday in Lusaka.
He was speaking during the 20th session of the COMESA Heads of State and Government Summit in Zambia under the theme; ‘COMESA’ Towards Digital Economic Intergration’.
Mutharika said as a country, Malawi was doing its best to improve its economy so that it can participate in the regional economic affairs as a stronger country.
“What we have always wanted is attaining a deeper integration as a means to social and economic progress in the region. We have learnt that there are times we achieve more by cooperating more than competing.” he said.
He said Malawi’s economic path as a COMESA member country, has been a steep road to climb in the last four years, but added that he was delighted to report 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 in order to improve the economy.” he said, adding, “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”.
He said four years ago, Malawi’s inflation was at 24 per cent, but now, the country has managed to attain a single digit inflation, with interest rates moving from 42 down to 16 per cent.
“We have also 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 now stands at six months.
Mutharika says all macro economic indicators are pointing to the fact that Malawi’s economy has stabilised and is growing.
“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 4 percent in 2018 and rise to 6 percent in 2019.”
The President said the country was implementing a robust Foreign Direct Investment program, which made Malawi significantly improve on the Global Doing-Business Index.
Mutharika said his goal was to have smaller Government with a bigger private sector.
In his remarks, the Secretary General for COMESA, Sindiso Ngwenya, said he was happy to report that the theme for the 2018 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 will 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.” he said.
COMESA has 19 member states but will have additional two by the end of the summit.