Speech BY PROFESSOR ARTHUR PETER MUTHARIKA DURING THE OFFICIAL OPENING OF THE MALAWI INVESTMENT FORUM & THE SOUTHERN AFRICA REGIONAL INTEGRATION STAKEHOLDER FORUM 11 JUNE 2018
Let me welcome you all to this great occasion. Those of you who have travelled to our country to be part of this moment, welcome to Malawi. We wish you a nice stay here.
And I want to begin with a story that will take you to Malawi with a different vision.
At one time, a shoe maker sent two officials to an island to find out if it was worthy opening a shoe factory. But the two officials found no one wearing shoes on the island. In fact, they didn’t even know what a shoe was.
One official went back and said to his boss there was no point in constructing a factory where nobody was wearing shoes. The other official went back and said he had found a great market because nobody was wearing shoes.
This is my point! When you come to Malawi, you see what you choose to see. For us, Malawi is a land of great opportunities and possibilities. Malawi is a land of untapped investment potential. Malawi is the African paradox of a rich country with poor people. Malawi is a small but great country. Where many see poverty, we see potential riches. Where others see challenges, we see opportunities.
Our story is the story of Africa. Africa is a great continent of immeasurable riches and treasures. We are the richest continent yet with the poorest people.
But we abandoned the simplest principle of development. Development is the actualisation of one’s potential. But for a long time, Africans have been aspiring to be equal to those who worked hard to achieve their best human potential. We have been searching outside a destiny that we forgot within ourselves.
And with national boundaries that came with colonialism, Africa underwent a process of economic and cultural disintegration.
I am most delighted that Malawi is hosting this investment forum at the time when Africa is remembering herself from years of economic disintegration. We are re-integrating our policies and rebuilding our bonds of doing business as a continent.
Malawi is spearheading the investment drive within the Pan-African spirit of promoting private sector development and trade integration. In a special way therefore, I want to welcome the Economic Commission for Africa, the African Union, and the Africa Business Group who are here with us this morning. They are here to accelerate your investment opportunities in the integration
of Southern Africa.
The regional integration project is premised on private sector investment. We need you in the region as private investors.
As a country, Malawi also needs you. Malawi has taken necessary steps to encourage private sector investment growth. We are now ready to do business with the world.
Our goal is to have a smaller government and a bigger private sector. We have undertaken aggressive reforms and ensured that we have a legal environment that protects investments. We have instituted systems that provide security to our investors and your
investments. We are part of a number of regional and global markets. We have sufficient raw materials and hardworking citizens. And above all, we have ensured that Malawi enjoys political peace and stability.
As a result of our reforms, we have drastically reduced the cost of doing business. Malawi is ranked the third topmost reformer in Africa. We are the 110th in the world in the latest Ease of Doing Business Report by the World Bank.
Our key challenge has been energy deficit. For the last fifty years, this country did not invest sufficiently in energy expansion. Now we have lined up projects that will double the current power supply of 360MW to 720MW by 2020. And we want to generate at least 1,000MW by 2023. In total, we are expanding and diversifying power generation towards the goal of 2,000 megawatts within 10 years.
I am delighted to note that some of you have defined our challenge as an investment opportunity – because that is what it is. I can also assure you that Malawi has a very good economic outlook. In 2018, we expect our economic growth in Malawi to be at 4.1 percent. This is well above the Sub-Saharan average growth of 3.4 percent, and indeed well above the global average growth of 3.9 percent. In 2019, we expect our growth to rise to 6 percent way above global and regional average growth.
It has taken us hardwork to achieve economic recovery through a series of national disasters without donor budgetary support. Some people say Malawi’s economy a miracle. Four years ago, this country was almost bankrupt. Our deficit was almost
equal to our annual national budget.
Our inflation was at 24 per cent. We have brought inflation down to the single digit. Today, inflation is at 9.7 percent – as of April this year. Our interest rates were at 25 per cent. Today, interest rates are at 16 per cent. Our foreign currency import cover was below 2 months – the lowest in Malawi’s history. As I speak, our foreign currency import cover is at 6 months – the highest in our history.
As you can see, we have in the last four years worked intensively to create an environment that favours business and economic growth.
We are now implementing our National Transport Masterplan to expand our road network, our rail network, our airports and our use of sea transport. At the same time, we are creating a skilled labour society to provide high quality skills and services to our people. We are establishing community technical colleges in all districts across the country. We want our youths to drive our industrialization programme. We also want to provide a high skilled but affordable labour force to our investors.
We want Malawi to give you the best return to investment. If Africa is above the global average of return to investment, we want Malawi to be above Africa. We are set to make Malawi an investment haven of Africa. With these remarks, I declare the Malawi Investment Forum and The Southern Africa Regional Integration Stakeholder Forum officially open.
May God bless Africa!
And God bless you all!