Current Trade News

Blantyre — Minister of Information, Gospel Kadzako has advised Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA) to seriously engage mobile telecommunications companies to reduce the cost of internet data to enable more Malawians enjoy services in the communication sector.
The minister said this on Monday when he toured Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority Offices in Blantyre.
Kadzako said Information Communication Technology (ICT) is deemed to be catalyst of any economy because people use internet data to access services to contribute positively to all spheres of development.
"However, right now, to own a smart phone is like a crime because of the cost of data. Here in Malawi, Internet data is being sold at 80 cent per second and expire within the specified time usage yet in our neighboring country, Tanzania the cost of data is as less as 4 cent per second.
"In view of this, Malawians feel like they are being skinned alive and they are much worried with the development because it is the mobile companies that are celebrating for making huge profits," he said.
The minister therefore urged Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority to quickly and seriously engage the mobile communications companies to address the problem for the enjoyment of Malawians.
He added: "Should we say that we are experiencing this problem because we only have three mobile telecommunications companies in Malawi? If yes, let us engage more players because we want Malawians to enjoy ICT services without any hindrance.
"This is the new government and people are expecting to see things being done differently."
Meanwhile, the minister has challenged to conduct structural and functional review in the operation of MACRA as one way of sanitizing the institution to serve Malawians better.
"We have seen funds from this public institution being used by political parties to serve their interests. How come MACRA can use K1billion per month for its operation?
"In addition, the institution has some people who were employed because of the political party they belong to and they have not any qualification or their papers do not match with the position they hold. As such, this new government will replace these irreconcilable individuals with those who are professionals," challenged Kadzako saying: "this is not witch-hunting but dealing with the problem in a different way."
In his remarks, MACRA Director General, Henry Shamu thanked the minister for paying a courtesy call to the institution.
He then concurred with the Minister on the expensiveness of internet data assuring him to engage mobile telecommunications companies soon to amicably address Malawians concerns.
Source: Malawi News Agency
Africa should open markets, diversify supply and strengthen regional value chains to become a competitive provider of certain health-related products, a new ITC report finds.
Africa can position itself strategically and develop a regional response to avoid healthcare product shortages similar to those triggered by the COVID-19 crisis. That's the main message of Medical Industries in Africa: A Regional Response to Supply Shortages, a new International Trade Centre (ITC) report.
COVID-19 severely burdened the global health system, driving a surge in demand for medical supplies such as masks, gowns and gloves. The World Health Organization warned in early March that international production of such goods would have to ramp up by 40% to meet demand.
Today, Africa sources only 8% of its health-related products from African suppliers. The continent can become competitive in some of these items while combating the crisis and building its own resilience to future pandemics, the ITC report finds. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement has a key role to play in supporting the regional medical industry, it adds.
'We examine the potential of the African medical supply industry and show how trade can be an important element of the continent's health response, both in the short and long term,' says Dorothy Tembo, ITC Executive Director a.i. 'We suggest a strategic mix of open markets, diversified procurement and stronger regional value chains' to position Africa strategically in the future trade landscape of the global medical industry while safeguarding the health of Africans.
Keeping the regional market open for essential health products is critical, the report says. ITC business surveys on non-tariff measures have found that companies in Africa frequently struggle to import medical supplies because of inspections and customs charges. In addition, tariffs are relatively high: African countries apply a 10.3% average tariff on these items, compared with 7.9% in non-African developing economies and 2.9% in developed countries.
African governments should review import regulations and consider temporarily lifting tariffs, taxes and other restrictions that hinder access to these goods - especially as the continent has limited sources of such products.
Regional value chains would help diversify global supply
That's why it's also important to diversify suppliers, the report notes. Africa provides just 8% of its own medical products, importing most of the rest from the European Union, China and India.
The report urges policymakers to consider regional suppliers with export growth potential. Diversifying would reduce the impact of export restrictions on essential goods and make the continent less dependent on just a handful of foreign suppliers. Egypt, Ghana and South Africa are viable alternatives for products such as disinfectants and adhesive bandages.
Governments also should help build up Africa's capacity to produce key medical supplies by developing regional value chains, the report says. Although the continent produces many of the inputs used to manufacture health-related products - such as rubber, fabrics and ethanol - these goods are often exported without any transformation.
Policymakers could support the development of regional value chains by channeling investments into these sectors, the report says. Furthermore, they could leverage negotiations in the context of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to keep trade functioning smoothly along these value chains - for instance, making sure that these vital goods trade duty-free within Africa and that other regulations are harmonized.
Although Malawi has historically not been one of the most visited African countries, times appear to be changing. Over the last decade, tourism has grown steadily, with the last five years seeing a rapid acceleration. Malawi has a beautiful landscape and friendly population, so it is a natural choice for holidaymakers. However, one avenue that has perhaps not been exploited as much as it could have been, is the casino trade. Here is how this sector could boost tourism to Malawi, providing additional income for residents.
Popularity of Casinos in Africa's Main Inbound Tourist Countries
As a continent, Africa's main source of tourism comes from Europe, closely followed by the US. In both of these areas, online casinos are already popular, with plenty of sites that offer the chance to play online blackjack, as well as poker and slots from the comfort of your home. Similarly, both areas have well-developed bricks and mortar casinos that generate huge revenue for their respective countries. The opportunity to open casinos to cater both for tourists and locals in Malawi could reasonably be expected to generate a valuable income for the country.
Becoming a Casino Destination
Las Vegas was undoubtedly the first city to truly become known for its casino culture. It attracts almost 50 million tourists each year, in no small part thanks to its huge hotel & casino resorts which cater to all the needs of visitors. Seeing this success, a few cities have followed suit, including Tangier, Monte-Carlo, Baden-Baden, and several throughout Singapore.
Though perhaps the largest success has been Macau in China. Located in the South China Sea, this island is perfectly equipped for tourists. Well connected to the mainland, but with beautiful scenery all of its own, Macau has flourished since the addition of several large casinos. The Casino Lisboa and Grand Macau bring millions of tourists each year and local citizens enjoy the benefits too, with 15% of locals working in the industry.
Looking to Lilongwe for Inspiration
One of the pioneers of the casino industry in Malawi has been Lilongwe, our capital city. Lilongwe was already popular with tourists for the fantastic wildlife sanctuary at the heart of the city. However, the ability to diversify was recognized by the Casino Marina group back in 2016. Now the Casino Marina Lilongwe is a major tourist destination in Lilongwe, offering table games and slot machines to enthusiastic customers. The casino sits on the prestigious Golden Peacock Hotel sight, surrounded by beautifully manicured gardens. The experience is certainly a luxury one, that should be celebrated for the industry it has brought to the area. Following in its footsteps, two further casinos have opened, which each report a healthy income each year.
Other Suitable Casino Locations.
Already Lilongwe is home to 3 large casinos, but there is potential both in the capital to open more, or even make a nearby destination town. The Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism has said that if controlled and nurtured carefully, the benefits of a casino industry could be vast. By the end of this year, the government has hopes to increase this figure from four percent to thirteen percent. This mission could not only create thousands of jobs for Malawians, but could also improve the country's financial standing.
Another city that could well be an emerging casino centre is Blantyre. This city is already home to two successful casinos, the Blue Elephant and the Colony Club Casino. As the centre for finance and commerce, Blantyre is already home to many hotels suitable for business travellers, so would be well equipped to deal with a boost in tourism numbers.
It is located close to the Chileka International Airport, so the travel infrastructure would not be an issue. Further to this, the area already has a number of distinctive features that would appeal to tourists, including the characteristic architecture of the area, as well as the magnificent Mount Soche
Source: Nyasatimes
Tea exporters in Rwanda are reeling as prices drop to an all-time low of below $2 per kilogramme on the international market, due to low demand and oversupply.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the sector, the country exported up to 9,317 tonnes of processed tea worth Rwf25 billion ($27.6 million) between January and March 2020, compared with Rwf20 billion ($21.8 million) the same period last year.
Prices started dropping in the second quarter as key buyers closed shop due to the restrictions imposed on movement of goods and services due to the pandemic.
Rohith Peiris, the general manager of Sorwathe, a tea growing and exporting company said. "The first half of the year has been tough. Tea prices have been declining significantly; a kilogramme of processed tea now stands at $2 on average. It was $3 and above per kilo last year. "This is the lowest it has ever been. The prices fluctuate, even below $2 per kilo," said.
Pie Ntwari of the National Agriculture Export Board said, "Tea consumers have sharply reduced and some established buyers have already closed. This explains the reduction of prices on the international market."
He added that Rwanda was exploring new markets including the Middle East and Russia.
The higher prices recorded between January and March are largely attributed to bigger auctions. India played a big role leading to an increase in demand for the East African auction, before being greatly affected by the pandemic.
John Baffes, the senior agriculture economist with World Bank's Development Prospects Group said, "Tea prices, especially at the Kolkata and Colombo auctions, increased recently, while prices at the Mombasa auction remain subdued. Kolkata and Mombasa auctions reached 13 and six-year lows, respectively.
"In response to ample supplies in Kenya, there have been disruptions of tea shipments to various importing countries, and disappointing demand (in part due to the lockdown in India)."
He added that tea prices (auction average) are "expected to drop 10 per cent in 2020 mostly due to weak demand, before experiencing a relatively softer recovery in 2021".
Tea exports to top three global markets declined significantly in the first quarter as the world grappled with the Covid-19 pandemic.
CHAI Bora Tanzania has applauded the government's efforts in supporting local industries and farmers in producing quality tea.
Speaking yesterday in Dar es Salaam during the 44th International Trade Fair in Dar es Salaam, Chai Bora's Marketing Manager, Ms Awatif Bushiri said the efforts made by the government in support of local industries has upgraded farmers and enabled industries to produce quality products with added value as Chai Bora's company did.
"As evident from this year's theme, Industrial Economy for Employment and Sustainable Trade, the government has created conducive environment for the country to reach the middle-income economy through Industrialisation.
"We thank our government for its efforts in promoting local industries through various platforms. As a company that also focused on the export market, selling across the border in Kenya, South Africa, UAE, Rwanda and Ghana, this platform is one of the many ways we expand our product destination", said Awatif.
She said agriculture is an important sector as the country heads towards robust industrial economy.
Almost 75 percent of the workforce lives in rural areas and the majority of them are involved in the farming sector, contributing to about 50 per cent of the country's GDP.
Chai Bora takes pride in being a household item, and more for creating a source of income to not only people employed in their factory but also to farmers who are the main supplier of the company's raw materials.
Ms Bushiri added that despite the recent coronavirus crisis, we are happy that the government continues to promote local industries through platforms such as Sabasaba exhibition while continuing to take caution against the pandemic.
"The current trends in agriculture offer a huge opportunity to support the industrialisation vision and create income for the majority.
"Agriculture already accounts for a large portion of the country's exports, and there's room to grow," she said.
Ms Bushiri urged other local producers to use the 44th International Trade Fair to explore opportunities to sell products beyond the country and we encourage Tanzanians to buy local products," she explained that.
Chai Bora Limited started in 2006 as an independent firm. Chai Bora blends, packs and makes high quality brands while creating meaningful employment opportunities in Tanzania and the region.
Chai Bora has just been acquired by Catalyst Principal Partners and the company has a vision to create the leading beverage business in Tanzania with presence in SADC region.
WAS hinted by the World Bank last year, that sooner than later Tanzania would graduate from Low income economic category to a more advanced lower middle-income economic level.
As it's common to any society built on different schools of thought, this incident drew opposing responses - some chest thumped for the milestone while others loathed the upgrade.
This essay is in no way trying to play a "judge - complainant - accused" role, but to unearth the unseen truths behind this accession and to remind everyone that both, the jubilants and critics, have points that needs to be taken into account.
It has taken 59 years for Tanzania to arrive to the position where it is, a journey that involved trying two distinct economic philosophies - socialism and capitalism - and draw a number of lessons which benefited both the experimenter and outside observers.
From per capita income of around 200 US dollars in the late 1980s - when economic liberalization policies began - to 1,100 US dollars in 2020, no sane person can coldly welcome the tremendous transformation. Apart from policies put in place by hosting countries, foreign investors are highly interested in the purchasing power of the local market.
Consumers with stable income are likely to spend more on products and services made in the particular country than not, and in some cases, the first criterion outweighs the latter. It is a no brainer that Mauritius, with a GNI per capita of 12,740 US dollars stands to be an attractive destination for Nestle processing plant than say, Togo, with 690 US dollars GNI per capita.
An assumption behind is that the consumers in 'richer' markets are likely to spend more as they earn more than their counterparts with smaller per capita.
However, it is prudent to put this clear that, this measure doesn't mean that everyone in Tanzania earns that amount of money per year, or that the Bretton Wood institution arrived to that conclusion after getting every citizen's bank accounts' records. Far from truth.
Per capita income is obtained after dividing country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with its population. GDP or national income, as it is referred in some accounts, is a monetary value of all the finished goods produced in the country in a specific period of time.
GDP is yet another confusing measurement as it does not give the 'redistributive' picture to anyone who tries to get an individual progress in that particular country. Take this example; Kenya has got a GDP that is currently over 95 billion US dollar, higher than Tanzania's 63 billion US dollar.
Nonetheless, Kenya supremacy in productivity has little relationship with curbing the poverty rate to majority of its citizens. World Bank statistics shows that the country has 36 per cent of its people living below 1.9 US dollar per day, whereas Tanzania with relatively low GDP and bigger population has recorded only 26 per cent people under a poverty rate.
What happens is that few brands like Azam, Azania and MO can triple their production and end up giving a country a false impression of total progress. So, the cold reception of this development deserves to be taken with a grain of salt since per capita income measurement is a dividend of 'misleading' GDP.
But there are challenges which will be associated by this accession that Tanzania has to be prepared to handle. Tanzania is a beneficiary of a number of non - reciprocal trade agreements that offers it a preferential treatments, which includes agreements like EU's Everything But Arms (EBA) and UNCTAD's Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
Taking EBA as an example, a scheme grants all Least Developed Countries (LDCs) a full quota and duty free access to EU Single Market for all products with an exception to arms and armaments. Thanks to this arrangement, our coffee, horticultural products and pulses have been finding smooth landing in European markets for years.
According to United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) - which has the ownership of LDCs classification mandate - a country will be regarded as an LDC if has per capita income of less than 1,025 US dollars among other criteria.
As of now, Tanzania has already crossed that mark with more than 70 US dollar threshold.
In essence, countries like Botswana, Cape Verde, Maldives, Samoa and Equatorial Guinea, graduated from LDC status and were subsequently removed from EBA's benefits in years 1994, 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2017 respectively, Tanzania stands be the next loser of benefits offered by the scheme once all the three criteria, have been proved to have been met by the member states.
Besides, we can still have our long sigh, as this is not a knee - jerk response, it may take some time before the UN committee approves the status. For the time being, we got to prepare ourselves by crafting some intelligent bilateral agreements with our major markets and lowering costs of doing business in the country to make our products more competitive.