In a bid to encourage investors to look to Malawi when considering where in Africa to put their money, the government is trying to make it easier to do business.
For example, in the past it took 96 days to get a licence to set up a business in the country; but now it takes only five days, and the government wants to reduce it to 48 hours.
"Malawi remains little known to international investors," says industry and trade minister, Joseph Mwanamvekha. "Our target is to achieve a top too ranking in the Doing Business Index by 2016 from 164 where we currently are. Having adopted private sector-led growth, we have embarked on various reforms to ensure speedy private sector development."
Last year, President Peter Mutharika established an inter-ministerial committee to spearhead these private sector reforms. "Our economy is going to be private sector driven," vows Mutharika, speaking to African Business. "I believe in the private sector. If we can manufacture and export our products, we will easily overcome the dependency on donors. Others have done it, so we can do it too. To transform this country, we need to conduct 'business unusual'."
"I know that some investors are worried about Malawi's alleged 'small market' of 17m people," he continues, "but we are a member of both SADC [Southern African Development Community] and COMESA [Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa], which, combined, constitute a huge market.
"We shall soon have a Tripartite Agreement involving SADC, COMESA and the East African Community that will make up a market of 60% of Africa. And not only that: we have access to the African Union, we have access to AGOA [the African Growth and Opportunity Act], and we have access to the European Union through the Everything But Arms initiative."
Mutharika says he wants to encourage the private sector to increase exports through producing more efficiently, cheaply and competitively. Thus, as the competition for the investor's dollar heats up in Africa, Malawi is trying to get ahead, and early this year published a compendium of 123 "bankable" projects in the priority sectors.
These include agriculture, energy, mining, tourism, manufacturing, media, environment, water development, infrastructure, transport, the financial sector and social services.
Diversifying and building
Malawi's economy currently relies heavily on agriculture. Tobacco is the main cash cow, bringing in around 60% of foreign exchange earnings. This year, the...