Malawians should learn to differentiate between general traders and investors

The Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (Mitc) has called on Malawians to differentiate between general traders and investors.

Mitc chief executive officer Clement Kumbemba said in an interview on Wednesday that general traders register with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism to operate their businesses while investors get their licences from Mitc, which is touted as a one-stop investment centre.

His pronouncement comes in the wake of concerns that some Chinese business operators have beaten Mitc system by getting permits as investors, but end up in general trading.

The influx of the Chinese in general trading is fuelling business uncertainties among indigenous traders who claim that they are being elbowed out of the way as their counterparts have ready capital to engage in any business.

While some of them register as investors, it has been discovered that some switch to general trading once they get their permit.

But Kumbemba admitted that despite Mitc having after-care services to ensure that investors operate according to their licences, they have established that some few investors go off-track.

“In that case, we recommend to our authorities to revoke their licences and some of them have been told to leave the country,” he said.

The concerns came to the fore last week during a Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) Regional Chapter Meeting in Mzuzu which attracted businesspersons, officials from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) and Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism.

At the meeting, some businesspersons queried ministry officials on the criteria the government follows in categorising foreign investors, citing some Chinese that are involved in general trading such as bottlestores.

While admitting that some have beaten the system, the ministry’s director of trade Christina Zakeyo said government plans to flush out all Chinese involved in general trading without a proper licence.

She blamed Mitc for lacking a proper system to follow up the so-called investors.

“We, as a ministry, have come up with a system where we want to track everyone who registered as an investor when we are conducting business inspections,” said Zakeyo.

MCCCI councillor for the Northern Chapter Bernard Kaunda said government seems to have failed to control the proliferation of Chinese in general trading in cities, towns and districts.

Indigenous Businesses Association of Malawi (Ibam) president Mike Mlombwa said the organisation has been receiving the complaints and has taken the issues to government but to no avail.

Malawi’s foreign investment laws require investors to have a minimum investment capital of $250 000 (about K183 million).

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