At least 12 Zambian companies are in the middle of a trade expo in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre, with the aim of increasing cross-border trade between the two neighbours. ‘We need to talk more to achieve our goal,’ said Paul Katema, deputy Zambian High Commissioner to Malawi.
Katema said Malawi and Zambia needed to expand their trade since the opening of the Mchinji/Chipata Railway line last August would significantly cut transport costs.
He said, for example, the cost of transporting fertilizer and agriculture products to the Zambian border town of Chipata from the Mozambian port of Nacala through the Mchinji/Chipata Railway line would be reduced by about US$ 30 per metric tonne.
‘This will result into the growth of the agriculture sector of our two countries whose dependence on agriculture for export earnings and food security is high,’ he said, adding: ‘This development will not only be felt in the agriculture sector alone but other sectors as well (as well as) creating job opportunities thereby reducing poverty.’
Katema said the trade expo, the first of its kind in Malawi, seeks to establish trade partnerships between Malawian and Zambian companies as well as sending a signal to the world that the two neighbours were a preferred destination for foreign direct investment.
‘We are here to network, network for business, for investment in production of goods and services for increased trade between our two countries,’ he said.
In 2009 alone, Zambia exported goods amounting to US$ 72 million, an increase from US$ 61 million the previous year. Information on Malawi exports into Zambia was not immediately available.
The goods exported from Zambia were mainly tobacco and tobacco products, sulphur, lime and cement, plastic products, precious metal components, hides, skins and leather, cereals, lubricants and candles among others.
Deputy Malawian Trade and Industry Minister Shadreck Jonasi urged Malawian and Zambian business captains to explore ways of increasing cross-border trade.
Organized by the Zambian Development Agency, the expo has attracted companies mainly in the agro-based, timber, pharmaceutical and leather industries.
The expo is scheduled to end on Friday.