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Malawi – ‘Warm Heart’ of Africa warms to investments
September 30, 2017, 2:57 pm
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An economist by profession, His Excellency Wilfred ALI, Ambassador of the Republic of Malawi to the State of Kuwait, has been involved for much of his professional career in promoting international trade and foreign investments, as well as improving public-private partnership projects in his country. It is no surprise therefore that when asked to don the diplomatic mantle and move to Kuwait as Malawi’s top diplomat to the area, he would make enhancing bilateral economic ties with countries in the region a top priority.

Ambassador ALI who arrived to head Malawi’s mission in Kuwait in November 2015, is also accredited as non-resident ambassador to the other five Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states as well as to Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and Yemen. Despite having such an extensive area under his diplomatic mandate, the ambassador along with his embassy staff has been working assiduously to consolidate and advance his country’s interests in this part of the world.

In a recent exclusive interview with The Times Kuwait, Ambassador ALI spoke at length about the cordial diplomatic ties between Malawi and Kuwait, the strong bilateral relations in various domains, and the lucrative potential for increasing trade and investments in his country.

“In the 53 years since Malawi gained independence from Great Britain in 1964, we have been working with nations around the world to strengthen bilateral relations, promote global peace and, support just causes and shared values. In the 1990s we entered into diplomatic relations with Kuwait and in 2011 we officially opened our embassy here.

“However, long before the start of our diplomatic ties, Malawi and Kuwait have shared strong bonds of friendship on the people to people level. In the 1980s, non-governmental organizations (NGO) such as the Malawi Muslim Committee, which later became the Direct Aid society, headed by renowned philanthropist the late Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sumait, were actively engaged in social and humanitarian work in Malawi,” said the envoy.

Expounding on the firm relations with Kuwait, the diplomat noted that Kuwait has always been a reliable and unstinting supporter of growth and development in Malawi. “Direct Aid and other NGOs have been providing much-needed humanitarian aid in times of droughts, floods and other calamities, while also assisting in various social welfare projects, including in the fields of education, healthcare and sanitation.

“On the government level, the Kuwait Fund for the Arab Economic Development (KFAED) has played, and continues to play, a substantial role in financing several mega infrastructure developments in the country. Among the main infrastructure projects funded by KFAED are telecommunications, road networks, hospitals and water projects that have helped invigorate economic activity in the country. Most recently, the Fund provided a loan of around KD3 million for the 64km-long Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga road that links our capital with southern regions of the country,” said the ambassador.

In the nearly two years since his arrival in the country, Ambassador ALI has endeavored to stimulate trade, increase investment and promote tourism to Malawi  from the region, while also mobilizing development assistance and humanitarian aid. Leveraging his extensive experience and expertise in economics and diplomacy, the envoy has been consolidating and enhancing existing ties and forging new commercial and trade links between Malawi and the region.
Agriculture accounts for over 35 percent of the Malawian GDP and 90 percent of its export revenues, with industry and services making up the remaining bulk of its economy. Some of the main agricultural products include sugarcane, cotton, tea, coffee, corn, potatoes and tobacco; while processing tobacco, tea and sugarcane form the leading industries.

“The potential to increase trade ties with Kuwait, as well as with other countries in the region, is tremendous. We are now exploring and pursuing various options for increasing agricultural exports, including that of rice, tea, coffee, sugar and legumes to Kuwait. A bilateral air-transport treaty that is currently under discussion would further facilitate and enhance the shipment of agricultural products to Kuwait,” clarified the ambassador.

Saying that he would like to see more Kuwaiti investments in Malawi, the envoy pointed out that his country is a lucrative investment destination with excellent opportunities available in agro-processing, horticulture, mining, infrastructure and tourism among others. He added, “The government has earmarked 100,000 hectares of fertile land along the fresh water Lake Malawi for irrigation farming, which investors can take advantage of. We are especially looking to promote investments that bring added value to our agriculture sector, while seeking direct investments in the untapped, capital-intensive, mining and tourism industries.”

Conscious of the need to attract foreign investment in order to stimulate and drive economic growth in the country, Malawi has launched several investor-friendly fiscal initiatives and policies, including tax breaks for investors, 100 percent foreign ownership in projects and full repatriation of profits, dividends, interests and investments.

In addition, security of investments in Malawi is assured as the country is a signatory to the International Convention for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and has membership in the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) — a World Bank institution that offers compensation to multilateral investment losses. “We are also discussing the signing of a bilateral investment protection and promotion agreement with Kuwait, which should provide additional assurance for investors from this country,” said the ambassador.

Malawi, with its strategic location in the center of South East Africa, offers investors easy access to a huge and growing market for their products.  In addition, the country’s membership in various regional organizations, such as the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the 15-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), provides investors preferred access to a market of over 400 million people. Also, products from Malawi have access to the vast United States marketplace by being a participant in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

Expanding on the investor attractiveness of his country, the ambassador noted that tourism is one area that could attract investors from this region. “The country is replete with tourist attractions, from the pristine Lake Malawi, to several game reserves and nine National Parks teaming with a multitude of exotic and endemic flora and fauna. We already have a large number of people from this region traveling to enjoy the tourism hot spots in Malawi, and entrepreneurs among them will realize the immense potential for investing in the tourism infrastructure.”

He added that visa regulations are extremely simplified and obtaining a tourist visa was only a matter of few hours by visiting the embassy. “We want to make it easy for everyone to travel to Malawi and would like to invite Kuwaiti investors to visit and see for themselves the immense business and investment potential, as well as rich resources our country offers,” said the envoy.

Malawi’s macroeconomic stability, its liberalized economy, investor-friendly business climate, sound legal framework, competitive investment incentives and entrenched multi-party democracy, as well as highly competent, English-speaking workforce, makes the country a safe, secure and lucrative destination for investments from Kuwait and the region.

Ambassador ALI concluded by expressing his thanks to the rulers, the government, the non-governmental organizations and the people of Kuwait, for their continued socio-economic support and generous humanitarian aid to Malawi and its people.

 

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