Remarks by the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative at the Commemoration of Buy Malawi DayApr 18, 2018
I am delighted to join you today to commemorate “Malawi Day” that underpins the Buy Malawian, Build Malawi initiative championed by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Malawi, Prof. Arthur Peter Mutharika.
On behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Malawi, I would like to commend His Excellency for his ongoing commitment to this important agenda.
Let me also extend our appreciation to the Minister and his team at the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism for their steadfast dedication to roll-out the Buy Malawi Strategy and engage with businesses and customers across the country to help build a productive, competitive, and resilient nation as envisaged under the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy.
I would also like to recognize those companies and businesses that are pursuing important investments in home-grown manufacturing, as well as ongoing government efforts to improve the ease of doing business in the country.
Buying locally is not a slogan. It is a global movement that recognizes that buying locally helps sustain local economies. In as much as open borders and trade are essential for Malawi’s economic development, so too is buying locally to help create new jobs, spur innovation and safeguard existing jobs.
Buying Malawian means we can each use our formidable power as consumers to contribute towards poverty reduction. We can use our pocket-books to stimulate local investment, reinforce Malawi’s industrial base, and help improve self-reliance and food security.
Buying Malawian also helps address the country’s trade deficit, while encouraging entrepreneurial dynamism and innovation, particularly among youth, women and men. At the same time, buying Malawian can reduce our carbon footprint through reduced transportation costs, and help mitigate the challenge of climate change that is affecting Malawi’s development.
In short, we can decide how we use our spending power as consumers to help Malawi on its path to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The BMS contributes most directly to the achievement of three of the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG 8 on Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 9 on Sustainable Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 12 which aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
As a consumer in Malawi, the UN is already prioritizing local procurement. For example, UNICEF, through the procurement of local “Ready to Use Therapeutic Food” (RUTF) and WFP, through the “Purchase 4 Progress” initiative, are procuring goods in Malawi that contribute to boosting the local economy and the capacity of producers. UNDP, through the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund (MICF), is supporting the development of more productive capacity in the country for export promotion and import substitution.
At the UN in Malawi, we will continue to promote those MICF products that have reached the domestic market, including an affordable water filtration system suitable for households, schools and hospitals; UHT long-life milk, specialty teas, and non-refrigerated margarine to name a few. And more products are under development under this innovative enterprise challenge fund.
In the press recently, we read about Malawians’ growing appetite for imported products and its impacts on trade performance. Recent figures from the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) point to growth of 9.9% in imports against an increase of 6.3% in exports. Reversing these trends is essential if, together, we are transform Malawi from an importing and consuming nation into an exporting and producing nation.
Under the MGDS III, we welcome Malawi’s renewed urgency and commitment to reverse these negative economic trends. And we can all contribute to this effort.
The Buy Malawi Strategy aims to propel dramatic change in consumer behaviour. At UNDP, we are delighted to see that marketing efforts are aggressively being rolled out to change consumer perceptions and promote Malawian products not only in local markets, but in regional and international markets as well.
Your Excellencies, Honourable Minister, ladies and gentlemen,
Malawian products can certainly match, and in many cases surpass, products that are imported into the country. Under the Buy Malawi Strategy, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of this fact, and are being challenged to not always reach for imported products in the marketplace.
However, we must be aware that the focus of the Buy Malawi Strategy expands beyond generating awareness of the “Made in Malawi” brand. The core of the strategy also involves investment by the private sector in value creation. Investing in quality improvements can ensure that every company deserves to have the Buy Malawi logo on its products, and that every Malawian is proud to buy such products. - not only because they are manufactured in Malawi, but because they meet consumer needs and preferences.
We must avoid seeing the BMS logo on poor quality products that risk undermining consumer confidence. Even if this means that initially there may be fewer products on the market with the BMS logo, it be far better to safeguard the value of the brand than to jeopardize those companies who have worked so hard to benefit from having the BMS logo on their products.
Your Excellency, despite the many ongoing efforts to promote the Buy Malawian, Build Malawi initiative, there is still a lot of work to be done.
We need to scale-up engagement the private sector and consumers alike to change mind-sets and raise our ambition for action beyond this commemorative day.
Your Excellency, your presence today demonstrates your commitment towards the success of this initiative. UNDP has been providing financial and technical support to the BMS with the expectation that the BMS Secretariat will be sustained and become independent and private sector-led.
Let me end by urging all stakeholders present to work hard to improve the quality of locally produced goods and services. This is a major driving factor of consumer preference for foreign goods over locally produced goods and services.
Ladies and Gentlemen, buying Malawian starts with you and me.
As responsible consumers, we all have a tremendous role to play in helping to build a better Malawi. Let’s all critically reflect on our consumer habits so we can help Malawi reap larger development dividends --- one kwacha at a time.
*** THANK YOU ***