Malawi seeks to enhance competition and consumer protection

15 July 2021

The southeastern African nation is determined to make legislative, administrative and procedural changes to make markets fairer and better protect consumers.

A market in Malawi. © hecke71

Malawi has set its sights on bolstering its competition and consumer protection law and policy, based on an UNCTAD voluntary peer review that recommends various areas of improvement.

The recommendations were presented to Malawian representatives and other stakeholders during an UNCTAD experts meeting on competition law and policy held from 7 to 9 July.

Malawi’s minister of trade, Sosten Alfred Gwengwe, said the recommendations would enable the country to benchmark its legislative framework against international best practices.

“The review accords us the invaluable opportunity to introspect on our current processes and enhance the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of competition law enforcement,” Mr. Gwengwe said.

He said Malawi volunteered for the review in recognition of the importance of competition law and policy as a catalyst for economic development.

Improving the competition climate

The review’s report calls on Malawi to revise its current competition policy to reflect new developments within the country’s overall economic policy.

The southeastern African nation needs a new competition law, according to the review.

Malawi also needs to build its human and institutional capacity to improve competition policy enforcement through better training, evidence gathering and documentation management.

Further, it needs to increase awareness on the benefits of competition law and policy among stakeholders beyond businesses, the report says.

It urges Malawian authorities to “establish a working relationship with national universities to introduce competition and consumer protection programmes in their curriculum.”

Need for robust enforcement

Through liberalization, structural reforms, the privatization of state firms and regional integration, Malawi has continuously opened its market to trade, heightening the need for robust enforcement of competition law and policy.

“The field of competition law has undergone various changes and developments over the years, hence it’s only proper that we update our legislative framework,” said Apoche Itimu, the acting head of Malawi’s competition commission.

She said the review would enable the country to update its law as it identifies the legislative, administrative and procedural changes needed for the optimum functioning of the country’s competition and consumer protection frameworks.

Fostering a competitive business environment

Ms. Itimu said the commission had, since its inception in 2013, made significant strides in achieving a competitive business environment in Malawi and building a society with greater levels of consumer welfare.

Despite being a landlocked and least developed country, Malawi has a relatively high export-to-GDP ratio of 30%, consisting of mostly of primary goods or semi-processed products developed solely for global markets.

“We have improved the efficiency in the production and distribution of goods by dealing with anticompetitive and unfair trading practices,” she said.

UNCTAD also conducted an eTrade readiness assessment of Malawi in 2019, whose implementation could boost competition and consumer protection in the country, according to the review.