Malawi Investment Summit 2023 Touches On Importance of Energy Sector to Further Economic Growth

Malawi Investment Summit 2023 — that attracted high-level local and international delegates and key economic stakeholders that included presence of President Lazarus Chakwera — made several resolutions that are to address barriers and explore new frontiers for the country’s economic growth.

Conference resolutions that have been released highlight the energy sector as affecting the country’s fiscal challenges, with many speakers emphasising the energy sector’s importance to further the economic growth.

This follows the loss of one-third of Malawi’s electricity generation capacity, that was disabled by Cyclone Ana in 2022 at Kapichira Hydro Electricity plant but has since been restored to its full generation capacity.

The Summit discussed that to enhance it the country, taking cognizance that the other generation plants such as Nkula do face aging infrastructure challenges time again since they were commissioned long time ago, the country should look ahead to the Malawi-Mozambique interconnector project, saying a number of further problems would be resolved then.

Alongside a more diverse energy mix — including solar and hydro power — the Summit also discussed cost-reflective tariffs and improved bankability of contracts that were highlighted as essential to reassure investors and improve energy security in the country.

Currently, Electricity Generation Company (EGENCO) is hosting the all-important annual meetings of the Association of Power Utilities of Africa (APUA) from Saturday, June 3-9 at Bingu International Convention Centre (BICC) in Lilongwe — that has brought together power and energy players from Africa and other continents to deliberate on matters affecting the energy sector.

EGENCO’s APUA hosting coincides with concerns on energy challenges at the from the Investment Summit that attracted national government officials, business leaders, investors and institutions from over 10 countries that also gathered at the same BICC — programmed by Economist Impact and supported by Philip Morris International and Pyxus Agriculture.

President Chakwera was present throughout the event, which explored ways to build resilience, reduce bureaucratic barriers to investment and promote rigorous consultation between government and the private sector to unlock opportunities for growth.

Chakwera acknowledged governance dysfunctions within public institutions and external shocks — most recently the CoVID-19 pandemic, cyclones Ana, Gombe and Freddy — as the two biggest obstacles to production, international investment and growth.

Emphasising the government’s determination to tackle these challenges, he continued to position the country as the “best partner in investment” on the continent, and very much “open for business”.

In reference to the country’s debt burden, the President’s economic adviser, Chancellor Kaferapanjira noted that “the mandatory payments themselves are about 60% of total [government] expenditure, and that leaves very little fiscal space for the government to finance productive infrastructure”.

Thus Kaferapanjira emphasized that restructuring the country’s debt is, therefore, a priority and laid out the expectations that, with a little time, this will allow the government to spend more on financing development.

Also present amongst the high level delegates was regional sector manager at the African Development Bank, Farai Kanonda, who underscored four specific issues — access to foreign exchange; market stability; unclear process & communication for new projects and lack of government support.

On his part, Madalo Minofu — country manager for Ethiopia, Zambia and Malawi at the International Finance Corporation — referenced the potential to attract independent power producers (IPPs) to supply mines in the region.

The panel also highlighted the opportunity for Malawi to export power across the region, especially to its mineral-producing neighbours, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Executive director of Southern Africa Resource Watch, Claude Kabemba advised that Malawi needs a vision for its minerals and must “learn from the mistakes of other countries” to protect local communities and national resources from exploitation.

Panellists agreed that it is essential to strike a balance between boosting exploration and exports and safeguarding civil society and the environment and also stressed the need to build expertise within the government and review the policy framework to engage with international investors.

Monica Chang’anamuno, Malawi’s Minister of Mining announced the establishment of a national mining company to invest in exploration and open the door for international companies to develop mines.

In agriculture, speakers stressed on the need for urgent government consultation with the private sector to grow exports, diversify crops, reduce the input costs impeding farmers’ productivity, close knowledge gaps and create modern value chains.

Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture, Samuel Kawale was applauded when he appraised the delegates that the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) will be reformed as well as on the importance of restructuring the Agricultural Development & Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) and the government’s flagship project — megafarms to complement smaller ‘anchor farms’.

Malawi’s Ministers of Mining and Tourism highlighted growth opportunities in these two sectors, which remain relatively under-developed but have been signposted as key focus areas in the government’s agriculture, mining and tourism strategy.

The keys to unlocking Malawi’s tourism industry hinged mainly on two points — stronger destination marketing and better connections with key markets.

Jes Grüner, African Parks’ regional operations manager for Rwanda and Malawi, highlighted the importance of reliable and countrywide infrastructure to make Malawi “easy to access for holiday makers”. He also suggested following Rwanda’s strategy of “stimulating local operators to work within the country and creating local markets which fund their own income”.

Summarising conversations from the afternoon was Jonathan Rosenthal, The Economist’s Africa editor, who took note that: “It is clear there is a great deal of opportunity in Malawi, but also a lot of work to do” to achieve the desired economic growth.

Amongst featured speakers included President Chakwera, Minister of Energy, Ibrahim Matola; Minister of Tourism, Vera Kamtukule; Minister of Agriculture, Samuel Kawale,, economic adviser to the President, Chancellor Kaferapanjira; Minister of Mining, Monica Chang’anamuno; Chief Executive for Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (ESCOM), Kamkwamba Kumwenda and Ronald Ngwira, managing director for Pyxus Agriculture as those from Malawi.

The international front had Madalo Minofu (country manager, Ethiopia, Zambia & Malawi for International Finance Corporation); Farai Kanonda (regional sector manager, African Development Bank); Frank Eagar (country manager, Sovereign Metals); Claude Kabemba (executive director, Southern Africa Resource Watch); Jes Grüner (regional operations manager for Rwanda and Malawi, African Parks); Joachim De Weerdt (senior research fellow, development strategy and governance division (DSGD), International Food Policy Research Institute).

Meanwhile, Malawi Investment Forum was also hosted in South Africa In collaboration with the Malawi Mission there where Minister of Trade & Industry, Simplex Chithyola Banda represented Chakwera.

At the end of the Summit, South Africa-based Malawian economic expert Chifipa Mhango — who is Chief Economist for Don Consultancy Group — applauded Malawi for successfully organizing the first-ever in Johannesburg, saying it created more room for investors.

He spoke to Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) commending Malawi, saying the Malawi Investment Summit is in the right direction as trade and investment are key to national development.

He was quoted as saying: “Malawi has the potential of becoming Africa’s food basket if potential investors come and invest in the agriculture sector” and that dating investors offers an opportunity on how the country can spearhead its development agenda.