President Joyce Banda’s entrepreneurship background has given hope to local small and medium scale entrepreneurs in the country who believe the president would easily understand and advance their interests.

Indigenous Business Association of Malawi (Ibam) President Mike Mlombwa said on Thursday that the fact that President Banda operated business and headed an association that promoted local entrepreneurship makes her one of their own.

“She has run business in various sectors of the economy and she also founded the Nabw (National Association Business Women). What other business links would you require from a state president,” said Mlombwa.

Mlombwa said, among other things, local entrepreneurs want government to prefer Malawian owned business were awarding tenders and government business contracts.

“Foreigners cannot develop the country’s economy,” said Mlombwa, adding: “It is us Malawians ourselves who can develop this country.”

He said Ibam also wants government to come up with laws that protect local business operators from unfair competition from foreigners, including designation of areas and sectors of the economy where only locals should be allowed to operate.

“Foreigners should only be allowed to operate business in the central business districts of the cities. Townships, trading centres and rural areas should be for locals only,” said Mlombwa.

He said small and medium scale types of business such as grocery stores, hawkers, bottle stores, restaurants, rest houses, minibuses, local transportation and filling stations should also be preserved for indigenous Malawians only.

“Why should an investor come all the way from China to operate a bottle store in Mangochi? Where will Malawians operate business if we allow Nigerians and Burundians to run business in Kawale and Biwi? These are the things we expect the government to change,” said Mlombwa.

He said the government should also study local business empowerment laws in South Africa and Zimbabwe and explore the possibility of coming up with similar laws catering for the interests of local entrepreneurs in the country.

“For example, government can come up with a law that makes it mandatory for any foreign investors to include local ownership as a condition for their investment in the country,” said Mlombwa.

He said Malawians have to be given meaningful ownership of the economy if they are supported to acquire ownership in big corporations such as Kayelekera Uranium Mine, IndeBank, Central East African Railways, Sunbird and others where government has interests that could be off-loaded for citizen ownership.

Mlombwa also suggested that government should fully involve local entrepreneurs in the economic diversification drive.

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