Buying and Selling

flag Malawi Malawi: Buying and Selling

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | E-commerce | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
International Economic Cooperation
Malawi trade memberships:

WTO since 1995
• Cotonou Agreement
• Southern African Development Community (SADC)
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).
• African Growth and Opportunity Act beneficiary country
• Malawi signed a bilateral trade agreement with South Africa, under which a number of export products may enter the South African market at reduced rates of import duty
• Malawi signed a preferential trade agreement with Mozambique with the intention that Malawi export products to the neighbouring country are duty-free.

Non Tariff Barriers
Malawi operates an import and export-licensing system with restrictions largely based on health, safety, and national security reasons.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
Customs duty is applicable on goods imported into Malawi. The basis for calculating duty combines cost, insurance, and freight (CIF). There are three types of import duties: customs duty, import excise, and import VAT. The rate of custom duty varies from one product to another.
According to data from the World Bank, the average rate of import taxes was 9.2% in 2016

Customs Classification
Malawi is a member of the World Customs Organisation and does comply with the harmonised customs system.
Import Procedures
According to customs regulations, the following documents can be demanded by customs officials:

 Advice note
 Bill of lading
 Certificate of origin
 Commercial invoice
 Malawi Revenue Authority Form 12
 Customs declaration for Mozambique (transit document)
 Delivery order
 Malawi Revenue Authority Form 19
 Inspection report from scanner (transit document)
 Packing list
 Release order
 Report order

Additionally, requirements vary slightly depending on the mode of transport into Malawi:

Transport by road vehicle:

 A complete list of the goods carried
 Copies of all waybills
 Copies of consignment notes

Transport by aircraft:

 Manifests of the cargo signed by an authorized person at the point of departure
 Lists of the passengers and crew
 Lists of any goods on board which are accompanying passengers (i.e., baggage)
 The clearance, if any, from the last foreign port
 The aircraft's journey log book

Transport by train:

 Copies of invoices
 Delivery and advice notes
 Other documents for goods which will enter at that port
 Lists of all goods carried on the train other than the cargo
 A "Clean Report of Findings" from the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) affiliate in the exporting country is also required.
Importing Samples
There is no specific procedures for samples shipments. Sample shipments require the same set of documents as a normal shipment. The value of goods should still appear on the commercial invoice indicating "for customs clearance purpose only'' on the invoice. Zero value invoices are not acceptable.
For Further Information
Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA)
Business Portal for Africa

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Main Advertising Agencies
Softek Malawi
Exp Agency
Phoenix Multimedia Malawi

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector

The three main cities (Blantyre, Lilongwe, and Mzuzu) are the ones where supermarkets are the most common. In fact, product distribution in Malawi can be problematic since some rural areas are difficult to reach and become inaccessible during the rainy season. Besides, purchasing power is much lower outside cities. The market is controlled by foreign companies such as Shoprite, SPAR and Pick n Pay Stores.

Market share
There are several retailers and wholersalers all over the territory, both national and international companies:
- Shoprite
- Chipiku
- Pick n Pay Stores
- Superior Food Market
In parrallel, traditional retail is still present with independent convenience and mini market stores.

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Internet access
Data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) shows that as of December 2017 Malawi had an internet penetration rate of 9.5%.
According to a 2017 report issued by the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (Cipesa), Malawi, which has four operational telecommunication service providers, including Airtel and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM), has the lowest penetration rate for mobile services in southern Africa, only 36%. The service offered can be unreliable, with a weak signal and daily congestion. Call rates are also among the highest in the region.
A national fibre backbone is nearing completion, while the country recently gained access to international submarine fibre optic cables via a transit link from neighbouring countries.
The most popular web search engines in Malawi are Google (93.3%), Bing and Yahoo (5.5% and 1.6% respectively).
E-commerce market
E-commerce is still in its infancy in Malawi, as the country lacks the ICT and online payment infrastructures necessary to boost this sector.
In UNCTAD’s 2018 B2C E-commerce Index, Malawi ranked 134th out of 151 economies worldwide in terms of e-commerce, and 31st out of 44 African countries.
Recently, banks and mobile network providers have been working to implement m-commerce applications including m-banking, m-shopping, mobile information services, m-marketing and m-health. However, the range of applications is being limited by a number of technical, business and policy challenges. For example, with TNM Mpamba or Airtel Money, Malawians are able to pay water bills, buy prepaid electricity tokens, pay television subscription and buy phone vouchers. Malawi’s e-commerce market offers a small range of goods and services, with being the biggest marketplace.
Main social networks used in the country are Facebook (with an estimated 720,000 users as of December 2017, a 3.8% penetration rate), Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube; while Whatsapp is the main instant messaging app.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Port of Chipoka
Chileka International Airport (BLZ)
Lilongwe International Airport (LLW)
Sea Transport Organisations
Ministry of Transport and Public Works
Air Transport Organisations
Civil Aviation Authority of Malawi
Road Transport Organisations
Malawi Roads Authority
Rail Transport Organisations
Ministry of Transport and Public Works

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
According to data from the CIA, the industrial sector contributes an estimated 15.4% of GDP, agriculture 28.6% and services sector 56%. Main industrial sub-sectors are manufacturing and food processing. Main crops produced in the country are tobacco, tea, coffee, sugarcane, cotton, sorghum, potatoes and corn (maize). Segments found under the tertiary sector include tourism, health services, the banking sector, and telecommunications.

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories
Malawi YP - Malawi's business directory

To search directories by industry in Malawi, check out our service Business Directories.

Professional Associations by Sector
1 professional associations listed for Malawi.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Malawi Trade Portal
Malawi Investment and Trade Centre
General Professional Associations
Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry
Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (ECAM)

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Latest Update: May 2024