Lilongwe, Wednesday 20 July 2016: The Malawi Enterprise Productivity Enhancement (MEPE) Project has helped over one hundred cooperatives and Small and Medium Enterprises from eight districts in value addition, market linkages, standards and providing capacity building training since January this year.

The project was financed under the under the COMESA Adjustment Facility (CAF) funded by the European Union to the tune of 1.4 million Euros. It was approved in 2013 and 2014 and it is expected to help policy and regulatory reforms by ensuring that COMESA regional instruments are ratified and domesticated.

During a visit to Malawi where he attended he participated in the MEPE Project Steering Committee Meeting Secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya described the project as life changing.

“This intervention has changed the lives of the communities by enabling them have access to more, better and bigger markets,” he noted. “Very soon the impact is expected to be greater when the production equipment is upgraded and factory warehouses are introduced. There will also be enhanced training to be conducted at the centers of excellence.”

Additional 713, 000 Euros

He expressed satisfaction with the progress that the project has made and indicated that an additional allocation of 713, 000 Euros would be provided next year to further support what is being done here in uplifting the SMEs.

MEPE is also expected to improve productivity of oil seed processing of SMEs and cooperatives through enhanced capacity in the edible oils value chain to increase domestic and intra-COMESA trade in addition to textiles, clothing, and leather and leather accessories.

Through this project, the SMEs are now able to manufacture products that are certified by the Malawi Bureau of Standards thus making the products not only acceptable in Malawi but in the COMESA and SADC markets as well. The leather sector is also making high quality footwear which can easily be exported to the region and beyond.

Secondly, the project will catalyze local production of garments and textiles such as uniforms, national wear and fabrics, leather and leather products that is shoes, wallets, bags and belts by strengthening participation of selected SMEs and cooperatives in domestic, regional and international trade.

Uplifting lives

Speaking at the same meeting, Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Industry Mr Cliff Chiunda described the MEPE project as key in uplifting the lives of the people in the country. He added that the government would work with the communities to ensure continuity and sustainability of the project.

“MEPE has had significant impact on the people so as a ministry we are keen to ensure that it continues to spread and reach a bigger number of SMEs and cooperatives,” Mr Chiunda added.

During the meeting, Mr Ngwenya was briefed on the various activities that are being undertaken to ensure that the project goals are achieved within the agreed timeframe. The need for continuity and sustainability of the project after the EU funding closes was also highlighted.

He commended Malawi Revenue Authority for using their officers to work as Trade Information Desk Officers at the border posts. He further assured the committee that COMESA Secretariat would work closely with them to ensure that the necessary equipment needed to support the SMEs is procured and handed over before the end of this year.

The Secretary General and later met representatives of the various SMEs working in the textile, leather and edible oil sectors.

The MEPE project is funded by the 9th European Development Fund through the Regional Integration Support Mechanism (RISM) programme with the deadline for implementation being 31st December 2016. MEPE project is a catalyst of the Buy Malawi Strategy.