The only solution to bring import goods at cheaper costs for Malawi is to resuscitate the use of rail from the sea ports.

Hon Ken Kandodo M.P., Minister of Labour is quoted as having been bemoaning the negative effect of smuggling on government efforts to implement the strategy to create 1 million jobs.

Smuggling is seen to be a thorn in Malawi's economic flesh, according to The Daily Times of March 25, 2021, headline.

The same newspaper, the previous day published a story quoting Mr Tiyese Chiumbuzo Deputy Commissioner of Police and Officer In Charge for Karonga Police Station reporting that he had deployed a vehicle to Kaporo Police Post following a directive by the Inspector General.

This was in response to an earlier newspaper article on smuggling across the Songwe river. This vehicle is met to help in the fight against cross border smuggling.

In recent times there have been complaints about smuggling between Malawi and its three neighbours of Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

The fundamental question that begs an answer is: What are the pull factors that lead to the smuggling of goods and commodities into the country?

Some of the most common commodities smuggled into Malawi are cooking oil, wheat flour, fizzy drinks and snacks.

Are these goods not manufactured and available in Malawi?

The answer is that there are. What however, makes smuggled goods attractive are two factors; the goods are cheaper, better branded and packaged. At times there are also of better quality too.

Malawian industries have to face this challenge by producing products that are of quality, well branded, packaged and at affordable prices compared to smuggled goods if we are to overcome the challenges posed by smuggling.

The immediate argument against this is that industries get their raw materials from abroad at very high transportation costs.

This is the devil that Malawi created for itself by destroying the railway line infrastructure from the coast, the Nacala corridor and the Baira line. Malawi opted for road freight.

The development of the Mtwara corridor has been a song we love to sing but have never danced to it's tune.

The only solution to bring import goods at cheaper costs for Malawi is to resuscitate the use of rail from the sea ports.

Lusaka is more inland than Lilongwe. Goods are cheaper in Lusaka than Lilongwe because of Zambia's utilisation of the Tazara rail line.

Goods ride cheaper on trains than trucks. As long as these products are cheaper in our neighborhood, smuggling will thrive. This is a self inflicted wound.

The other important element in the fight against smuggling is to deal with corruption within the law enforcement authorities; Malawi Revenue Authority, Malawi Police Service, Immigration and Intelligence.

To say that these enforcement agencies have no information about smuggling cartels, and routes would be a palpable lie of the greatest magnitude and proportion.

If that was true, it would mean Malawi is not in safe hands. The step that the Inspector General has taken to provide a vehicle to Kaporo Police Unit is just a small step in the right direction.

For example, every police officer, Customs officer, Intelligence officer or Immigration officer that works in between Karonga and Songwe border knows the many houses from Kaporo to Songwe that operate as Warehouses.

To say, like The Daily Times article stated that the boat owners that help smugglers cross the Songwe river are Tanzanians is also not completely true.

The boat owners are made of both Tanzanians and Malawians. These Malawians speak perfect Swahili.

Law enforcement officers know this. We have to admit that Malawians are involved in smuggling, this tendency to always push the blame of our security problems to foreigners is one of our major weakness as a people.

Let us adopt this three pronged approach in the fight against cross border smuggling: make our own goods attractive and cheaper, opt for rail freight of imports of raw materials and implement corrupt free law enforcement.