Working Paper 11: Challenges to soya export promotion: An institutional analysis of trade policy in Malawi

Malawi relies heavily on tobacco for export earnings. One strategy for promoting a more stable and vibrant economy is to diversify away from tobacco and broaden its export base to high potential commodities like soya. This study hypothesizes that there are institutional barriers impeding consistent growth in soya exports and seek to identify the critical ones and undertakes an institutional analysis of the soya export sector. Using a qualitative research approach based on semi-structured interviews, it examines: a) the policy environment, b) the exporters and the regulatory actors, c) the framework of legal rules and requirements for exporting soya, and d) the ways in which the policy environment and regulatory framework influence actor behavior.

We find a highly centralized policy and governance environment that, when faced with a decision, is more likely to add layers of regulation than rely on market forces, in spite of low enforcement capacity.  Regarding actors’ behavioral responses to the regulatory framework and the policy environment, we find inconsistent application of rules and regulations, highlighted by time variations, perceived discretionary power, and lack of enforcement; these inconsistencies are driven by lack of capacity to implement the requirements effectively due to understaffing and infeasibility of enforcement.

By Noora-Lisa Aberman and Brent Edelman, 2014

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