Commercial Imports


An importer wishing to import goods into Malawi must register with the Malawi Revenue Authority for a Tax Payer Identification Number (TPIN)  
Import Declaration
All goods imported into Malawi must be declared to Customs and duty is payable on them unless they are covered by an exemption, a suspension or they are duty free under the law.
A declaration is made by submitting a duly completed and signed Form 12 together with the following minimum mandatory supporting documents:
        (i) Supplier’s Commercial invoice
        (ii) Declaration of value Form 19
        (iii) Bill of lading/cargo manifest for sea and land cargo or air way bill for air cargo
        (iv) Shippers’ or freight invoice
        (v) Certificate of origin (to benefit from preferential trade treatment)
Declarations can be submitted electronically or manually at the port of clearance. Click here to see a list of all the Customs offices where an importer can submit a declaration and clear goods.
Goods can be presented to Customs for clearance either at a border or an inland office. Goods presented for clearance at an inland office, may have been deposited in a Private Siding, Temporary Stores or Bonded Warehouse. Goods deposited in a Private Siding must be cleared within 5 days, in a Temporary Stores, within 10 days and in Bonded Warehouse within 6 months of the day they were entered for warehousing.
At present, Malawi Revenue Authority uses ASYCUDA World (Automated System for Customs Data) for processing Bills of Entry.
Advance Declaration
In order to facilitate the process of clearing imports an importer can submit a pre-arrival Customs declaration following the same procedures as a normal declaration.  At the time of submission of a pre-arrival declaration, an importer can pay an equivalent of the duty due. However, the goods will only be released to the importer after finalisation of Customs formalities at importation. In addition, an inspection of the import will be required upon arrival of the commodity.
Customs Agents
All goods of a Customs Value of K500,000.00 and above are presented to Customs through a Customs Agent appointed by the importer.
Classification and Value
Customs duty is payable on imported goods as a percentage of their declared value.  The rate of duty payable on goods imported into Malawi varies according to the commodity and the country of origin.  
Commodities are classified using the 8-digit Harmonized System (HS) Code which is maintained and, from time to time, amended by the World Customs Organization (WCO). 
One can view the full Malawi Tariff Classification and Tariff rates on this website with the Commodity Search Facility.
It is an importer’s responsibility to declare the correct classification, origin, value and quantity of the goods imported. If in doubt, seek advice from the Customs Division of the MRA
The basis for the calculation of duties is the actual transaction value of the goods (as evidenced by the commercial invoice or other contract of sale document).  If the value of the goods cannot be established by this method Customs will attempt to establish the value of the goods using 5 more methods in line with Article 7 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT 1947). Malawi uses the Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) principle in determination of Value for Duty Purposes (VDP).
Payment of Duties
Once a declaration has been assessed by and presented to Customs, an importer will be required to pay the duty due.  At most customs offices payment is made through the bank using cash or bank certified cheques. Once the payment is confirmed and the declaration is processed, goods are released to the importer using a Release Order.
Goods Imported under Bonded Warehouse Regime
Certain goods as prescribed under the law can be imported into Malawi under the Bonded Warehouse Regime if an importer is not intending to release them for circulation immediately. Duty will be suspended for the period the goods are in the bonded warehouse (a total of 6 months) and will be payable when the goods are finally released into circulation.
There are different types of bonded warehouses. Please refer to the relevant article of the Customs Law.
Temporary Imports
Goods can be imported under the Temporary Imports regime in the following circumstances:
  • Goods necessary for the manufacture, processing, assembly, transformation or repair of items which will subsequently be re-exported (“inward processing”),
  • Vehicles imported for the purpose of project supervision or for tourism or business visits as long as they are re-exported by the allotted time,
  • Materials required for project supervision purposes,
  • Exhibition, educational or scientific materials.
For these types of import an importer must submit a declaration under Temporary Imports regime. No duties are payable on these imports. However, the importer will be required to pay security which is the equivalent of the duty which shall be refunded upon submission of proof of re-exportation.
In all the above cases certain documents or permits, depending on the goods, must be obtained from the relevant authority and presented to Customs. Before importing goods under this regime please contact Customs to obtain advice as to what documentation will be required for specific circumstances.
To import a vehicle into the country for the purpose of a temporary visit an importer needs to make a declaration under the Temporary Imports regime to Customs at the border crossing.  An importer must present a valid Registration Certificate for that vehicle. Vehicles imported under this regime must be re-exported within the allotted timeframe.
For goods imported for exhibition purposes security in form of a bond, guarantee or cash deposit, is payable to Customs which is refunded when the goods are re-exported.
Exemption from Customs duties and other obligations are available for diplomatic missions, for goods imported under a government investment promotion scheme or for certain economic zone and for other goods to be imported under certain circumstance.
An example is the Industrial Rebate Scheme. Under the Scheme, goods imported by registered manufacturers are exempted from Import Duty and Excise, but import VAT is payable. Use of this procedure implies a legal declaration that the goods are for the sole use in the industry declared and that the declarant and importer will comply with all legal requirements and conditions relating to Industrial Rebate. Please click here to see list of commodities that fall under this Scheme.
Another example are exemptions and incentives accruing to investors to Malawi under the Investment and Export Promotion Act (2012) implemented through the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC). The MITC has a One-Stop-Window which processes all applications and issues the certificates. Qualifying activities that have been prioritized and are being promoted according to Section 5 of the ACT.
Prohibited Goods
Before importing goods into Malawi an importer should ensure that the goods do not fall into the category of prohibited goods.  Prohibited goods cannot be imported, exported, transited, sold or circulated in Malawi. Among prohibited goods are narcotics, psychotropic substances and hazardous chemical substances.  Refer to the specific laws and regulations that cover these prohibitions. 
If in doubt, seek advice from the Director for Trade in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism (MIOTT).
Controlled/Restricted Goods
Before importing controlled or restricted goods into Malawi, an importer should ensure that the goods have the necessary permits and licenses issued by appropriate authorities. An importer should refer to the specific laws and regulations that cover these restrictions. 
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Requirements
If the goods you intend to import are subject to sanitary and phytosanitary measures you will have to comply with the special regulations relating to those products.  You can find out on this website which commodities are subject to these requirements by using the search facilities on the Commodity Search page.
Normally, you may need to get a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture specific department depending on what you are intending to import.  A detailed description of the procedures and documentation required can be found on the Procedures page of this website.
Malawi has established an SPS Enquiry Point as required by the WTO SPS Agreement as follows:

Food Safety:

Director General, Malawi Bureau of Standards, Tel:+265 1 870 488; Email: 

Animal Health:

Director, Department of Animal Health and Livestock Development; Tel: +265 1 753 055;

Plant Protection:

Director, Agriculture Research Services, Chitedze Research Station; Tel+265 1 767 222;
You can contact the SPS Enquiry Point if you have any questions regarding sanitary and phytosanitary requirements. 
Technical Requirements
For certain types of products it may be necessary to obtain a permit that certifies that these products conform to certain technical standards.These technical regulations are administered by the Malawi Bureau of Standards.
You can find out on this website which commodities are subject to these requirements by using the search facilities on the Commodity Search page. A detailed description of the procedures and documentation required can also be found on the Procedures page of this website.
Malawi Bureau of Standards is the designated Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Enquiry Point as required under the World Trade Organization TBT Agreement. You can contact the TBT Enquiry Point if you have any questions regarding technical standards. For more information visit the Malawi Bureau of Standards website.

Cross-Border Trade

Malawi has a Simplified Trade Regime (STR) Agreement under the auspices of COMESA with Zambia and Zimbabwe in the region.

Under the STR governments have agreed on a list of products that do not require such a certificate for small consignments. The list is displayed at the border posts and is available at the offices of the Cross Border Traders Association and Malawi Revenue Authority both at the border and in the main cities. A COMESA Simplified Declaration and Certificate of Origin can be obtained at the border post and is signed by the Customs Office.

The STR is about proving the origin for the goods in a simple way. Some goods such as agriculture products obviously originate in one country. Other items, especially manufactures, may be made up of parts from other countries outside COMESA. There are special rules that determine whether a good can be considered to be of ‘local origin’, depending on what proportion of the material is imported, or what percentage of the value added is local.

Only goods of value of up to USD 1000.00 are eligible under the STR. For further information on import requirements, make reference to the Commercial Imports guidelines.

  • Click here for the complete guidelines of the STR Regime.
  • Click here for the procedure on how to process goods under the STR Regime