The prospects of holding the Malawi International Trade Fair (Mitf)—postponed from June 20 to August 6 to 15 2019 due to political uncertainty—are still misty, causing anxiety among businesspersons that rely on such fairs to strike local or international deals.
Well-placed sources at Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism disclosed that it is unlikely that Mitf will take place from August 6, explaining that invitations to the Trade Fair are extended to international participants by the ministry, which plays the protocol role but that has not been done yet.
“Just look at the period remaining, it is very impractical to have the invitations sent and get confirmations for participation. These events require enough time for the participants to prepare,” one source from the ministry said.
Minister of Industry, Trade and Industry Salim Bagus said, in an interview on Wednesday, that his ministry was still working on invitations, among other protocol issues, for foreign firms.
“Let’s talk on Thursday or Friday [August 1 or 2] next week, we should have some information,” he said.
But the dates the minister gave, for example, August 2, is only three days away, including weekend days, to the date Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) set for the Mitf—August 6.
MCCCI chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira, organisers of the trade fairs, declined to comment on the matter when asked if this year’s Mitf was on, saying they were managing the situation.
But the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism sources disclosed such events are planned months ahead, expressing doubts that the Mitf would take place on the appointed date by MCCCI.
“Mind you this is a trade fair, which the Head of State is supposed to open and there is no way this can be planned in the absence of the confirmations from the countries expected to participate,” said another source.
Such international trade fairs, according to MCCI, help to provide business opportunities to local service providers, including tourism, bettering the Malawi economy in the process.
Ben Kalua—a professor of economics at Chancellor College—said, in an interview this week, political tension that resulted in the postponement of such important international business events, was regrettable as it was significantly contributing to shrinking of businesses and the Malawi economy.
Countries that withdrew their participation in the fair that was supposed to open on June 20 2019, are Indonesia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and China, leaving only Zimbabwe as the only country that confirmed participation.
Kalua said the current political uncertainty is seriously shrinking the Malawi economy “but we may not be able to gauge how deep as it is also recurring”.