Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) president Karl Chokotho and Lilongwe-based businessperson Pyoka Tembo have differed on why foreign-owned businesses prosper at the expense of locally-owned ones.
Speaking in separate interviews in the context of a number of holidays the country has and the fact that Malawians work during the day, Tembo said most Malawians love to sleep over work or business, making it difficult for them to prosper.
He called for mindset change if local businesses are to prosper.
“In a day, there are 24 hours and we work for eight hours and sleep for eight hours as well. This is not on, we need to sleep fewer hours and work more hours if we have to develop further.
“Even if it means having shifts, there is need to do that because it increases productivity. What I also dislike is that most workers are spending more time on Facebook and WhatsApp and in the end companies are suffering because productivity goes down,” said Tembo, who is managing director of Pick Fit, a company that deals in tyres based in Lilongwe.
He said chain stores such as Game, Shoprite and Chipiku need to be open even after midnight if people are to spend more.
“In Malawi by seven in the evening our shopping centres are deserted. How can we encourage people to spend if shops are closed early?
“Government must provide a conducive environment for companies to operate even after seven,” said Tembo.
In reaction, Chokotho said Tembo’s view is just a simplistic view of looking at the business environment and how Malawian businesses are not growing.
He said there a myriad of reasons why local entrepreneurs and companies are not growing, but it is not because of lack of effort.
Argued Chokotho: “Rest is necessary for success because even in countries where people work late into the night, the workers are given time off to sleep. To me, saying that Malawians love to sleep is just a simplistic view of looking at what is stifling businesses.
“For businesses to survive, you need to have proper infrastructure in place, reliable energy and affordable lending rates, among many others.”
Chokotho gave an example of cotton farmers whom he said have suffered greatly this year even after working hard, but have only managed to produce about 15 000 tonnes.
“Even if we are moving up on the ranking of ease of doing business, we need to do much more. Malawians are hardworking people and are innovative,” he said.