The 28th Malawi International Trade Fair (Mitf), which was officially opened by President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday, has started on a low note with some of the foreign exhibitors yet to arrive in the country.
Despite a large crowd witnessed during the opening, the second day of the fair proved the opposite.
At the opening of the second day, only a handful of people could be seen visiting the ordinary stands around the Trade Fair Grounds while the pavilions in the Chichiri Conference Centre Hall, convertible car park stands and open grounds were barely patronised.
Out of the six participating countries in the fair, only Tanzania, India and Kenya have set up pavilions while Zimbabwe, Poland and Mozambique are yet to show up.
Some of the exhibitors The Nation interviewed expressed dissatisfaction on the low patronage.
Chombe Foods Limited general manager Gresham Thomas, whose firm has two pavilions, one in the Chichiri Conference Centre Hall and another in the open grounds, said he hoped more people will come as the fair progresses.
“Basically, the trade fair is a positive development although the turn up has not been as expected, but we think this being the second day, the momentum will pick up,” he said.
Similarly, Teras marketing manager Ronald Amos was optimistic of patronage improving over the weekend.
“The day has started on a low note, as you can see the grounds are empty, but we are not losing hope as this is almost midweek and people are working. We expect to see an improvement towards the weekend,” he said.
However, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chief operating officer Chimwemwe Luhanga attributed the low turnout to the change in the opening dates from May 20 to 17.
“As MCCCI, we are satisfied with the progress that we are making. We are mindful that the fair started on a different date from the initial plan. So looking at the patrons who are coming in, we are ok and we hope that patronage will pick over the weekend,” he said.
Luhanga said the chamber has since spoken to the three participating countries and have since assured them of their participation by Friday.
He said the chamber is yet to witness the seal of some business deals. He, therefore, called on the public to make time and patronise the trade fair and appreciate some of the innovations being made in the trade sector.
The trade fair, which is being held under the theme “Achieving Competitiveness through Innovation”, has attracted 170 companies, including 14 foreign exhibitors, occupying 248 pavilions. n