For small-scale informal traders, a market can be anywhere. It does not necessarily have to be called a market.
They can turn a wedding reception place into a market. For some industrious Blantyre traders, Kamuzu Stadium has been their market from time immemorial; hence, its closure in September was a blow below their belts and its reopening last Saturday was a big relief.
Life was tough for this soft drinks and snacks trader Andrew Banda who pays for rights to sell at the stadium.
“Life was tough selling our merchandise on the streets as city security people chase us. It was tough putting food on the table and sending children to school,” said Banda.
While the fans leave the stadium counting the goals scored, the traders take stock of their businesses.
In the fans, the traders see ready customers. The 22 players and the game itself are free adverts. By extension, the reduction in the stadium capacity from 25 000 to 16 500 due to the cordoned-off terraces, translates to shrinking customer base.
To a self-styled car-park warden in his teens, the stadium is his gold mine. High-profile games attract many motorists, who translate to his increased earnings.
As a Toyota Carina pulls up, he beckons allocating it parking space he does not own. He then assures the car owner of total safety outside the stadium.
After the Big Bullets’ TNM Super League game against Mafco on December 23 2012, the first since the stadium’s reopening, the boy smiles knowing his pay is due.
“It was tough making ends meet during the stadium closure, but masitailo ndi ambiri big man [there are many survival means in town],” he says as he receives K100 for the security job. He was overseeing 10 cars.
The orphaned boy has survived on football for five years. Banda has survived longer, putting food on the table, paying bills and sending children to school.
On a good day, Banda, admits, he grosses between K4 000 and K10 000. A drink outside the stadium goes at K150 while inside the stadium it costs K250.
With all high-profile games moving to Lilongwe, some of the Blantyre traders such as Kelvin Suwedi from Blantyre’s Chilobwe Township had no choice but to take the long route to Lilongwe stadia such as Civo and Silver.
“I have saved in the region of K3 500 selling here instead of away. I once travelled to Lilongwe only to learn that someone had paid for a year’s licence to sell at Civo. I ended up selling outside. It was a loss,” said Suwedi.
Apart from being denied access to street vending, which is against city bylaws, it can also be tough wooing customers in an open space. At a football venue, the customers/fans are cornered. They have no choice but to buy a drink at any price.
Government, acting on instructions from structural engineers RD Consultants, closed the stadium just as Mighty Wanderers and Silver Strikers were about to tangle there in the Standard Bank Knockout final.
With Malawi going through economic melt-down due to the devaluation of the kwacha, making ends meet is a struggle for many, including these small scale traders who belong to the informal sector.
This sector contributes 15.6 percent to Malawi gross domestic product (GDP). Latest figures indicate that the informal sector employs 80 percent of Malawi’s workforce and supports almost 90 percent of Malawi population.
Government cannot afford to ignore this sector. Even Local Government and Rural Development Deputy Minister Augustine Mtendere admitted recently.
“Small and medium-scale businesses deserve government’s support because they offer employment to the majority of Malawians,” said Mtendere.
Business Consult Africa managing director Henry Kachaje seemed to agree with Mtendere.
“There are no doubts that in Malawi, SMEs are already contributing to the creation of formal and informal employment,” Kachaje told The Nation of October 9 2012.