The 31st Malawi International Trade Fair (Mitf) is set to be officially opened today at its traditional base of Chichiri Trade Fair Grounds in Blantyre after being postponed in June due to post-election tension.
Organisers of the fair, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), said although the postponement has affected international exhibitors’ participation, local exhibitors have positively subscribed to the event in in large numbers.
MCCCI head of communication Millie Kasunda said in an interview yesterday that international firms taking part are from Bangladesh, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. There are 189 local exhibitors, she said.
She said: “In terms of foreign exhibitors, the numbers are not very satisfactory. We would have loved to have a good number of foreign exhibitors. The ones that withdrew their participation in June have not returned except for Mozambique and Zimbabwe.”
But Kasunda was upbeat on the state of preparedness for the fair, which she said has helped to provide business linkages to participating firms over the years.
“Exhibitors, patrons visiting the pavilions, and the public are hereby assured that the Confederation has put in place maximum safety and security measures to safeguard both lives and exhibits that will be on display during the entire period of the Trade Fair.
“We feel that for Malawi to be connected to the rest of the world, we need to be competitive; hence, the need for us to look at policies that will promote integration into regional value chains,’ she said.
The prospects of holding the fair—postponed from June 20—were in limbo, causing anxiety among businesspersons that rely on such fairs to strike local or international deals, with Indonesia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and China withdrawing their participation.
Bantu Arts and Craft chief executive officer Edward Malunga, whose firm is one of the local exhibitors at the fair, expressed hope of growing his firm’s customer base, as it has been the case with the firms during the previous fairs.
He, however, hoped for peace during the exhibitors saying the current political environment is a concern to the business community.
Thom Nedi, business manager for Maluso Cooperative Union—an umbrella body for One Village One Product (Ovop), said he was hopeful that the
cooperative will be able to secure new markets and create business
linkages for their products, which include baobab oil, Kilombero Rice, Malinga oil, cassava flour and hibiscus tea. The fair, which will be held under the theme Achieving Competitiveness Through Integration into Regional Value Chains, will run up to August 15 2019.