They came from far and wide. They exhibited and struck business deals. Then, the 24th Malawi International Trade Fair (MITF) came to an end last Sunday.
Trade fairs are important as they provide a platform for networking and avenues to new markets.
It is trade which also generates foreign exchange for countries around the world. For example, Malawi trades with powerful economies such as the European Union (EU) and the United States of America in various commodities. Sugar, grown and produced at Nchalo in Chikhwawa and Dwangwa in Nkhotakota, is exported to the EU market. Tobacco is another export, in fact our major forex earner.
During the opening of the 24th MITF, President Joyce Banda said the theme, â€˜Realising Our Vision: The Export Wayâ€™, was in line with governmentâ€™s vision of creating wealth through economic growth and job creation as a means of achieving poverty eradication.
In 2004, Bandaâ€™s predecessor the late Bingu wa Mutharika (may his soul rest in peace) also unveiled the vision to “transform the economy from a predominantly consuming and importing country to a predominantly producing and exporting one.”
What I am driving at is that as a country, at least in my view, it is high time we switched from more talking to less talk and more action.
Now that the trade fair is over, it is important that we do some honest soul-searching to see how we can move forward. Each exhibitor should honestly answer the questions: What have we achieved or gained from the 24th MITF? Was it worth it? Or, was it the same old story of mere participating for brand visibility?
Business information is usually confidential but I believe it is high time organisers, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI), told the nation how much of the much proclaimed deals at the end of each recent trade fair have really materialised. This could go a long way in motivating other businesses to patronise the trade fair.
As a nation, did we realise the objectives of this yearâ€™s theme: â€˜Realising Our Vision: The Export Way?â€™
My heart bleeds to see my beloved country still exporting primary or raw agricultural products to the international market. The story from the EU last week that 99 percent of Malawiâ€™s exports were raw agriculture products was not inspiring at all. We need to add value in real terms, not just talking.