Exhibitors at the just-ended Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Summit in Lilongwe say the domestic market is a key starting point to gauge consumer acceptance of products on the market before breaking into regional markets and beyond.
In separate interviews, the exhibitors said with the Covid-19 pandemic restricting movement of people and goods, the domestic market is the key option.
Dedza Pottery assistant manager Chifuno Stevens said while the local market anchors the business, regional markets are critical for business expansion and economic growth.
She said they showcased export quality handcrafted ceramic products such as dinner and kitchen wares, necklaces, bracelets and construction materials.
Stevens said they are hoping to find markets in the Sadc region, especially with their bobbin insulators that can be used in the Malawi-Mozambique Power Interconnection Project that will run for about 200 kilometres.
She said: “We would love our bobbin insulators to be used in the project.
“This project will not only help to boost the economy, but it will also open up job opportunities for Malawians.”
Stevens said they can produce between 2 000 to 3 000 bobbin insulators per month.
On her part, Nyasa Mining Cooperative Limited director of social and welfare Linda Mpande said they used to enjoy the Sadc region gems and jewelry market before Covid-19 struck, but now they are largely relying on the domestic market for their value-added products.
“The outsourcing aspect of equipment makes our products a bit expensive, but if we could have our own equipment, these export quality products could have been affordable to most consumers,” she said.
Namikango Coffee Roastery marketing consultant Manota Mphande said they produce quality products.
“Our business model has been designed to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic environment by operating on business to business approach, we are a startup and we are just breaking through the market,” he said.
In an earlier interview, Minister of Trade Sosten Gwengwe faulted local businesses for being too comfortable with the domestic market, resulting in the widening of the country’s trade deficit.
Last week, Malawi hosted the Sadc Heads of State and Government Summit from Tuesday to Wednesday, which, among others, discussed how to deal with trading challenges among member States to integrate the region.