Malawian exhibitors at COMESA feel abandoned by government

Malawian exhibitors at the Malawian desk at the ongoing 16th summit of the COMESA heads of state and government feels government has abandoned them as no official from Ministry of trade and other government officials or the MCCI has visited their stand ever since they started displaying their merchandise.

Minister of trade, John Bande however denied that they have abandoned the exhibitors but said poor communication is the problem.

According to the two ladies on the Malawi stand, 56 year old Elizabeth Chikoyo and 31 year old Tamara Banda; their stand is less patronized by people as well as the government officials.

On the low patronage by people, the duo contributed it to tight security the area they are displaying their merchandise is placed but blamed government officials for not even showing up.

“We could have loved if our government officials came here to see our stand and hear our grievances, we have some issues that we would like government to note, but ever since we started they haven’t come yet until today we are closing nobody is coming,” said Tamara Banda.

Malawi exhibitors at the COMESA Summit in Kampala, Uganda.-Photo credit -Mana

Banda is the owner of Kafutaro imports and export which specializes in making hand bags using local chitenje, hessians and also earrings and other jewels.

Banda said in some stands they have seen ministers of those countries come and witness the displays but theirs not.

“For example on the Zambian stand their minister came and they told him what they feel needs to be changed and improved, but not with us, we understand this whole summit is discussing about how they can improve SMEs, why is it that our own government isn’t making efforts to visit us here to listen to our problems?” queried Banda.

In agreement with Banda, Chikoyo said it was just unfortunate that government is discussing issues to do with SMEs but trade officials are not making the efforts to visit the so called exhibitors who have come to represent all SMEs in Malawi.

The duo however thanked COMESA for considering them to be part of the exhibitions and said they have learnt a lot from the trip.

“It was COMESA which bought us air tickets to come here, we paid our accommodation and some other extra luggage, but all in all we have learnt a lot of things from our fellow exhibitors,” she said.

She said the only thing they are asking from government is to help them improve their packaging and training in value addition as they have seen that their friends from other countries are ahead of them in these areas and many others.

During the summit the COMESA Business forum discussed of introduction of cluster programme to bring together the SMEs whose products are the same so that they help them find markets.

Chikoyo said they feel the programme is good and a welcome idea as it will help boost businesses of many Malawians who lack markets for their products.

“We welcome the idea of clusters but we still ask government to provide us with training on this as you know it is difficult to work as a group in Malawi without any training, so we welcome the idea but need training,” she said.

But Trade Minister John Bande told MANA that they learnt of the women being at exhibitions whilst in Uganda because he was not communicated as all their preparations were done by COMESA.

The minister said poor patronage at the women’s stand was due to poor communication between COMESA and Malawi government which would have made some arrangements to make known of the Malawi exhibition.

“We haven’t neglected them, its only that there wasn’t proper communication between them and us, they were communicating straight to COMESA through National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME) not us, so that was the problem, we didn’t neglect them, it is just poor communication,” Bande explained.

“We knew that we had MIPA on the exhibitions we have learnt about these women here, but all in all we will visit their stand today before they dismantle, we can’t abandon them, they are representing Malawi as well,” he said.

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