The city by-laws are not “restrictive” and a barrier to mounted calls for an extension of business operating hours in the country, authorities from Malawi’s three major cities have indicated.
Some stakeholders, The Daily Times spoke to of late have been blaming the limited trading hours on the operating environment which they say is not yet entirely conducive.
Unlike in other countries, most businesses in Malawi continue to operate within eight hours of the day, leaving no room for consumers to access commodities and services during lunch and after working hours, hence, calls to consider an extension of operating hours.
Random checks with the authorities and by-laws of the country’s three major cities of Blantyre, Mzuzu and Lilongwe indicate that there are no provisions stipulated to limit operation of other businesses except specific business like liquor traders and other entertainment premises.
For instance, the Blantyre City Council (BCC) by-laws show that while there are disparities in the provisions of specific licences for specific businesses, it does not restrict other designated businesses to trade during off working hours.
BCC Spokesperson, Anthony Kasunda, said each licence has a condition based on the application.
Interviews with some business operators within the city show that most of their licences do not limit them, but they said their intention to extend the hours is, however, compromised by the flow of customers during odd hours.
And in a telephone interview, Mzuzu City Council Spokesperson Karen Msiska also said their by-laws do not restrict operating hours for businesses expect for specific business operators in the entertainment industry.
“They [business operators] are at liberty to operate any hour and most of them close shops at around 7pm when the flow of consumers drops. Otherwise, there is no restriction regarding operating hours,” he said.
He further said despite concerns over security, the council in conjunction with the police patrol strategic places within the designated trading areas over night.
In Lilongwe, the scenario is almost the same, according to the City’s spokesperson Tamara Chafunya. She said except for other traders, the rest are not given restrictions on operating time.
She said in line with the by-laws, businesses are at liberty on trading hours. “There are some areas of business and in line with other sections of the by-laws are restricted because of their nature. But for the rest, operation is not restricted,” said Chafunya.
Last week, the consumer rights body, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) and some business operators said the level of the economy and security lapse remain major constraints.