Curio vendors in Lilongwe have said they are concerned about restrictions imposed by authorities on the exportation of wooden souvenirs.
The vendors raised the concerns when the National Lotteries Board (NLB) officially handed over a K40 million shelter to the vendors.
Lilongwe Curio Market Chairperson, Edward Sengwazabambo Chisale, said it is unfortunate that the government does not realise that curio trading has the potential to bring increased foreign exchange earnings if given necessary attention and establish policies that can promote the trade.
Chisale said, in recent months, the number of tourists visiting and buying souvenirs has significantly dwindled due to the restrictions.
“Since 2016, our customers have been complaining that when they buy souvenirs from us, the items are confiscated at the airport because there are restrictions in taking such items out of the country,” Chisale said.
He, however, expressed gratitude to NLB, saying the shelter would help promote souvenir trading.
“This is a wonderful gesture because we have been trading in the sun for so many years. Business was affected every time it rained but now we will freely do our businesses,” Chisale said.
Director of Tourism in the Ministry of Tourism, Industry and Trade, Isaac Katopola, said his ministry will engage their colleagues in the Department of Forestry to find a solution to the problem.
“It is a sad development and it is bringing a bad reputation to our country. We need to work together so that we have a system where we can allow them to export in small quantities without any problem and that can be achieved if we establish an office that will be issuing export licences to the tourist right here where there is a market,” Katopola said.
NLB Chief Executive Officer, Master Maliro, said his firm is committed to promoting the curio business by providing the vendors with a decent market.
Maliro said NLB is constructing a similar structure in Blantyre.
“In the first place, it is our mandate to conduct such projects. In gaming, people win and sometimes they lose money, so it is our duty to make sure that the money that is lost is given back to the people through investments in the various sectors of the economy,” Maliro said.