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Marketing skills of ‘Taifa’ women can be tapped

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As we are hanging out around Kasumulu, the Tanzanian township bordering Malawi at Songwe, we get convinced that some businesses back home in Malawi can rope in these Taifa women as marketing agents, officers or sales ladies.

Taifa is a derogatory term that Malawians call Tanzanian women, famed for their hospitality and ‘service’.

Most of them cannot speak good English, but be assured they are fast learners. They are also fast teachers – some of the friends I am hanging out with, have within the last few hours mastered 10 Swahili words, courtesy of the same Taifa ladies.

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“If you want to learn that language fast, just hook one of the Taifa ladies for a night, come morning you will be a fluent Swahili speaker,” remarks someone heading our direction, we all laugh.

Just immediately we conclude our immigration formalities at Kasumulu border, our team starts experiencing the ‘Taifa’ fever.

Eyes are panning all over, beating the speed of a TV camera, focusing the creativity of God in designing the features of a Taifa woman.

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“This country is blessed, how can all those women look beautiful? Hey, these are cute man! Tilimba kuno(are we going to survive here)?” Peter, our friend remarks.

Karibuni wageni (welcome visitors) says a light in complexion young lady, calling herself Pendo as we enter a restaurant just after the border. We all get excited at the way Pendo and her two colleagues welcome us.

Chakula chipo, pata chipisi mayayi, chapati, kitimoto (we have a wide range of food here, chips with eggs, chapat, and even well-done pork snack),” advertises Pendo, adding she knows Malawians like Nsima and that can be done in 15 minutes.

She adds: “But as you wait, you can sit in our bar and taste our Tanzanian beers, minerals or juices.”

With the aid of one in our group who talks a bit of Swahili we ask Pendo where she went for training as a waitress.

She gives us a wide smile before her colleague Neema says in Swahili: ‘Hapa hapa, siyendi shule, timejifunza (we did not go to any school, we learn right here through self training).

All of us are shocked that back home in Malawi, our waiters, waitresses or even owners of such joints are educated or even have formal training in hotels or restaurant operation, yet they are far from displaying good marketing skills like the Taifa ladies.

Just after 11 minutes we see the girls bringing our Nsima with fish and the dishes are well garnished, the service is excellent. “If you want anything else, let us know. We also have roasted goat meat, it is well done!” says Pendo.

There and then, our group of four decides to have fun. That later, we realise is the worst decision made as the hospitality we receive at every joint we go, makes us spend more.

“You have not had the best of Taifa women, wait until the evening!” says a Malawian Customs official we meet over Safari and Kilimanjaro beer bottles.

And, the ‘naughty’ Andrew, one of us, thinks he is in Lunzu. He asks a waitress named Aisha to accompany him to a lodge. The girl smiles but tells our colleague that Taifa ladies do not abandon their workplace for short-time sex until they knock off. “Bado nitakudia, umelala chumba gani? (Have patience, wait just tell me your room number, I will get you!”

Come morning, our friend was all smiles. “Abale inu, kuyenda uku (what an experience!)” And most in the group talk of their ‘night service’ experiences.

And Andrew talks of how Aisha sang praises for the equivalent of K2,000 she was given for her ‘good services’.

But what we all agree is how these humble Taifa women treat each customer as a king, no matter what service.

Chips in Grant: “I wish service providers and those in hospitality industry visit Kasumulu and see how waitresses host customers. Even our Lunzu and pa Kamba ‘entertainers’ in Blantyre will learn that women can also buy beers for men and not just beg!”

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