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The story of female car dealer

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Driving along Chipembere Highway one admires the infrastructure and beautified roundabouts as business as usual, however, one can also not miss something unusual about a woman sitting on her chair among men around Chichiri Trade Fair, Awumi Association.

Who is this woman and what is she doing among the male car dealers? Buying a car perhaps?

Those are quick questions that pop up in most people’s minds.

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Well, her name is Maria Chirwa, aged 47 years, from Kasinje Village in Traditional Authority (T/A) Ganya in Ntcheu and she is not your everyday woman considering her bravado and hardworking spirit that has seen her making a huge impact in the male-dominated car industry.

Awumi Association, like many other car dealing agencies, is known for having male car dealers who buy and sale Japanese used cars and Chirwa is one distinctive lady who has broken the ceiling and excelled in the industry.

“Some people think I am a prostitute or a confused lady who is always doing dirty business with some mafias in town. However, the opposite is true, I am a focused happily married woman who is in the business of buying and selling cars,” Chirwa explains.

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According to F & I Managers — a company that deals in selling cars — there are a handful of car sales women who are doing better in the car sales business than men citing stigma and misconceptions as some of the barriers.

Chirwa says: “I started this business in 2011 just after retiring from National Electricity Council where I was working as a personal assistant to the director general. After I was given my retirement money, I sat down with my husband, George Chirwa, who is a Lecturer at the Catholic University to strategise on what I should do next and I proposed to invest my money into buying and selling Japanese used cars.”

Chirwa’s husband did not hesitate but allowed her to start the business and, happily, Chirwa is now a well-known car dealer at Awumi Association which is a grouping of people who buy and sale cars.

“I go and buy used cars in Dubai but mostly I prefer to go and buy these used cars in Durban, South Africa because the process in Durban is rather easier and faster than that in Dubai though in Dubai it’s much cheaper and descent but it takes a long time to access the cars you have ordered,” Chirwa says.

Chirwa says in order for one to be a professional car saleswoman and make a six-figure income, there are many skills and talents that one requires.

For starters, one has to get their buyer to open up in order to talk to each other freely. Also, as a dealer, you need to find out their reasons and true motivation for buying a particular car and lastly one needs to make their customer feel comfortable to make that big purchase.

Moreover, Chirwa says being a female car dealer has an added advantage because buyers tend to trust a female more than a male when it comes to such huge purchases.

Currently, Chirwa says the car business has seen her buying her own land and building her own house in Chirimba where she is residing with her husband and family.

However, the business like any other also faces a number of challenges.

“Currently, the main problem is the economic situation the country is facing. Each time the Malawian kwacha depreciates, the dollar gains ground and this means we have to pay more for the cars. For example, in the past I used to make a profit of K250,000 or K300,000 per car but now I make about K100,000 profit or even less,” Chirwa says.

But despite the challenges which have seen Maria driving the ordered car alone through a long distance from Durban to Malawi, she says she has the ambition to broaden her horizon and buy trucks and venture into the transportation industry.

“In five years’ time if God keeps me alive, I want to buy a few trucks so that I should be transporting goods and containers across southern Africa. I see nothing impossible for me to achieve as long as I work my tail off to achieve that,” Chirwa says.

She advises fellow women not to look down upon themselves but rather live a life which is promising to their families and the country.

Economist Henry Kachaje notes that women are not to be sidelined in business but rather included and empowered in small-scale businesses and entrepreneurship if Malawi is to develop.

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