The 31st Malawi International Trade Fair (MITF) started Thursday but on a low note with reduced number of local participants while some of the foreign exhibitors were also yet to arrive in the country.
President Peter Mutharika did not show up to grace opening of the fair, breaking away from tradition. There was no usual pomp and fun-fair that accompanies the exhibition as few people, mostly exhibitors, attended the opening ceremony graced by organiser, Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) Chief Executive Officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira.
The fair was postponed in June due to post-election tension which has affected international exhibitors’ participation. At least 187 local companies are participating in the fair this year compared to 224 companies that took part last year.
According to Kaferapanjira, the exhibition has attracted only three foreign exhibitors, two from Mozambique and Zimbabwe which are already in the country, and one from Bangladeshi, who is yet to arrive but confirmed participation.
“However, considering the prevailing political environment pre and post May 21 2019 General Elections, we are contented with this level of participation,” Kaferapanjira said. He said an official opening ceremony would be held along the way.
There were, however, mixed feelings from the exhibitors. One of the local exhibitors who opted for anonymity said it was doubtful the fair would have an impact on her business. “I urge the organisers to remove gate fees for visitors and increase the frequency of adverts for a lot of people to know and come to this place. Imagine we will not be displaying our merchandise on Tuesdays because of the demonstrations so what benefit will it be to us?” wondered the exhibitor.
Exhibitor Edward Malunga of Bantu Arts and Crafts was, however, optimistic that the situation would improve as the fair gains momentum. The trade fair, is being held under the theme ‘Achieving Competitiveness through Integration into Regional Value Chains’.