Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Wiskesi Nkombezi, said government is also concerned that although the state does not regulate trading hours, the business community has chosen to restrict trading.
Most business operators in the country operate between 8am and 5pm and the development has attracted criticism from consumers who feel that such a regime is restricting their freedom to make purchases during times that are more convenient to them.
Nkombezi said government is ready to hold discussions with the private sector to map the way forward.
“Trading hours are a problem in Malawi. When the economy is growing, it is important for businesses to open for longer periods. Actually, the funny part is that a lot of business open when people are busy in offices and they close when these people are free to go buy various items. We agree with the idea that business hours should be extended,” he said.
Nkombezi further said the more money changes hands the more vibrant the economy becomes. “There was a time when banks were closing at twelve o’clock but now most of them close at 3pm or indeed 4pm and that is good for business. On our part, we can discuss with owners of various businesses on areas of security which could be a problem.
“We know others close during lunch hour because they want to go to church but our plea is that businesses should as much as possible open more hours to make the economy vibrant,” he said.
Commenting on the same, a Lilongwe resident, Mike Banda, said the government should consider working on eliminating power outages arguing blackouts can pose a challenge to prospects of extending trading hours.
“Power and security challenges have to be considered if we are to excel in this regard.
Trade also generally requires good infrastructure and road networks,” he said. Malawi is now on position 133 out of 190 economies on the World Bank Doing Business Index, an improvement from position 144 last year. Government is targeting to get the country into the top 100.