Trapped by business opportunities at Likoma


It is 6 o’clock in the morning, and 27-year-old Ali Abdul is packing wares on his pushbike which acts as his mobile “Game Stores”.

Armed with a portable MP 3 music player with fully charged batteries and a memory card filled with music, Abdul continuously plays “Anyamatawa ndi onama” song as he hits the road to mark a new day of business.

The song, done by Phwanyaphwanya Boys from Dowa District, is usually repeated to herald his presence in a particular area.


Due to his association with the song, Abdul has adapted the band’s name and called his business Phwanyaphwanya.

“I call it phwanyaphwanya because I purchase any item that I feel will appeal to my customers such as women’s clothes, shoes, baby diapers, flash torches, headgears, wrappers, slippers and ladies’ underwear.

“However, my customers just call me “Anyamatawa ndi onama” because of the song I put on repeat to alert my customers that I’m around,” he says confidently.


Abdul started his phwanyaphwanya business four years ago, carrying his wares in a basket. Five years down the line, his business has expanded. He, therefore, decided to buy a pushbike on which he mounts and displays all his wares.

“In my business, I have to reach customers in their homes, on the roads and particularly by the shores where they dry their bonya (small fish), or where they wash their clothes and plates. I felt I needed the bike to ease mobility challenges and reach more people,” Abdul says.

“My secret lies in knowing what customers want, instead of imposing the goods on them. I do this by taking note of the kind of goods they keep asking for,” he adds.

Abdul started his business on Likoma Island with K5, 000 and has never looked back. The businessman is from Ntaja in Machinga District.

“I was on my way to Machimbo in Mozambique where people mine precious stones when I arrived at Likoma Island enroute to Machimbo.

I saw a great business opportunity here. So, during my subsequent trip, I targeted the island and discovered I was selling faster and purchasing more. Eventually, I rented a house and bought a pushbike.

“As I am talking, just from the K5, 000 I had invested, I have managed to build a house in Nkhata Bay,” he says with a mile.

Abdul explains that he mostly stocks ladies and children’s wear because they sell more.

“Most women are generally home keepers and, as for Likoma, the women are basically found along beaches drying and selling bonya with no time to walk long distances to patronise shops,” says Abdul, a father of four.

“The future is bright for me here. My business is growing every day. My customer base is also growing every day.

“Likoma is good for business because security is good. The safety makes it easy for one’s business to develop. I have never been robbed since I started my business here,” he says.

Abdul adds that he sometimes supplies his merchandise to the women on credit and goes round to collect his money after two weeks.

He says the offering of items on credit has helped to build trust and increase his customer base who eventually gives him more orders.

“Sometimes when fish business is ticking, I also buy bonya and send it to the mainland where I sell at a higher price. I use the money realized to purchase more goods which I bring back to my customers back on the island,” Abdul explains about his win-win strategy.

He says most people in the country are poor because they love complaining instead of embarking on small-scale businesses that can transform their lives.

“The size of capital doesn’t matter as long as you have vision and business discipline. Look at me, I started with a mere K5, 000 but I am comfortable enough to feed my family and sustain my business,” says Abdul a faithful and practicing Muslim.

He points that the business has its own risks that arise from the many elongated trips, such as being away from one’s family, but is quick to offer a remedy.

“As long as you provide enough for your wife and kids and make them understand you are actually toiling for them, you are okay.

“I condemn some of my colleagues who lost their wives to other men because they were just spending their money on beer and sex workers while totally neglecting their homes,” Abdul says.

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