Following concerns raised by consumers over limited trading hours in the country followed by most businesses, the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) has said by restricting trading hours most businesses are losing out on productivity.
Unlike in other countries on the continent, most businesses in the major cities of the country operate for eight hours in a day, leaving no room for consumers to access commodities and services during lunch hour breaks and after working hours.
MCCCI Chief Executive Officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira said as the economy and urban population are growing, there is need to provide more convenience.
“As such, extending business hours basically recognises that not all people will be able to shop during the traditional limited hours.
“From a business point of view, there is productivity gain, employees work a little longer without demanding overtime for instance while at the same time, a business is also able to turnover more sales or services,” he said.
Kaferapanjira echoes the sentiments made by former MCCCI president, Newton Kambala, who said the situation has come about because of laxity in Malawi’s labour laws which, he says, allows workers to abandon their duty stations whenever they so please.
He says most shop owners are aware of this fact; hence, they take advantage of the situation knowing they will get people to buy their wares during anytime of the day.
“Yes, people close shops at 12 o’clock and five in the afternoon when most working people are free. In my opinion, the reason is the way an average Malawian works.
On the other hand consumer rights body, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) and some business operators say the level of the economy and security lapse in the country remain major constraints to doing business at night.
In an earlier interview, a committee member for the Asian Business Community Alta Panjwani said absence of other infrastructure, including city lights, poses a challenge for most businesses to operate late into the night.
According to Panjwani, until such concerns are addressed, it will be difficult for the business community to extend trading hours.
“This has been the trend in Malawi and the market system accepted it as such. Even in terms of security for both the staff and the business, there is need to close within the stipulated time. It equally makes business sense as no buyers would come after that time,” he said.