Political uncertainty takes toll on trade fair

Some countries are viewing Malawi as a ‘no-go zone’ following the disputed May 21 Tripartite Elections, whose results attracted protests, mainly from the opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP), in some parts of the country.

The political atmosphere has forced the Malawi Confederation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) to postpone to August the 31st Malawi International Trade Fair, earlier scheduled for June 20-30 2019 after the countries that confirmed their participation withdrew, citing existence of political uncertainty.

Flashback: Mutharika opening the Trade Fair

President Peter Mutharika—who is facing a fierce legal fight as his victory declared by Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) is being challenged by MCP and UTM—was set to open the trade show in Blantyre.

The countries that withdrew are Indonesia, Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and China, with Zimbabwe as the only country that did not withdraw, according to a statement MCCCI issued on Friday.

MCCCI chief executive officer Chancellor Kaferapanjira said, in an interview yesterday, that the unprecedented postponement was a big blow to the chamber, the country as a whole and many other players.

He said the chamber spent nearly K15 million in various payments that include promotions in newspapers and booking of television and radio stations.

Kaferapanjira said the sum spent excludes other preparations such as the roads within the trade fair grounds and other maintenances.

Asked if the MCCCI was convinced that the political tension cited by the international community was real, he said it was not for the chamber to determine but participating countries.

“It has been a painful decision. It took us weeks to arrive at this decision and we consulted the Ministry of Trade and Tourism Some countries had already paid, others were yet to pay,” he said.before making this statement.

The chamber has postponed the International Trade Fair to August (6-15) this year, and Kaferapanjira hoped the political situation would have improved then.

The statement issued indicated that the International Trade Fair would be held under the same theme ‘Achieving Competitiveness through Integration into Regional Value Chains’.

Reads, in part, the statement: “Being an International Trade Fair, participation of international exhibitors is key… Mobilisation of participants, both foreign and domestic, commenced way back in January this year.

“We received positive feedback as evidenced in the confirmations…however, participants from all these countries except Zimbabwe have withdrawn their participation, citing existence of political uncertainty and tension in the country.”

The chamber is hopeful the clouds will have cleared by the set dates in August.

The MCCCI boss said they were also hopeful that countries that withdrew, and more others, would come at that time.

He said such events boost businesses that include minibus services, catering and hotels and lodges as the city hosts guests both local and international.

Kaferapanjira said the International Trade Fair also offers an opportunity for companies and individuals to strike business deals.

There have been nasty incidences since MCP followers started staging protest marches in some parts of the country. The worst was when Malawi Police Services tear-gassed MCP president Lazarus Chakwera and outgoing US Ambassador Virginia Palmer when the two were meeting at the party’s headquarters in Lilongwe.

Chakwera and UTM president Saulos Chilima accuse the Malawi Electoral Commission that it facilitated electoral fraud and that there were so many irregularities that were not attended to and the matters are now in court.

Another nasty incident was when MCP followers invaded Capital Hill in Lilongwe and evicted civil servants.

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