Cross-boarder traders hope for business resumption as covid-19 decline

By Campos Barichi

Women Cross Boarder traders in Malawi have expressed optimism for business resumption amid a decrease in covid-19 positive cases over the past weeks of February 2021.

Covid-19 has affected cross boarder trading

For the past weeks of February, Malawi has witnessed a reduction of covid-19 positive cases with the latest being less than 300 in a day.

A number of cross border traders travel to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa to order their merchandise and were hugely impacted by closure of borders due to the pandemic.

A random interview with cross boarder traders has shown that covid-19 has impacted on the progress of their businesses as most of them relied on online business which they say sometimes is not much rewarding.

One of cross border traders based in Blantyre, Rachael Mbumba Mulera said since boarders were closed in 2020 due to Covid-19 pandemic, cross boarder business was also hugely affected.

Mulera said “the whole year of 2020 has been very tough,I did not make any business trip,I have been doing online shopping which at some point is very hard to cope up with because we end up getting goods of low quality especially from Tanzania.

“Most times the goods we see being posted online is not what we get in reality. and as such I have lost customers because am failing to deliver their goods,” said Mulera

However, Mulera said she is expecting some changes in business if boarders are to be opened as the Covid-19 cases keep declining this year.

Another Karonga based trader, Angela Kalizembe said the closure of boarders in 2020 prompted her to go for online business but it has always been frustrating.

Kalizembe said “2020 was a very bad year for my business. I could not completely close business so I opted to order online but it has always been frustrating because I could get a mixture of things that I did not even included on my order list.

“Closure of boarders has really affected me. my Business Capital kept decreasing and we survived the year 2020 because we have other sources of income otherwise clothing business alone could not sustain us.

Kalizembe hopes that in 2021, as covid is declining business will go back to normal saying currently people have prioritized at sustaining their homes because they have limited resources.

Another business lady from Salima, Martha Makhuwira said the decline in covid-19 positive cases is giving hope that things might come back to normal and that will lead to boarders to open.

She said 2020 was very devastating to cross boarder traders as huge capital was lost and might take time to be recovered so that businesses could tick once more.

However, Makhuwira said most Malawi’s cross boarder traders rely on Tanzania for their merchandise but with low adherence measures of Covid-19 pandemic it will also be risky for the travelers.

But for Ezinala Jali, the Covid-19 has been a blessing in disguise as with little merchandise she could get she has benefited more as customers scrambled for her items due to limited supply because of the pandemic.

“I can say covid-19 pandemic really affected business especially in the months of April, May and June in 2020. But things changed because customers could scramble for the only available supply. So I can say amidst the covid-19 pandemic I have also benefited alot,” said Jali

Informal cross boarder business? trading has gained ground in Malawi with a number of women joining the bandwagon of the business and especially for Tanzanian merchandise also-famously known as Mataifa.

The Government of Malawi closed down boarders in 2020 due to escalating cases of Covid-19 pandemic and this affected business especially those doing cross boarder trading and even car importers.