Editor’s note: This is one of a series of posts by students from Michigan State University in the U.S. and LUANAR University in Malawi who participated in the Frugal Innovations Program of the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation.
By Maxwell Makanda
10th August, 2015
It was a wonderful experience to visit some of the markets within Lilongwe city to have a feel about the market system in Malawi. During the visit a number of things were noted in the areas of selling, planning of the market, sanitation, innovative way of marketing, quality control and customer care.
I observed that planning in terms of allocating sellers of similar products is much better at central market than Tsoka Market. At the central market it was seen that people selling horticultural produce such as vegetables, fruits, fresh peas, tomato etc. were at the same segment and this was the same for those selling other products. This is an indication that buyers do not have difficulties in accessing the items when they want to purchase the products. The problem was congestion of people that signifies the market is a busy one which needs extension of the infrastructure.
Supermarkets were observed to be involved in processing by producing products such as sausages, bread, fried cakes, chips, and other food stuffs that are sold at lunch time. Similar thing was observed at Tsoka market where peeling of vegetables and shelling of green peas took place. The aim was to ease the customers work after purchasing because they are not going to require time for peeling and shelling. Most of the sellers at the central market are doing their business on well-constructed stores and/ benches, but this was not the same with Tsoka market where it was seen that most of the sellers placed their products on unshaded benches.
It was observed that there were some innovative way of marketing at the central and Tsoka market. For instance, honey bottling, special arrangement of fish and customer attraction approach, brushing fish with oil and peeling of skin of horticultural produce such as tomato. Quality control and food safety at the local markets was minimal due to poor sanitation that compromised the hygiene of the products being sold at such markets. But the supermarkets showed ability to practice quality control through storage facilities such as freezers in the case preserving the highly perishable products.
The vendors at both two local markets expressed the existence of problems hampering the smoothness of the way their businesses operate. Shortage of infrastructures to do their business was the most challenge that was raised during the visitation. The main driving force of the challenges being over population of vendors doing business in the market. The other problems identified were related to capital, reluctance of city assembly in providing the necessary operations for the market and lack of self-confidence in wishing to expand the business.