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Published: February 22nd 2010
I can find more products in Malawi than I expected before coming out here, I’m going to have some visitors soon, when they were asking if I wanted anything bringing out I was struggling to think of anything I desperately needed or couldn’t find out here. The imported items, in particular technology like computers, cameras, etc. etc. can be more expensive than at home (or in South Africa) but other things like food, drinks are fairly reasonable.
Loads of the shops in Malawi are actually South African, the main big supermarkets; Shoprite and Game both are, but the smaller local shops like Peoples and the Cash and Carry are owned by Malawians (I think). Even with the clothes stores its the same story, PEP and the newly opened Mr Price at Ginnery corner both sell South African products (though more expensive than in South Africa).
Lately the government has been urging the public to ‘buy Malawian’ so to increase internal revenue circulation and growth of the markets.
There seems to be a market in most of the districts and villages. Food, clothes and general markets, bustling tightly packed stalls with all types of goods crammed together, or open spaces with items piled on plastic sheets. I like the bustling nature of the markets, the way their packed together, walking through you see the variety of products and the seemingly non-sensical way they’re organized; plugs, wire and tools can be next to a DVD stand, next to one selling spices and hot sauce, with sunglasses and hats being sold on the other side. It can also be an assault on the senses, speakers blaring music at eardrum popping volumes, people all around talking, shouting, and haggling, megaphones telling of products on sale and offers.
There are also curio markets for the tourists, I’ve visited the one in Blantyre several times for presents for home, though you can usually find more than one in all the popular tourist spots, like Mulanji (I bought a cedar box and walking stick), Mangoshi, the wildlife reserves etc. etc. There are some quite cool items for sale, cedar wood carvings, chess sets, paintings, wire sculptures, jewelry, through as with many other things if you don’t try and haggle for the price you’re going to be ripped off (it‘s amazing how the cost rises by 2x or 3x as I arrive), as a very rough guide, painting are around K1,000, jewelry K100, and medium carvings for K400, though usually just halving whatever price they give you works as well. These curios are also for sale from guys on the street, they carry round necklaces, pens, paintings. They see me coming down the street and make a beeline for me, then follow me down the street trying to make sell me stuff I neither want nor need, which can be annoying, especially as, when I want to buy some I can’t find them anywhere.
The only thing I haven’t been able to find in the shops so far is chopsticks and an LG USB adaptor (people have been good enough to send both from home), neither of which are exactly life or death issue.
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