15 November 2018
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Trapped by business at Likoma

Written by  Patrick Botha
Phwanyaphwanya mobile shop set to hit the road on Likoma Island - Pic by Patrick Botha Phwanyaphwanya mobile shop set to hit the road on Likoma Island - Pic by Patrick Botha

Likoma, November 08, 2017: Every 6 o’clock in the morning, 27-year-old Ali Abdul packs his wares on his pushbike which acts as his mobile “Game Stores”. 

Armed with a portable MP 3 music player with fully charged batteries and a memory card filled with music, Abdul continuously play “Anyamatawa ndi onama” song on full blast as he hits the road to mark a new day of business.

The song, done by Phwanyaphwanya Boys from Dowa District, is usually put on repeat mode to herald his presence in a particular area.

Due to his association with the song, Abdul has adapted the band’s name and called his business “Phwanyaphwanya.”

“I call it phwanyaphwanya because I purchase any item that I feel will appeal to my customers such as ladies’ clothes, shoes, baby diapers, flash torches, headgears, wrappers, slippers and ladies’ underwear.

“However, my customers just call me “Anyamatawa ndi onama” because of the song I put on repeat to alert my customers that I’m around,” he says confidently.

Abdul started his phwanyaphwanya business four years ago, carrying his wares in a basket. Five years down the line as his business expanded, he decided to buy a pushbike on which he mounts and displays all his wares to make it easy for his customers to see.

“In my business, I have to reach customers in their homes, on the roads and particularly by the shores where they dry their bonya (small fish), or where they wash their clothes and plates. I felt I needed the bike to ease movement and reach a wider coverage,” Abdul says.

“My secret lies in knowing what customers want instead of imposing the goods or projecting on them. I do this by taking note of the kind of goods they keep asking for,” he adds.

Abdul started his business on Likoma Island with K5000 and has never looked back. The businessman hails from Ntaja in Machinga District.

“I was on my way to Machimbo in Mozambique where people mine precious stones when I arrived on Likoma Island enroute to Machimbo.

I saw great business opportunity here. So, during my subsequent trip, I targeted the island and discovered I was selling faster and purchasing more; eventually, I rented a house and bought my pushbike.

“As I am talking now, just from the K5000 I had invested, I have managed to build a house in Nkhata Bay,” he says with a mile.

Abdul explains that he mostly stocks ladies and children’s wear because they sell more.

“Most women are generally home keepers; and for Likoma, the women are basically found along beaches drying and selling bonya with no time to walk long distances to patronize shops,” says Abdul, a husband and father of four.

“The future is bright for me here. My business is growing every day. My customer base is also increasing every day.

“Likoma is good for business because security is good. The safety makes it easy for one’s business to develop. I have never been robbed since I started my business here,” he says.

Abdul explains that he sometimes supplies his merchandise to the women on credit and goes round to collect his money after two weeks.

He says the offering of items on credit has helped to build trust and increase his customer base who eventually gives him more orders.

“Sometimes when fish business is ticking, I also buy bonya and export it to the mainland where I sell at a higher price. I use the money realized to purchase more goods which I bring back to my customers back on the island,” Abdul explains about his win-win strategy.

He says most people in the country are poor because they love complaining instead of embarking on small-scale businesses that can transform their lives.

“The size of capital doesn’t matter as long as you have vision and business discipline. Look at me, I started with a mere K5000 but now am comfortable enough to feed my family and sustain my business,” says Abdul a faithful and practicing Muslim.

He points that the business has its own risks that arise from the many elongated trips that one is away from his family but is quick to give a remedy.

“As long as you provide enough for your wife and kids and make them understand you are actually toiling for them, you are okay.

“I condemn some of my colleagues who lost their wives to other men because they were just spending their money on beer and sex workers while totally neglecting their homes,” Abdul says.


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