Ad Blocker Detected

Disable ad blocker to view this page

Doing business in Malawi as a foreigner or as local is one possible way to earn a decent living. The business environment in Malawi is good for all considering that Malawi is a peaceful country. While the opportunities are equally available to everyone in the country,  foreign traders from Burundi, Nigeria and India are doing much better than Malawians.  This blog post is looking at some of the reasons Burundians are dominating local retail markets in Malawi.

Burundians are dominating the local retail market in many markets in Malawi including Lilongwe the capital city. They are getting most of the revenue in as afar a retail and grocery business is concerned.  Now, one wonders why they are dominating the local market over the local retail trades who have many advantages. There are different observations and opinions that try to explain the success of foreigners on the retail market.  Below are 10 observations that give Burundians an upper hand over locals.

  1. They are Trust Worthy and Value Respect Customers

They trust their customers and customers trust them in return. Malawians like buyers in many parts of the world buy from people they trust. Usually people on the street will be much willing to buy from someone they know or they are connected with. However, when known people show traits of mistrust buyers willingly go buy from the foreigners. Once they are satisfied with the strange merchant they then become trusted customers.  While not all are the same it is fact that many foreign business owners are better at customer care compared to fellow Malawians. Customer care gives Burundians and other retailers an upper hand.

lets do business in Malawi

  1. Dedication and Hardworking

Foreign business people are mostly very dedicated and hardworking people unlike the natives. For instance, if you go on a local flea market Burundians are the first to open shops in the morning and the last to close at night. Mostly they eat their launch within the shop such that at launch hour they don’t even close their shops. Further to that commonly you find out that Burundian shops open almost on daily basis. On the country Malawians usually take it lazy. Most of them open shops late in the morning close frequently, and they don’t care if they are the first to close at night. The same is the case with Nigerians who keep Devil Street in Lilongwe live night long.


  1. They sacrifice luxury and Value delayed gratification

Most foreign business owners spend all day into the business. They usually go partying during the night. They dwell in cheap residential areas (chinsapo, area 36, mchesi).To the contrary indigenous business people quickly jump into luxury at the expense of financial freedom. Well I hope you know it’s not a crime to partake the luxuries of the world as long as one can afford them.

However, when one starts doing business in Malawi and rushes for luxuries spending such lifestyle kills business growth much quicker than anything else. When doing small business in Malawi it is important to know that delayed gratification is critical to the growth of the business.  Foreign owned business take this into consideration more often and this allows their business to grow and succeed.


  1. Leveraging Opportunities

They take advantage of Leverage to increase their capital. Because of their trust suppliers give them goods to sell and accept to be paid later or make part payment.

Read: Why Malawi is so Poor?

  1. Specialisation is Key in Business

They specialise to satisfy customer needs. A Burundian who sells groceries tries to have enough stocks to meet customers’ needs. Rarely do they send off customers due to inadequate stocks. Specialisation is critical in business because it enables one to become an authority in particular niche.


  1. Husbands and Wives do Business Together.

Ancient wisdom teaches that two are better than one. Such insights are commonly shared when it comes to marriage and social issues. However, when it comes to business, people in Malawi don’t consider doing business together with their spouses as strength.

Usually it is consider as a mockery, a weakness sort of. Unlike us our colleagues do exactly the opposite. They like to work together with their spouses.  Burundians and Indians tend to do business together with their women (wives). Women play a very critical role in sustainability and growth of business. But don’t get it wrong here; girlfriends are not Wives, understood?


  1. They’re good at Using Borrowed Money

Borrowing money to start or grow a business is very common in our societies. Right now many individuals and institution are making it easier to borrow every time than in the past. Despite the efforts lending institutions offer it is evident that many beneficiaries of business loans do not benefit as expected.

The challenge is that many Malawians borrow to spend, buy furniture, music system, zithenje, basins, and many other fashionable goods. On the other hand some foreigners borrow to invest. Once they invest, they make profits and repay debts. To them debt is good, while to my local brothers and sisters debt is bad because repayment is usually hard. It leads to disagreements and enmity.

Lets do business in Malawi

9. Brotherly love saves them all

These people from other countries bail each other when things go wrong. Don’t think they always win, no, sometimes they lose.  Good thing is, they cerebrate when friend’s business is excelling, and when it is drowning they offer kind assistance. To the contrary there is too much jealousy among locals. Did I just remind you that “Jealousy” is part of our national Anthem? The pull-down syndrome is killing us in business. The tendency to celebrate someone fails is shocking a fact.

10. Business and the owner are not the same

They know that their friends are not friends of their business. They don’t tamper with the working capital.

Read also: What small business to start in Malawi?

12. Fair Pricing Strategies

Malawians want to be rich overnight by wanting to make 100% profit on a product while Burundians believe in small but frequent profits which by the end of the day equals or surpasses that of a Malawian who sells 1 product for the whole day. Those are some of the strategies we can learn from them instead of dying with envy. When it comes to price comparison mostly goods are relatively cheaper in shops owned by Burundians and higher in locally owned shops. The disadvantage of overcharging customers in most cases scares away customers.


Lets do business in Malawi together with vision and dedication. Local doing business in Malawi can also succeed and prosper just like most foreign business people. The success of other people should not be regarded as a threat but should motivate us.  As Malawians there’s a myriad of things we do wrong in our business management. Such being the case the best we can do is to improve on the weak areas. Let’s not hate them foreigners, let’s learn from them.


  1. Majyambere j. Cloude
  2. John
  3. Eneya
  4. Sheila Kamanga
  5. Benjamin Macloud
  6. Tim
  7. Peter
  8. Ethel

Leave a Reply