3 Minutes with…..Entrepreneur Precious Di Phiri
By Adebayo Abubakar
Following the recently concluded Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) which took place in Cairo Egypt, our contributor Adebayo Abubakar caught up with one of the participants, Precious Di Phiri, a Malawian Entrepreneur with investment portfolios spanning organic foods and natural sustainable alternatives. He is the co-founder of AWAWO – a sustainable interior products brand. He is also the founder of Milli Foods, an organisation that produces organic tea, and other healthy foods.
The 2023 edition of IATF, themed “The AfCFTA MarketPlace,” was organised through the collaborative efforts of the African Union (AU), The African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat, as a platform for entry into Africa’s single market. It ran from the 9th to the 15th of November 2023.
In this interview, Precious Di Phiri shares his experience at the third edition of the IATF.
Adebayo Abubakar: Could you please give a brief introduction of yourself
Precious Di Phiri: My name is Precious Di Phiri, I am the founder of AWAWO, a sustainable interior products social enterprise in Malawi. I serve as a Ye! Community Advisor to the International Trade Centre, where we empower youth entrepreneurs to build scalable and sustainable businesses. I advocate for AfCFTA and regional integration, adding to the youth voice in Intra-African Trade.
Adebayo Abubakar: You just returned from the 3rd Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) in Egypt; What was the experience like?
Precious Di Phiri: The experience was amazing, I got to learn, network, establish lifelong relationships and made prospects for AWAWO. It was my first time exhibiting Internationally at the biggest fair in Africa. Thanks to the Economic Commission for Africa-ECA for this opportunity.
Adebayo Abubakar: Looking at the AU’s “Vision 2063,” and other stakeholders (AU, Afreximbank) involved in the organisation of the Trade Fair, do you think the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is on course?
Precious Di Phiri: The AfCFTA is on course. You see, I saw, and got to learn about integration of various stakeholders and initiatives in place that are aimed at driving AfCFTA. The countries and their stands to the people were also charismatic. People are exporting and AfCFTA is an important tool for increasing exports and their potential.
Adebayo Abubakar: In light of the ‘articles of trade’ that you saw on display at the IATF, in what area would you say Africa should be self-sufficient in the nearest future?
Precious Di Phiri: There is a lot that Africa is doing best. But the areas to be optimistic about self-sufficiency are food, energy, healthcare, education, manufacturing as well as tech and innovation.
Adebayo Abubakar: What is your advice for women and young Malawian entrepreneurs, as Malawi is getting ready to join the AfCFTA’s “Guided Trade Initiative” (GTI)?
Precious Di Phiri: My advice is for them to start working on (building) production capacities, working on various documentation in their respective lines of business, branding and above all, engage the Ministry of Trade and the Trade Promotion Agency.
Adebayo Abubakar: Do you think the Malawian government has prepared enough ground for a smooth take off of the scheme?
Precious Di Phiri: Right now, I can say no. The issue is, we need to introduce strategic industries, and increase manufacturing and innovation. Now, the role of government is to facilitate that growth through various mechanisms.
Adebayo Abubakar: As an entrepreneur, do you think Malawi is prepared for the challenges and the reward of full involvement in the AfCFTA, based on what you saw at the IATF?
Precious Di Phiri: Malawi is not fully prepared, but it has the potential to benefit fully if it (strategically) positions itself over the next few years.
Adebayo Abubakar: Do you think the Organised Private Sector (OPS), and the Malawian Government are on the same page as far as the AfCFTA is concerned?
Precious Di Phiri: The Ministry of Trade and the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre are playing a crucial role in ensuring that there is a linkage (of efforts). Various stakeholder consultations, further to that, the MoT and MITC have been engaging the youths and women in trade to take advantage of export markets and spread the knowledge.
Adebayo Abubakar: How would you describe the mood of youths and women entrepreneurs in Malawi when the news of Malawi’s involvement in the Guided Traded Initiative – GTI first broke?
Precious Di Phiri: It is good. There is optimism (the youths are optimistic].
Adebayo Abubakar: With a GDP of $7.522 billion, do you think Malawi can compete favourably with bigger economies like those of South Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya and Nigeria under the AfCFTA?
Precious Di Phiri: Well, Malawi has a place in Intra-African Trade. The trading itself will improve the economy and even inspire more investment to produce competitive products and services.
Adebayo Abubakar: What are the areas of trade in which you think Malawi has a comparative advantage, going into the AfCFTA?
Precious Di Phiri: Malawi has a comparative advantage in the areas of Agriculture, manufacturing, and crafts.
Adebayo Abubakar: Which products is Malawi looking at exporting under the GTI, as a matter of comparative advantage?
Precious Di Phiri: There is consideration of products such as sugar, tea, oilseed, oilcake, legumes, cereals, wood, rubber, fruits plastic and plastic products, nuts and textiles, crafts e.t.c.
Adebayo Abubakar: Thank you for sparing time for us.
Precious Di Phiri: The pleasure is all mine.
Adebayo Abubakar is a Nigerian writer. You can reach him via email, firstname.lastname@example.org