In much of the developed world, we are bombarded by an overwhelming range of branded products, clothes, food and drink. Unknowingly we endlessly chase these things, goaded by a constant influx of commercials that involuntarily enter our consciousness.
Commerce is simply the way of life; it’s virtually impossible to imagine a world without advertising.
But in Mzuzu, in the north of Malawi, marketing still doesn’t really exist as a concept.
In fact Mzuzu barely has any billboards to speak of, not that there is no captive market available to tap.
The issue is more that products for sale in Malawian supermarkets far exceed the income of the masses, and there are few effective systems in place for the production and processing of goods suitable for the mass market.
Most of Malawi’s population are farmers who just about grow enough food to eat, so it’s these people who should really be generating and benefitting from business.
Last week, I spent the day with a remarkable woman who is trying hard to instil a business mindset into Mzuzu’s rural dairy farmers.
“Marketing is not selling” is the motto she’s has been hammering into the farmers’ heads for the last one year. Though she’s made good progress, she describes it as a challenge, “It is the first time for them to see milk production and processing as more than a means of survival”.
She’s introduced smaller-sized packaging for fresh milk to make it more affordable to larger numbers, and tightened up milk processing so the quality of the product remains high. She’s also schooled farmers, many illiterate, in ways to strategically market their milk.
Of course there is more than a mere business case for the proper processing, marketing and selling of milk to the masses in Malawi. Malawi has some of the world’s highest rates of child malnutrition and the lack of availability and affordability of milk plays a key role.
All this got me thinking how creative you have to be to come up with a viable entrepreneurial idea in the UK’s saturated market, yet in Malawi simple, fundamental and basic items aren’t reaching the majority.
Business carries with it the possibility of creating quality milk at affordable prices to thousands of people in Malawi, and boosting the income of local people.
If done correctly, by the right people and supported by much needed change in national and international trade policies, there lies the potential to transform the income and quality of life for poor farmers and enable hundreds of thousands of Malawians to access the fresh milk they so desperately need.