The Malawi government says it has secured funding for its multibillion-dollar transport infrastructure development plan, which is meant to improve its transport infrastructure and establish a seamless transport link between the Southern African country and its neighbours by taking advantage of transport opportunities to be derived from the proposed $6-billion Shire–Zambezi waterway project.
The transport infrastructure development programme, which is rated high on the Malawi government’s list of priority programmes, includes a number of projects involving the construction of rail and road infrastructure linked to the waterway project, which is designed to benefit mainly Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia.
The principal secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Housing, Francis Chinsinga, says the Malawi government is preparing to implement a multimillion-dollar project to rehabilitate its railway network so that there is a seamless link with the networks of Zambia Tanzania and Mozambique.
In collaboration with the railway operator, Central East African Railways (CEAR), the Malawi government will rehabilitate the railway infrastructure that will link the Beira railway line to Chipata, in eastern Zambia, through Nsanje (Malawi’s port of call for the Shire–Zambezi waterway project) and the cities of Blantyre and Lilongwe.
“Funds are available for this project. The government and the concessionaire (CEAR) will share the cost pursuant to contractual agreements,” says Chinsinga.
He says a team of consultants has completed evaluating the project, and the government is currently studying the evaluation report.
The stretch from Chiromo to Makhanga, in Malawi’s lower Shire Valley area, requires a complete overhaul, since it is impassable. It is to be rehabilitated at a cost of $25-million.
“This part was severely damaged and bridges, such as the Chiromo bridge, were washed away. We are still considering how to repair it and the costs may even go up,” says Chinsinga.
This stretch is an extension of the Sena railway line, in Mozambique, which is being rehabilitated by an Indian consortium using funds sourced from the World Bank.
Mozambique’s part of the Sena railway line which is being rehabilitated stretches from Beira to Malaka, and
Malawi wants to rehabilitate its part starting from Malaka station through Chiromo and Makhanga stations to Blantyre.
Chinsinga says that this has shown that “there is a lot of work that needs to be done than was expected”.
On the road infrastructure development component of the programme, the Malawi government says it has secured financing for four major road construction projects that will ensure that the rest of the country has access to the Port of Nsanje.
Transport, Public Works and Housing Minister Henry Chimunthu Banda says the Malawi government will implement these four road projects before it starts major construction works for the port of Nsanje.
The four projects include the rehabilitation of the Bangula–Nsanje road, the Thyolo–Muona–Chiromo road, the Chiromo bridge and the Makhanga–Bangula road.
“We have funds readily available and we are not waiting for Parliament’s approval. We are only waiting on the launching ceremony for the projects,” says Chimunthu Banda, who declines to explain where the government of the impoverished Southern African nation is sourcing the funds required for the projects.
However, sources say the government of the People’s Republic of China has indicated that it will assist the Malawi government in financing some aspects of the projects.
China has also announced that it is to offer financial and technical assistance to the Malawi government in implementing the Shire–Zambezi waterway project.
Meanwhile, engineers from the People’s Republic of China are assessing the work on the construction of the Karonga–Chitipa road, in northern Malawi, which is estimated to cost $45-million.
Construction of the 107-km road, which started early last year, with funding from Taiwan, was stopped two months ago after Malawi severed its diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of mainland China.
The decision resulted in the Taiwanese withdrawing funding for all the projects they had been bankrolling in Malawi, and the People’s Republic of China has taken over the financing of all these projects, including the Karonga–Chitipa road project.
Chimunthu Banda reports that the engineers are currently study- ing the designs and the data col- lected from the construction site, which they inspected earlier this year, in order to come up with a complete plan of action.
The People’s Republic of China is considering hiring a contractor from within the Southern Africa Development Community region to complete the construction work abandoned by a Taiwanese contractor.
The current arrangement with the People’s Republic of China will see the road construction being extended from Chitipa into Zambia, since it is vital for cross- boarder trade between Malawi and Zambia.