President Peter Mutharika on Wednesday announced a new round of cooperation with China amounting to $1.5 billion (about K855 billion) in various sectors, including increasing power generation capacity by 300 megawatts (MW) and construction of a modern Chileka International Airport within three years.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe, the President said the projects have been agreed upon following a meeting that the team led by Minister of Industry and Trade Joseph Mwanamvekha attended on the seven priority projects from October 10 to 12 in Beijing, China.
However, of the seven projects only three are grants totaling $58 million (K33 billion) for the construction of the Blantyre District Hospital and Cancer Centre in Blantyre. The Blantyre District Hospital is set to be built at Kameza on the site where the abandoned Muammar Gaddafi Hospital Project was. The project was supposed to be funded by the government of Libya over 10 years ago.
Said Mutharika: “This is a sign of strength of bilateral relations that exist between China and Malawi. The Chinese are our friends and there are no conditions at all attached to these projects. They are soft loans and grants.”
Malawi and China established diplomatic ties in 2007 following Lilongwe’s switch from Taipei in the Republic of China to Beijing.
Since then, China has contributed to construction of several infrastructure projects, among them Parliament Building and Bingu Stadium in Lilongwe, Karonga-Chitipa Road besides loans for the construction of Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) in Thyolo and the five-star hotel in Lilongwe which became operational this year.
However, the first phase of cooperation attracted a lot of criticism because Chinese companies carrying out their projects imported most of the raw materials and human resources from their country.
Mutharika said the Chinese government had approved for immediate implementation three projects, namely the 300MW Kam’mwamba coal-fired power plant with a project cost of $667 million (about K387 billion).
He said: “The project will produce an additional 300MW of power and we can say goodbye to blackouts. It will take three years to complete and I appeal to the people of Neno to give the project all the support as it will also benefit the people there with jobs.”
The other projects are the E-Government (National Identity) project to lay fibre optic cables for increased Internet connectivity amounting to $50 million (about K29 billion) and the Chileka International Airport project to the tune of $285 million (about K165 billion).
“Before implementation commences, the Malawi government will redesign the project, conduct feasibility study and an Environmental Impact Assessment,” Mutharika said on Chileka International Airport.
The development follows the recent rejection by Parliament of a Loan Authorisation Bill to continue rehabilitating the old airport as some members of Parliament (MPs) felt the upgrades were not modern and in keeping with recent developments in the aviation sector.
Among the grants which China has made is $2 million (about K1.1 billion) for the procurement of police for the Malawi Police Service, construction of a technical teacher’s training college costing $5 million (about K2.8 billion) and construction of community technical colleges costing $6 million.
Under the grants, China will also support technical services for the Bingu National Stadium for $1 million (K570 million), construction of a new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation building amounting to $3 million and procurement of office equipment and furniture for the Ministry of Industry and Trade amounting to $1 million.
However, China has pended for review road projects namely Tsangano-Neno-Mwanza Road, Mangochi-Makanjira Road and the upgrading of the Phombeya-Makanjira-Nkhotakota-Chatoloma 220 kv power line.
The projects would be financed by Exim Bank of China while most would be implemented by China Gezhouba Group Company Limited.