Khato Holdings Limited, a South African-based firm owned by a Malawian, plans to invest about 500 million rand (about K28 billion) in two projects in the country.
This is besides the multi-billion kwacha engineering, procurement and construction of Lake Malawi Water Supply Project to pump water from Lake Malawi to be undertaken jointly with South Zambezi Private Limited.
The two projects are the construction of a cigarette manufacturing factory in Mchinji and the construction of 14-storey twin towers in Lilongwe.
Speaking to a group of journalists from Malawi at the firm’s headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa on Tuesday, Ashani Simbi Phiri, the firm’s founder and chairperson said the investments are expected to create over 10 000 jobs.
He said the construction of a cigarette manufacturing plant in Mchinji is expected to cost 173 million rand (K9.5 billion) while the Twin Towers in Lilongwe is expected to cost 350 million rand (K19.3 billion).
Simbi has also expressed interest to invest in hotels along the lakeshore, but is dismayed with slow process of registering a new business.
“As for Twin Towers, the main challenge that we have is regulatory processes of approving the buildings. It has taken us two years just to get approval.
“In terms of planning and designing, everything is there although now we need to add adjustments,” he said.
Simbi said besides creating jobs, the cigarette factory will also benefit tobacco farmers.
“At the moment, we are doing feasibility studies with the help of experts from Cuba and we hope to roll out in six months all factors being equal. We have already identified markets in South Africa, Congo, Angola, Kenya and other parts of Africa,” he said.
He said apart from regular cigarettes, the company is exploring the possibility of manufacturing cigars for affluent Malawians and export.
The planned cigarette factory is good news to the tobacco industry which has in recent times been facing challenges ranging from high rejection rates to poor prices.
“There are many opportunities in Malawi, the problem is regulatory bottlenecks. There seems not to be an easy way of getting a business registered,” he said.
Simbi’s concerns are in stuck contrast to recent government sentiments on improving the conditions of starting business.
In an earlier interview, Principal Assistant Registrar General Chifwayi Chirambo said they have reduced time taken to register a business by from 37 to five days. n