Outdated, inadequate, poorly maintained and at times lack of infrastructure are some of the factors that have peddled Malawi’s development backwards and pushed poverty to the fore.
After 52 years of independence, the country continues to rely on old structures and systems laid down by the colonial government as well as founding president Hastings Kamuzu Banda whose one-party rule crumbled in 1994.
According to the World Bank, worn-off infrastructure shreds away 40 percent of business productivity and two percent of Africa’s economic growth.
Meanwhile, Tito Contractors chief executive officer Tony Chizengera notes that even though the government has limited resources to fill the country’s infrastructure gap, delays, uncertain deadlines and unreliable execution of projects by development stakeholders discourage potential investors from committing future finances.
“For the country to attract future infrastructure investments, both government officials and contractors must acquire skills in contract and project management as well as in monitoring and evaluation of projects,” he says.
According to Chizengera, it is important that infrastructure projects are given adequate time for planning “so that they fit well policy frameworks, time frame, project management requirements, monitoring and evaluation processes”.
Chizengera emphatically points out that “since a package of adequate and functional bridges, public offices, schools, hospitals and housing and other physical structures as well as its supporting systems such as sewerage, electricity, water, road and telecommunication networks, among others, infrastructure development must be treated as our magic potion for an improved national GDP and living standards of people”.
However, he laments that political expediency stands in the way of development activities.
“It is unfortunate that some politicians, in frantic efforts to garner electoral support, negatively influence development plans by fast-tracking the implementation of short-term infrastructure projects at the expense of viable long-term projects,” he says.
Sidestepping the negative factors, the Local Development Fund (LDF) is stimulating the socio-economic development and growth of beneficiary local government councils by constructing various structures across the country.
The State-run LDF—through its community window, the local authority window, the performance window and the urban window—has put in place physical structures and systems to enable local economies to function effectively.
The infrastructure includes civic offices, markets, bus depots, SME factories, bridges, public buildings including offices, schools, hospitals, electricity, water, road and telecommunication networks.
According to LDF national coordinator Mike Moyo, the fund is set to support local governments in planning and management of development resources and activities to improve the lives of people at the community level.
“Basically, we are there to provide resources which ensure that development investments respond to prioritised community development needs as well as facilitate high local productivity and income for both individual households and respective local government councils,” he says.
Moyo adds: “Through the infrastructure interventions, we expect that once the whole infrastructure component is coordinated and functional, productivity will definitely rise so will the local economies which will eventually see costs falling and thus driving higher incomes and better lives.”
LDF is a mechanism set by government to mobilise and manage development resources for local governments using an “inter-governmental fiscal transfer mechanism”.
Funding for LDF is from the World Bank through the Masaf IV Project.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) supports the community, urban window and the performance window through the Local Economic Development (LED) Project.
Meanwhile, the German government supports the urban window with financing from KfW as the Malawi Government makes an annual commitment of $8 million to the fund.
Chizengera commends LDF, saying its infrastructure investment is a springboard to Malawi’s economic growth. He urges multilateral institutions to continue supporting the country by increasing the level of official development finance.
“In so doing, local construction companies will have the opportunity to have hands on experience on complex structures,” he observes, advising financial institutions to consider investing in infrastructure through public-private partnerships. n