Malawi President Joyce Banda, who arrived on Monday from her first State visit to Mozambique since being sworn in, is not all out undoing everything her predecessor the late Bingu wa Mutharika was building.
According to reports from Maputo, Banda has succeeded in picking up the Shire-Zambezi Waterway initiative, the late Mutharikaâ€™s pet project that is expected to cut Malawiâ€™s transport costs to and from the sea by about 40 percent.
While Banda did not address the media on her arrival on Monday, with officials saying she would do so later, press reports indicate that Malawi and Mozambique have finally started talking with one voice on the Shire-Zambezi Waterway Project. According to the Noticias of Mozambique, Maputo and Lilongwe have initially agreed that the project should not be abandoned.
According to Mondayâ€™s online edition of Mozambiqueâ€™s official mouth-piece Noticias, Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and Banda on Saturday agreed to work together on the project, starting with experts being sent to do studies to determine whether the Zambezi River is navigable. This was one of the key bones of contention during Mutharikaâ€™s time, apart from a political thaw between the two capitals.
Noticias quoted Mozambican Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Oldemiro Baloi and his counterpart Ephraim Chiume briefing the media after the meeting of the two heads of State.
â€œExperts from Mozambique and Malawi will conduct feasibility studies and environmental impact to determine whether the Zambezi River is navigable or notâ€ the newspaper quoted Baloi.
The two ministers said the two heads of State agreed that Malawi and Mozambique should â€œmake a joint approach on the aspect of the navigability of the Zambezi River.â€
The publication said the agreement was arrived at also after considering that the African Development Bank (AfDB) earlier expressed willingness to finance the technical studies.
According to Noticias, the Mozambican government recently rejected a report from a coal mining company on an environmental and social impact assessment of the navigability of the Zambezi, arguing the report was â€œinconclusive and does not answer important questions for the mitigation of adverse effects.â€
The issue of the Shire-Zambezi Waterway Project led to a collision between Lilongwe and Maputo after the Mutharika administration attempted to unilaterally test the navigability of the two rivers from Nsanje to the Port of Chinde in Zambezia, Mozambique.
Malawi hopes to reduce its imports and exports bill by almost 40 percent by opening an inland port at Nsanje on the Shire River, which flows into the Zambezi River on the Mozambican side and thereafter flows into the Indian Ocean. Currently, Malawi relies on the Mozambican ports of Nacala and Beira for her imports and exports.
Banda came back from the three-day visit through Kamuzu International Airport.
During the visit, according to Noticias and the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) news broadcasts on Monday, the two presidents said they agreed to open a new leaf in their cooperation, with Guebuza noting that combining the full potential of the two countries can lead to competitive advantage for the two countries.
Said Guebuza in the Noticias report: “We are convinced that the increase in imports and exports for Malawi as a result of transportation through Mozambique and use of our road infrastructure will further boost trade between our two countries.â€
Apart from the Shire-Zambezi Waterway agreement, the two leaders also signed a memorandum of understanding on electricity supply which will see Malawi tapping power from the Cahora Bassa hydro-power plant in Tete on the Zambezi.
Banda and Guebuza also discussed the forthcoming African Union Summit to be held in Lilongwe this July and a Sadc meeting to be hosted by Mozambique in August.
According to local officials, Banda is expected to address the media on her trip on Wednesday.