As the country continues searching for a means to overcome the fuel crisis, it appears the use of four-cylinder vehicles has run its course and a new chapter must be opened in the luxury passenger vehiclesâ€”abandon your posh car and ride that motorcycle. This can help cut fuel consumption to low levels.
Experiments by Nasawa Technical College in Zomba show that a motorcycle can only consume one litre per 45 km, five times more efficient than a four-cylinder vehicle can do with the same quantity of fuel.
These findings are supported by Lilongwe Samzee Agencies, dealers of Senke motorcycles, who suggest the use of motorcycles can reduce the consumption of fuel by three-quarters of a four-cylinder vehicle and ease transport problems through accessibility.
Nasawa Technical College head of automobile mechanics, Julius Phiri, says a motorcycle can reach places where vehicles cannot, thereby accessing the remotest parts of the country at a much-reduced cost.
“Malawi as a country can save a lot of money on fuel purchase, as well as on spare parts and servicing because of low maintenance and fuel consumption. If more people used motorcycles, the general shortage of fuel can be minimised due to low fuel consumption,” says Phiri.
Nasawa Technical College is the first ever in Malawi to introduce a course in motor cycle mechanics, according to college principal Peter Njunga. Njunga says in collaboration with the Technical, Entrepreneurial and Vocational Education and Training Authority (Teveta), motorcycle users and local suppliers of motor cycles have made it possible for the course to take off the ground.
Nasawa works with Teveta in recruiting of students, paying subsidies for tuition, providing training materials and boarding fees, attachment of teachers and students to industries. Currently, there are 15 students undergoing the course each paying K5 500 per term after the Teveta subsidy.
Teveta acting head of quality assurance Charles Mataya says his institution is facilitating and coordinating the motorcycle course and ensures that modules and qualified trainers are available.
“We as Teveta are currently conducting both internal and external verifications through Blantyre Service Centre office,” says Mataya. He says Teveta has prepared standards at level one for the motorcycle course, but still working on standards for levels two and three.
However, Phiri says the programme is experiencing a shortage of relevant books, training aids, late funding and low scope of the teachers. This, he says, is an area that some stakeholders have come forward to help.
Another key player linked to motorcycle mechanics at Nasawa Technical College is Stansfield Motors which facilitates training of the collegeâ€™s instructors, providing electronic information and providing personnel, charts, pamphlets and magazines whereas Automotive Product Limited and Malawi Rural Finance provide personnel when Nasawa asks for them to help in providing logistics towards the training.
Honda Centre and Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica) are some of the stakeholders that have shown interest in motorcycle mechanics. Other suppliers are Suzuki, Toyota and Yamaha.
Jica assistant programme officer Simon Simkoko says his institution works with Nasawa Technical College in the area of automobile through provision of volunteers who assist in imparting skills among students.
Simkoko says through Jicaâ€™s volunteer programme, Nasawa Technical College students benefits the technology transfer from the volunteers.
“We have provided motorcycles to Nasawa Technical College for the training,” says Simkoko. “At the moment, a volunteer from Japan will be in the country to assist with motorcycle mechanics course at Nasawa,” says Simkoko.
In Lilongwe, Sanzee Agencies sales director Faizal Aboobaker says a motorcycle consumes one litre of fuel per 45 km as compared to the same amount in a four-cylinder vehicle in just 8 km.
Sanzee Agencies is a dealer for Senke Motorcycles under ZST Group of Companies and has been operating in Malawi for about 12 months selling 270 motorcycles. The company also intends to introduce ambulance motorcycles as well to ease transportation of patients especially in the rural areas.
A motorcycle can sell up to MK1 million (about $6 000) a price too high many potential buyers can afford, according to a market survey by Senke done in 2008. Aboobaker says at current market environment in Malawi, motorcycle are overpriced in the country.
Malawi has between 10 000 and 20 000 motorcycles according to market estimates but Nasawa Technical College puts the figures at just over a million. But to make the motorcycles more effective and efficient specifically trained motorcycle mechanics are vital.
The new motorcycle mechanical course at Nasawa Technical College is responding to concerns from motorcycle suppliers that Malawi does not have the skills in repairing motorcycles. That concern has been answered through the Nasawa Technical College course.