The Tonse Alliance administration has embarked on ambitious multi-billion kwacha infrastructure projects starting with the K19 billion upgrading of Kenyatta Road in Lilongwe into a six-lane highway complete with a traffic interchange.
President Lazarus Chakwera launched the project that will see the country having the first three-lane one-way drive highway.
The President said Malawi, more especially Lilongwe as the capital city, deserved improved roads infrastructure to reflect the new Malawi under the Tonse Alliance administration after years of neglect.
He described quality and high standard roads infrastructure as a catalyst for sustainable economic development, therefore called for seriousness in the implementation of the projects to ensure value for money, calling for patriotism from implementers.
Chakwera said: “Now just imagine how many jobs we are creating for the youth through these projects. Just imagine how much wealth we are creating for Malawians through these projects.
“Well, the good news is that you need not imagine it, because here it is before your very eyes. Here is construction equipment and a contractor ready to make this dream a reality for all to see. Here is clear evidence that pa ground pakusintha.”
The President mentioned other road projects in the offing nationwide such as Nkhata Bay-Dwangwa-Nkhotakota-Salima-Balaka Market, Jenda- Edingeni-Engalaweni-Mzimba, Dzaleka-Ntchisi-Malomo, Rumphi-Nyika-Chitipa, Ntcheu-Tsangano-Neno-Mwanza, Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga and Mzimba–Mzarangwe-Kafukule.
He said other road projects include the Njakwa-Livingstonia, Nsanje–Marka, Monkey Bay–Cape Maclear, Nsanama-Nayuchi and the Mkanda-Kapiri.
Chakwera said in a few months government will also commence the rehabilitation of the M1 Road from Kamuzu International Airport junction to Mzimba Turn Off and from Kacheche to Chiweta courtesy of the support of development partners.
Roads Authority (RA) board chairperson Joe Ching’ani said the K19 billion six lane Kenyatta Drive road expansion from Parliament roundabout connecting M1 road at Old Town National Bank service centre and dualising of Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout to Crossroads roundabout will be financed by a development bond.
He said the bond will be raised by the Old Mutual Investment Group and Standard Bank plc; hence, there will be no excuses of funding needs and quality issues.
The project is expected to last for 18 months.
The Area 18 traffic interchange and expansion of the Presiddential Way from Parliament roundabout to Bingu National Stadium was also financed through a development bond from NBS Bank plc.
But Ching’ani lamented that the government systems of recruiting and paying contractors are negatively impacting on roads projects.
He said that major on the frustrations list are the payment system of Integrated Financial Management and Information System (Ifmis) and contractors’ vetting processes which takes forever and frustrates project’s speed.
Said Ching’ani, “Ifmis was supposed to speed up things but as it is at the moment, payments are dragging even more. Another area is that of scrutinising contractors, this takes forever to be finalised.”
In a written response, Development economist Thomas Chataghalala Munthali, who is director general of the National Planning Commission, said the project is commendable as it aligns well to the Urbanisation Pillar under the Malawi 2063 (MW2063) where Malawians clearly aspire for ‘world-class urban centres.’
He said in the MW2063 First 10-Year Implementation Plan (MIP-1), which is under final stages of Cabinet approval, a key strategic intervention under economic infrastructure states ’Dualise prime city roads and district urban centres, according to master plans.’
Munthali said: “So, government is living the talk and delivering on the aspirations of Malawians. Urbanisation is very important because the Urban centres alone contribute over 30 percent of GDP in Malawi and the more we urbanise with critical infrastructure like roads, the more contribution urban centres will make.”
Citing Tanzania as an example, he said huge infrastructure construction is one easy way of quickly graduating to a middle-income economy.
Given the tight fiscal space, Munthali commended development bond financing as a ready model for accessing untapped bank and private resources.
Economist Milward Tobias, who is executive director for Centre for Research and Consultancy, said public infrastructure and in particular roads are key for economic development.
He, however, pointed out that the economic returns and development impact would vary from one project to another.
Tobias described the financing model through the development bond as cost-effective.
The launched road project will also see upgrading of the bridge on Lingadzi River to a six lane bridge while there is going to be a mini clover leaf interchange at the current Kamuzu Central Hospital roundabout.
The contractor of the project is China Civils which boasts of numerous projects across Africa, including the Tazara Railway project connecting Zambia and Tanzania.