Zambia, Malawi moving together in development

By Emmanuel Banda (ZANIS)
Despite being endowed with abundant natural resources, Africa has continued to be looked down upon as a poor Continent.

The assertion that Africa is indeed a poor Continent arises from the fact that its inhabitants are living in poverty – abject poverty for that matter!

What is also known about Africa is that its countries were all at one point or another, politically and economically colonized by the Western World. However, the good news about this continent is that all its States consequently liberated themselves from colonial rule.

In any case, political independence is one thing and economic independence is yet another.

As African countries helped one another in the freedom struggle from colonialism, their leaders must continue working together in an effort to unite Africa as a single, solid economy which should be less dependent on outside handouts.

This is the more reason Africa is divided into small economic groupings other than the umbrella African Union (AU) alone. Such small, economic groupings as the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are a right pointer for Africa towards continental economic emancipation.

But the stepping stone towards this course should be set by individual states through conducive economic policies. Some countries have already started taking this initiative with assistance from regional, international, global groupings and financial institutions of goodwill.

Both Zambia and Malawi belong to COMESA and SADC among other regional bodies. The two countries, which share a common economic disadvantage of being landlocked, have also taken an initiative towards economic freedom.

In this regard, on August 27, 2010, Zambia added value to its transport sector by launching the long awaited Chipata/Mchinji railway line.

This railway project, which was initiated in the late 1970s by the then Presidents of Zambia and Malawi – Dr Kenneth Kaunda and Dr Kamuzu Banda respectively – was meant to provide a shorter route to the port of Nacala in Mozambique through which most of Zambia’s and Malawi’s imports and exports pass.

The line was, and still is an alternative route besides the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA). In other words, the project was meant to facilitate landlocked Zambia access its imports and exports to the eastern coast of the African continent through the Port of Nacala .

On this ceremonial day, President Rupiah Banda invited his Malawian and Mozambican counterparts, Professor Bingu wa Mutharika and Armando Guebuza respectively.

In his speech at this joyous occasion, President Banda stated clearly what the railway line between Chipata and Mchinji meant for him and said, “the commissioning of the railway line gives me renewed hope and determination that Zambia , Malawi and Mozambique can improve the wellbeing of their people through joint projects. This equally shows how the railway line would not only enhance employment but also reduce poverty among many people of the SADC and COMESA member states through lower taxes on goods entering and exiting our countries.”

The local business community in Chipata, where the terminus of the project is, views the benefit of the railway line with an economic eye.

“The cost of transporting fertilizer to Chipata in Zambia from the port of Nacala in Mozambique through Mchinji in Malawi will reduce by about US $30 per tonne (about K140,000 per tonne),” says Ziaudin Daya, a local businessman and agent for the Central East African Railways (CEAR), a Malawian-based company running trains on the newly commissioned railway line.

This means that imported goods, including agro inputs will be cheaper, especially for small-scale farmers who are the majority. The move would translate to more production of maize and other crops.

It is envisaged that the government and, indeed the private sector, would still use the same railway line to easily and cheaply export their produce to the outside world at a faster rate.

Other than the agro inputs and agro produce, says Daya, the railway would also be used to transport large quantities of commercial goods like cement and copper in due course at drastically lower tax charges. The benefits are expected to trickle down to the common man who would buy and sell goods at affordable prices.

The Malawian President, Professor Wa Mutharika also stated that the initiative would enhance the transport capacity of his country, Malawi, and Mozambique while contributing significantly to the reduction of transport costs for imports and exports.

He further observed that as a result of the launch of the railway line, the continent would achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) of the United Nations adding that Better transportation will also enhance agricultural production and food security in Africa .

With this development, President Wa Mutharika said his government would ensure that the 810 km railway line in Malawi is fully rehabilitated and upgraded to provide the connectivity to the port of Nacala so that the people of Malawi and Zambia benefit from the rail project through cheaper imports of agricultural inputs and other basic necessities as well as exports of agricultural commodities, mineral products and manufactured goods.

“This is an important and historic milestone in the development of transport infrastructure between our two countries. It is also the realization of the COMESA/SADC programmes for strengthening regional economic integration,” he emphasized, adding that the project was proof enough that the leaders were together in their development efforts.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the Mozambican government through the Minister of Communication and Transport, Paulo Zukula. Other than recognizing the project as a positive transport infrastructural development for the countries of Zambia , Malawi and Mozambique and the SADC region in general, Mr Zukula also saw it as a milestone towards the fight against poverty and called for co-operation among the three countries so that their dreams could come true in unison.

“The fight against poverty is serious one as it has no borders. Hunger and thirst can wait, but poverty must go now,” he charged and reiterated that the rail project would accelerate regional integration.

The Mozambican Minister of Communication and Transport urged the private sector to partner with the governments so that the three countries would successfully complement one another and share what is good for them.

On October 23, 2010, President Wa Mutharika also added value to this important sector; when commissioned a more-than US $6 billion Nsanje World Inland Port on the Shire River .

The Nsanje World Inland Port has become the shortest outlet for goods imported and exported outside Malawi and Zambia as the two countries will no longer use the Nacala port in Mozambique which is hundreds of kilometers away. Secondly, and still better enough for Malawi and Zambia , the port is on the railway that joins the Chipata/Mchinji rail project which was opened earlier on in Chipata.

According to Professor Wa Mutharika, his dream of constructing the port was hatched some five years ago when, after working as Secretary General for SADC, he realized that Malawi had the highest import and export tax among the regional member states. “It is this high tax we suffered that motivated me to construct this port,” he said.

His dream was compounded from information he got from someone in the United Kingdom . “We were in the under-ground train when this man asked me how Port Herald was doing. I told him I did not know the port he was talking about until he said he meant the port on the Shire River in Nsanje district,” he said.

“I told him there was no port there and he was sad and told me that there was Port Herald in Nsanje district on the Shire River which was more economical for Malawi than Nacala. That is when I realized that there was a God made natural resource of economic value for us,” he said.

After gathering more information Professor Wa Mutharika realized that the port, which was used and abandoned several decades ago, could be revamped. However, the President was not sure whether the river was still deep enough and navigable.

President Wa Mutharika explained that other interested organizations and private partners supported his idea of constructing the Nsanje World Inland Port. However, there were a lot of critics who thought that the Malawian President was only seeking political mileage when he broke the news that he intended to construct the port in an area where they thought was only suitable for rice cultivation as it was flooded during the rainy season.

With the help of the private sector and international organizations, like the World Bank, European Union, the Africa Development Bank and the Japanese government to mention a few, the dream came true for Prof Wa Mutharika.

An interested businessman, Mahesh Patel, set the pace by using his resources to survey the river from Nsanje Boma to the Indian Ocean for navigability. It was after receiving the report that the contractor, Antonio Mota, assured the President that his company, Mota Angel Construction Group, was going to succeed in constructing the port after being in port construction and port running business for more than 64 years.

According to President Wa Mutharika, the opening of the port was just the first phase of his dream.

He said, “In the next year we shall have warehouses, hotels, banks, modern restaurants, an international airport and tourist attractions, most of which will be constructed by the private sector.”

He thanked the Mozambican government in a special way for granting a license to the Export Trading Company of Malawi that would spearhead smooth running of international business through the waterway.

President Wa Mutharika reiterated the promise he made in Chipata during the commissioning of the Chipata/Mchinji railway line that his government would rehabilitate the railway line and construct a bridge at Chilomoni to facilitate train operation from Nsanje Boma through Mchinji to Chipata in Zambia .

The Malawian President took advantage of the ceremony to reveal that he had another dream which was generated when he was COMESA Secretary General.

This dream is to have a fast train linking Blantyre and Harare , and join Botswana , Mozambique and South Africa and Tanzania and East Africa .

“This is not a wild dream; it’s a dream that can change the lives of the people in this country. This will happen one day,” he said.

And President Rupiah Banda congratulated Prof Wa Mutharika for the project and advised him not to listen to negative critics whose agenda was only to come to power and rule the nation at all costs.

President Banda observed that people who were criticizing national leaders for leading their countries to economic freedom were not patriotic to their States and lacked love for the people.

Mr. Banda, who flew to Blantyre direct from Mpulungu Port which services Zambia , the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania , Ruanda and Burundi in an effort to ensure that waterways connecting the said countries were operating successfully, said the Nsanje Port in Malawi would directly benefit his country.

He added that the opening of the Nsanje World Inland Port was indicative of how serious the Malawian President was in developing his country and uplifting living standards of his people.

Mr. Banda observed that the Nsanje World Inland Port was not important only to the people of Malawi but to Africa at large, adding that he and the people of Zambia were the direct beneficiary.

He described the occasion as a celebration of the dream-come true to lowering the cost of living and uplifting the lives of the people in the two countries. He advised Professor Wa Mutharika not to look back but forward with his vision.

“I want to congratulate you for being a stubborn implementer of what you believe in. You have done what is good for your people and you do not care what other people say. I am also accused of the same in Zambia but I am stubborn when it comes to implementing what is good for the people of Zambia ,” he said.

In the same vein, the Zimbabwean President, Mr. Robert Mugabe observed that there was still much to be done to open up landlocked countries to the outside world.

“We have not been practical enough in Africa since our political independence. We have wanted other people to do things for us – begging! We have done very little for ourselves in putting our resources together and inviting them to be partners with us, and on this project this is what we should do, not otherwise depending on them wholly,” he said.

Mr. Mugabe challenged SADC member countries to take the Nsanje World Inland Port together.

“We should facilitate it as our project together. Similar projects could be generated elsewhere and we have to come in. So let us accept the port as ours and enable it to function and not to stand in its way if it has to succeed,” he said.

Mr. Mugabe said if SADC countries happened to fail to support the project they should look at themselves as negative elements of the region. He described Zambia and his country as landlocked twins that were looking for as many routes to the sea as possible through the eastern, western and southern parts of Africa through which their goods could move freely.

Economic emancipation for any country cannot succeed if government is left alone to champion it as doing so calls for combined efforts. Critics must show potential leadership by helping government towards the noble responsibility of making life easier for a common man.

He noted that the idea of pulling down every developmental plan by government would always disadvantage the majority poor.

The private sector in Malawi has exhibited willingness to help the state achieve its goals on the Njsanje World Inland Port. Individuals used their resources while political critics saw nothing good in the project. It is hoped that one day, when they are in the driving seat of the country, they will review their views over the project.

The Zambian private and business sectors should also take advantage of the Nsanje port in Malawi . Prof Wa Mutharika is inviting co-operating partners to invest in the transport sector in Malawi .

The government of Zambia , being a direct beneficiary of the port, has made a move. The state is in the process of securing land for constructing a warehouse for cargo, said Zambia ’s High Commissioner to Malawi , Richard Kachingwe.

After several decades of political independence, Africans must unite and fight economic dependence by shelving internal, unproductive politics and concentrating on discussing, resolving and implementing what is economically beneficial to individual citizens and the state at large. ZANIS FEATURE SERVICE.


  • comment-avatar
    ZambianMalawian 7 years

    The Jackal, In the first place, what I heard was that, It was not the Malawi Police, who raided those villages, it was actually the game rangers from Kasungu National Park. According to the rangers, those villagers were repeatedly warned since February to move out from the area in question, because following the redarmacation of the border btwn Zambia and Malawi, that area became part of Malawi, and actually part of Kasungu National Park. Unfortunately, those villagers never complied, and actually went on to start preparing gardens on land reserved for Kasungu National Park, thats the reason why they had to forced out of the land. However I understand that the issue was resolved amicably, with Zambian authourities. As a matter of fact, Zambian and Malawi police worked together in the same week to arrest fertilizer smugglers from Malawi, on the Zambian soil. So, as far as I know, there are not diplomatic rifts between the two countries.

    Coming back to the main story, what the write simply meant was that, Malawi constructed its own inland port on the Shire-Zambezi waterway, what it means is that, Malawi would be able to ship its own cargo to the ocean cheaply by navigating the rivers. But since this port in Southern Malawi is closer to Zambia, eastern Zambia in particular, therefore the benefits which Malawi is going to have for using that port will spill over to Zambia, due to proximity, because already this new Chipata-Mchinji Railwayline is also linked to this new port, besides going all the way to port Nacala currently and Beira in the future. Now this is in agreement with what the writer’s subject that,”Malawi-Zambia moving together in development”, simple analysis isn’t it. Unfortunately in your explanation, you mention, that Zambia must strive for its own selfish interests, which is in contrary to what the writer was talking about here. In fact your discussion should have centred on, how Zambia would strive for its own selfsh interests after using the infrastructure in question. So aren’t you putting the cart before the horse here. Finally it is wrong for you to suggest that Malawians don’t care about Zambians. How much trade is conducted between Malawi and Zambia? Don’t forget that we share a lot of things in common, Zambian musicians perform and sale their music in Malawi easily because their message is understood.

  • comment-avatar
    The Jackal 7 years

    SORRY, what I meant to say is that WHAT does the sentence ‘Zambia, Malawi moving together in development ‘ mean? It is an entirely meaningless sentence. Let is not waste time coining slogans that do not mean anything or reflect the true picture on the ground. I do agree that ZANIS is government and so the writer was writing a government public relations article; but still there is no point in talking about political slogans because the two countries cannever practically move together in development. Only last week Malawian police raided and burnt to ashes houses belonging to Zambian villagers who happen to reside on the correct side of the border. It had to take our soldiers to save the potential catastrophe, and those poor villagers now will spend the rest of the rain season squatting, with all the property gone in the fires. You tell me that is “together in development”. What might be helpful is to say, okay we have a railway line that passes through Malawi, what does that mean for the Zambian villager, the common man, the businessman. Compare the railway line to Dar route, the Durban route, the Walvis Bay route. That would have made his article more enjoyable: not political sloganeering about Zambia and Malawi growing together, which doesn’t make sense. We should get away from chants and get serious with analysis if we must develop. This idea of always fantasizing in wishful thinking does not help anyone. It is good to love our neighbours, but don’t get carried away…especially if they don’t seem to care about you!

  • comment-avatar
    The Jackal 7 years

    ZambianMalawian & osama b ladin
    PLEASE read my contribution again. You must learn to read, digest, and understand what somebody is saying rather than rushing to SHOOTING ME! Please it is my turn to appeal to you to HOLD YOUR FIRES!! I’m not saying we are not connected to the global economy and I’m also NOT saying that we don’t need Malawi. If I said that it would be stupid of me and shallow-minded, as Osama is saying. What I’m actually saying is that the message of the article is stale. This is no longer the time to placate ourselves about brotherhood and African unity. All Africans now know that we need each other. So it is a waste of space for the author of spend it on solidarity messages in stead of actually analysing what the Mchinji railway line means for a common person in Zambia. There is no need to write an article about leaders giving speeches, that makes it too elitist; the author should go down to the ground. Otherwise it doesn’t make sense. SECONDLY, WHAT

  • comment-avatar
    osama b ladin 7 years

    #1 hold ya fire under which tree did ya do ya schl very shallow minded indeed incase ya did knw is what happens in china or here in USA and anywhere in da world has got an impact on zed economy railway and road network are da drive force of da economy including air links do ya jst blog without reasoning ya a disgrace to yaself i wld only appeal to da govmnt to have railway links in o da provinces and other nbrng countries big ups to da grz pliz intro. a bullet train to spd up buznss time is money

  • comment-avatar
    osama b ladin 7 years

    #1 hold ya fire under which tree did ya do ya schl very shallow minded indeed incase ya did knw is what happens in china or here in USA and anywhere in da world has got an impact on zed economy railway and road network are da drive force of da economy including air links do ya jst blog without reasoning ya a disgrace to yaself

  • comment-avatar
    ZambianMalawian 7 years

    Wait a minute Jackal, I do not agree with you here. Are you suggesting that Zambia shouldn’t care about looking eastwards!!! Please go back and consult your facts correctly. Ofcourse Zambia’s economy is several times bigger than that of Malawi, we all know that. Take note that Zambia will also ignore trading with Malawi to its own disdvantage. Typical examples I can give you include: It is 4 times closer ,and therefore cheaper for Chipatans to do business with Lilongwe than Lusaka. For your own information and everyday Chipatans cross the border into Malawi, on a go, come trip, to buy stuff in Lilongwe, Smuggle fuel, Soft drinks from Malawi, to take flights from Lilongwe to elsewhere, even to board buses going to South Africa because it is more flexible for them to do so, other than going through Lusaka. In fact everytime I take a mini bus from Lilongwe to Mchinji, I commute with a lot of Zambians travelling from Lilongwe to Chipata. Wholesalers in Mchinji make a kill out of smugglers from Zambia, some companies in Malawi when making their production estimates, do account for smugglers to Chipata. In fact Mchinji is one of the towns that does not sleep in Malawi due to its proximity to Chipata and some parts of Mozambique.
    If you did not know, one of the reasons why the Zambian govt relaunched the Chipata- Mchinji Railwayline, was because it was targeting that very same port being constructed in Southern Malawi, I thought you were clever enough to notice it, anyway but Zambian businesses saw it, in anycase thats the reason why they have been pushing for it. The relaunching of the Railwayline itself has seen Chipata transforming i.e. the number of banks in Chipata increased for 3 to 7 ( including those acquiring new land for development) at the beginning of year, why did this happen all of a sudden, may be the economists can explain to us. If you check with the government authourities in Chipata, they will tell you that most of the development land in Chipata was sold out, and that the current town plan expired, hence the need to replan the town and acquire more land from the local chiefs for development purposes. I therefore don’t agree with you, however I agree the writer, Emmanuel Banda that yes indeed Zambia, Malawi moving together in development, this makes much more sense especially to the Easterners.

  • comment-avatar
    THE JACKAL 7 years

    Cut the rubbish. This is 1970s rhetoric which is old-fashioned. Moving together in development for what? We don’t care what Malawians do. We want to move alone in development. This is so old-fashioned thinking. Africa together, in unity rubbish that has never helped any country. In this world we must strive for our own selfish Zambian interests. The railway line is good for Zambia. The fact that it is good for Malawi is also a good thing, but Malawi could as well have been Swaziland why should we care? Write economic articles that are objectively analytical and helpful, not this political mumbo-jumbo that looks like it came off Kaunda’s 1971 speech.