The FINANCIAL — The World Bank Group’s Board of Executive Directors on April 29 approved a US$69 million credit to help improve Malawi’s road and border post infrastructure connecting the country to regional trade corridors in southern Africa.
The funds have been provided to Malawi by the International Development Association under the second phase of the Southern Africa Trade and Transport Facilitation Program which aims to ease the movement of goods and people along the North-South Corridor (NSC) and at the key border crossings in Malawi, whilst supporting improvements in road safety and health services. The NSC runs for 3900 km from the port city of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania to Durban in South Africa.
“Malawi being a landlocked country needs to be well-connected to ports and other key cities through good quality roads to help reduce transport costs which are one of the major obstacles to increasing trade and economic growth,” says Richard Record, Acting Country Manager for Malawi. Much as the regional road network is in fair condition, some sections in Malawi and her neighbors are in poor condition and the railway services are unreliable, resulting in 80 percent of all freight in the NSC being moved by road transport.
The program will focus on the M1 Road which is the backbone of Malawi’s road network. The priority routes will be in the northern part of Malawi namely the Karonga-Songwe (46 km), Kacheche-Chiweta (70 km) and Mzimba Turn Off – Mzuzu – Kacheche (147km). The Karonga-Songwe portion of the road carries 22 percent of Malawi’s foreign trade to Songwe, the border point with Tanzania. It is also important for Zambia as it provides the shortest route to Dar-es-Salaam. All these priority routes are in agriculturally productive areas thus will benefit the local communities to transport their produce.
Beyond roads, the program will also upgrade and modernize border post facilities to improve trade facilitation at Songwe on the Tanzania border, and Dedza, Mwanza, and Muloza border crossings on the Mozambique Border. Among other improvements will be structured sharing of information across borders, ICT connectivity, interagency co-operation, and equipment for physical inspections.
Apart from infrastructure, the program will also help Malawi address road safety which is a major problem in the country. Seven priority accident blackspots at trading centres along the M1 will be treated. These are: Chimbiya, Lumbadzi, Mponela, Lizulu, Tsangano/Biriwiri, Kampepuza, and Lunzu. “These blackspots contribute to a significant number of fatalities and serious accident injuries yet most hospitals have poor capacity to provide adequate trauma care, and the country lacks a coordinated emergency response system. The program will therefore address these issues,” says Richard Martin Humphreys, the Bank’s Task Team Leader for the program. In addition, the program will support the implementation of a road safety strategy prepared with support from the European Union.
The program will be implemented by the Roads Authority whose capacity will also be built, including that of the Ministry of Transport and Public Works. The implementation period is expected to be six years, closing in December 2021.