President Chakwera addressing people of Shire North in Nkaya
* I want this nonsense to stop, because it is scaring away investors and developers
* Orders creation of relevant MDAs for a clear process that tells investors where and when the process starts and ends
* A smart clean process that works without bribery or political interference
* Railway transport holds Malawi’s future—railway investor CEAR
By Duncan Mlanjira, Maravi Express & Lydia Maganga, MANA
President Lazarus Chakwera has said there are many investors who have expressed interest in developing the country’s railway system — some through concession agreements, some through BOT agreements, and some through PPP agreements.
“But several of them complain to my office that there is a chronic lack of response and action to their offer of help,” he said on Tuesday at the opening of the Shire North railway bridge that connects Limbe-Nkaya rail system.
“I know that Malawi has so much goodwill around the world, but often government institutions sit on those extended helping hands until investors tire of waiting and take their investment to other countries.
“In many cases, an investor will come to Malawi, go to the Ministry of Transport and express their interest to construct a road or rail, but they will be sent to the Ministry of Finance for a letter of no-objection, then be sent to the Ministry of Justice to have the MOU scrutinized.
“Then be sent back to the Ministry of Transport to start again, and then be sent to the PPP Commission for assistance, and then be made to wait for months without any response or decision and without even the courtesy of communication.”
Addressing Ministers, the President said: “I want this nonsense to stop, because it is scaring away investors and developers. I can assure you that for every company that secures a contract to build a road or rail in Malawi, there are 20 others that give up on helping us because our process for contracting out infrastructural projects like this are too unclear, too long, too slow, and too cumbersome.
“I am, therefore, directing you to fix this mess. I want you to work with other relevant MDAs to create a clear process that tells investors where and when the process starts and ends; a smart process that separates real investors who have money in the bank and are ready to build the
infrastructure we need from the pretenders who just want a contract so that they can use it to raise money.”
He said he wants “a clean process that works without bribery or political interference; a transparent process that communicates the progress of an application to applicants at every stage; a reliable process that does not keep investor expressions of interest stuck in bureaucratic and documentation processes indefinitely before they are able to put hardware on the ground to start working”.
“No investor who expresses interest in developing our rail or road infrastructure should have to be sent to multiple government offices with the same offer of investment or without being told at the outset how long it will take for their offer to be decided on.
“The fact that so many investors are chasing after elected politicians to secure contracts or to get applications that are stuck in government offices moving means that we have a system that doesn’t work for Malawian development.”
He asked the Minister of Transport to work with the relevant MDAs to propose a new and better system to be submitted to him before the next sitting of Parliament.
“In addition, I want your Ministry to see to it that every company that has written Government to express interest in developing road or rail infrastructure has received communication by the end of this year about the status of their offer to invest in this sector.
“I have said on several occasions that our three priorities are job creation, wealth creation, and food security, and I have said that one of our accelerators is infrastructural development, so the time has come for the government MDAs responsible for making this operational adopt a new approach that shows seriousness and urgency.
“We cannot be keeping potential investors waiting forever for an answer, nor can we allow these projects to be monopolized by a few investors who can charge us ridiculous prices without competition.
“To summarize, Minister, I have given you two directives, so please start acting on those right away and let the Secretary to the President and Cabinet know your progress and any assistance you need from his office to get this done.”
He then turned to the gathering from the communities living near Shire North railway bridge and along the whole rail network that is being developing, to preserve these developments.
“Please desist from vandalising these developments, because these are for our own good as a nation. If you destroy or damage these developments, you will be caught and dealt with. If you don’t follow the law, the law will follow you.”
Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer for Central East African Railways (CEAR), Wellington Soares advised the government to invest and promote the railway sector, saying it has potential in fostering socio-economic development in the country.
Soares said railway transport is the cheapest mode and the only type which can carry loads of goods at once, thereby making it convenient.
Soares expressed gratitude that government trusts the company and offers full support to the railway industry in the country, giving an example when the company was given the opportunity to supply farm inputs under the Affordable Inputs Programme (AIP) which it managed to deliver in time using the railway transport.
“That was a milestone in the cargo service,” Soares said, while assuring government that his company would work hard to see that the railway industry grows, citing renovation and construction of Limbe Railway Station which, he said, would be the biggest in Malawi.
Soares said the new Shire North Railway Bridge is part of the Nacala Corridor which will remain vital when it comes to the cheapest and easiest way of transportation.
Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works, Nancy Mdooko said her ministry remained committed to improving the railway transport as it has proved to be the cheapest mode of transport.
Mdooko further observed that shifting the main focus to railway transport would also save the lifespan of roads in the country as they are the mostly used mode of transportation, which makes them vulnerable to destruction.
She disclosed that the Ministry of Transport has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Government of the Republic of Mozambique on rehabilitating the railway line to connect it to Mozambique in order to resuscitate delivery of cargo services which was vibrant in the past decades.
The Shire North Bridge has cost about US$13 million (approx. K10.4 billion). The 165m-long bridge has a five-metre space of pavement for pedestrians and cyclists.