By Daniel Namwini, MANA
The on-going construction of Grand Business Park in Lilongwe will help create over 1,500 direct jobs and 2,000 indirect job opportunities to youths and local people in Malawi.
Deputy Minister of Lands, Abida Mia said this on Tuesday when she visited the Chinese project at Area 46 along the Western By-pass road in Lilongwe.
The cost of construction of the park is estimated at K73 billion (USD100 million) and Mia said the investment has a huge impact on the youths in the country.
“Youths who have completed their courses in different community technical colleges will be able to find jobs and business opportunities after the completion of this magnificent park,” Mia said.
Mia highlighted that the development would also help Malawi economy and change the face of Lilongwe City.
However, the Deputy Minister appealed to the contractor to stick to original designs and ensure quality in the construction of the business park.
She said the government is committed to protecting investments like the on-going grand business park and provide tenure security, including ensuring property rights on investments in the country.
“We encourage investors to strictly follow and keep the terms of the lease agreements,” she said.
General Manager for the China Lilongwe Grand Holding Corporation Limited, Wu Gaogiang said the park — which would comprise a shopping complex, shopping mall, a high class office building and villas — will support facilities such as a five-star hotel and conference center.
“People dealing in commercial activities in the country will be able to find basically everything under one roof. This will change the appearance and beautify the city more,” he said.
Deputy Manager for the park, Sherry Wang added that some of the trading will include building materials, decoration materials, furniture and home use items including clothing and shoes, car and auto-parts sales, electrical appliances just to mention a few.
The Grand Business Park project was launched in 2017 and is expected to be completed after four years from the date construction works that started in 2018.
Meanwhile, in an effort to address the shortage of field extension workers and create jobs, the government — through the Department of Agriculture Extension Services and the Ministry of Agriculture — says it will soon start hiring extension workers to address the scarcity of these experts.
Currently the country has about 57 percent available extension workers working across the country, who are not enough in addressing the needs of farmers which makes some livestock extension workers to double in crop farming.
Dr. Gerome Nkhoma, director of extension in the department of agriculture and extension services, acknowledged the acute shortage of extension workers in the country but said government is doing all it can to address the situation.
“We are not operating at 100 percent extension worker capacity as a country due to a number of factors, including attrition rates, retirement, resignations without immediate replacements for some years.
“Their replacements has not been automatic because at one point recruitment was frozen due to budgetary constraints,” Nkhoma said.
He pushed the blame on the implementation of the decentralization policy. saying it also had its effect on recruitment of extension workers countrywide.
“The Ministry of Agriculture handed over all administrative issues to do with agricultural officers based in districts to their respective district councils.
“These include staffing and promotion of agriculture staff at district level but there have been delays in a number of councils to carry out this mandate for reasons best known to themselves,” he said.
However, Nkhoma said at the moment they are working on recruiting a total of 337 extension workers, who have been trained by the ministry.
“Once recruited the extension workers will be deployed to district councils, the ministry is also addressing staff shortage problem by helping district councils to improve mobility of extension workers from using mere pushbike to motorcycles so that few extension workers can reach out to more farmers with improved mobility,” he said.
He also disclosed that the Ministry, through the Department of Agriculture Extension Services, is also in the process of scaling up use of digital extension tools such as mobile platforms, radio, videos and that the department is promoting group based approaches of engaging farmers to be able to reach out to more farmers as opposed to using individual contacts.
Reacting to the news, Ntchisi District Agriculture Development Officer Siliro Magomero commended government for the move it has taken, citing that currently Ntchisi alone is operating at 47 percent, which is far below the national average of 57 percent.
“We have 33 out of 70 sections here, meaning we are supposed to have 70 agriculture extension development officers as an ideal situation here in Ntchisi but now with 33 out 70 it means we are understaffed.”
He further said that out of the 33 extension workers, six are working on acting capacity, which means the figure is much lower.
Rebecca John, a smallholder farmer at Chimwankhuku area, said it is very rare to be visited by agriculture extension workers because they are few.
“We sometimes lack knowledge on how we can plant or grow a particular crop and as such our yields are not that good,” she said.—Additional reporting by Sydney Chaima, MANA