Chinese aid in Malawi viewed with mixed feelings: ‘The devil is in the details’

There are mixed feelings over China’s new round of cooperation with Malawi amounting to $1.5 billion (about K855 billion) in various sectors, including building a cancer centre, increasing power generation capacity by 300 megawatts (MW) and construction of a modern Chileka International Airport within three years.

Chisi: There are hidden strings

Chisi: There are hidden strings

Mvula: No freeChinese lunch

Mvula: No freeChinese lunch

During interviews on Capital Radio, critics ranging from University of Malawi dons, political commentators, politicians and analysts have been sharing mixed reaction to the Chinese aid.

People who also spoke to Nyasa Times expressed different views with others saying Chinese were welcome as investors but not as “vendors or shoe-shiners”.

They also noted that some Chinese are bringing bad habits as well as trade, investment, jobs and skills.

No strings attached

Happy Kayuni, Associate Professor and head of Political and Administrative studies at the University of Malawi, Chancellor College told Capital Radio that Malawi should “carefully look at strategic interests” of China.

Kayuni said China “doesn’t ask issues of good governance” while Western donors “ensure that we improve our governance structures.”

Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika, has declared himself satisfied with his government’s relations with China and the development aid package. Mutharika said the Chinese projects come with “no strings attached”.

But Umodzi Party president John Chisi said there are “hidden” strings by the Chinese.

“What we have heard is what Malawi is gaining But we have not heard what China is going to gain from this country,” said Chisi on the radio.

“The Chinese might negotiate [to take control of] our minerals,” said Chisi, who was quick to add “I am speculating obviously.”

Chisi said: “To say that there is no condition is not true. There is no way China can take their tax payers money and give Malawi for nothing. There is no free lunch. “

The politician who contested and flopped in the 2014 presidential polls said the government should come clean on what will China benefit from Malawi.

“I have no problem with our President but I want our President to come clean. I don’t want to know that china is now controlling half of Malawi because of the grants. We cannot just be excited [the devil is in the details],” he said

Economist and chairperson of Economist Association of Malawi, Henry Kachaje noted that China “tend to bring their own labour force” in their projects on jobs that can be handled by locals.

“Its exciting thing that we are getting projects on the ground [but], we need jobs for Malawians,” he said.

Parliament’s nod

Political commentator Humphreys Mvula said parliament should be approving such grants and loans.

“It is good to have a project in Malawi but I did expect such projects should go through parliament to approve the loan or grants.

“It is supposed to be approved through a parliamentary presentation by Minister of Finance,” said Mvula.

He also pointed out that Chinese do not give free money, saying for Beijing money it is given in exchange of what they will get out of the country.

The Chinese aid comes barely days after Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe ruled out the coming back of Malawi traditional donors- from Western countries – to prop up the government of Malawi purse.

Different breed

Prominent newspaper columnist, George Kasakula who is also Editor-In-Chief of Malawi’s biggest media house, Times Group, wrote on his “Hitting Hard” column in Malawi News that the Chinese are a “different breed” of donors as locals find it hard to embezzle development funds.

“ They don’t patronise anybody when they give you a loan to build something but, more importantly, they do all the work by themselves leaving no room for thieving civil servants to dip their dirty fingers into the kitty.

“They are hard workers unlike some lazy bone compatriots and they will deliver the projects within the specified time. In short, when the Chinese promise and put pen to paper, they do not waste time but they deliver,” writes Kasakula.

Usually money is put into escrow accounts in Beijing; then a list of infrastructure projects is drawn up, Chinese companies are given contracts to build them and funds are transferred to company accounts. The country gets development projects but no cash. At least that is the theory, according to The Economist.

Kasakula cites the projects that China has put its mark on Malawi such as the country’s first five-star hotel, $90m worth of well-appointed rooms, a state-of-the-art Bingu Conference Centre and 14 opulent presidential suites. Then the Bingu stadium in Area 47— “massive structure that we can all be proud of.”

In his newspaper column, Kasakula also pointed out: “It is never lost on me that, these are loans that as a country, we will have to pay back to the Chinese but by all standards, they are wise investments.”

Funded projects

Of the seven projects only three are grants totalling $58 million (K33 billion) for the construction of the Blantyre District Hospital and Cancer Centre in Blantyre. The Blantyre District Hospital is set to be built at Kameza on the site where the abandoned Muammar Gaddafi Hospital Project was.

The projects would be financed by China Exim Bank, main lenders, while most would be implemented by China Gezhouba Group Company Limited.

Chinese aid figures are treated as state secrets. Exim Bank publish no figures about their vast loans to poor countries.

Among the grants which China has made is $2 million (about K1.1 billion) for the procurement of police for the Malawi Police Service, construction of a technical teacher’s training college costing $5 million (about K2.8 billion) and construction of community technical colleges costing $6 million.

Under the grants, China will also support technical services for the Bingu National Stadium for $1 million (K570 million), construction of a new Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation building amounting to $3 million and procurement of office equipment and furniture for the Ministry of Industry and Trade amounting to $1 million.

China has pended for review road projects namely Tsangano-Neno-Mwanza Road, Mangochi-Makanjira Road and the upgrading of the Phombeya-Makanjira-Nkhotakota-Chatoloma 220 kv power line.

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54 thoughts on “Chinese aid in Malawi viewed with mixed feelings: ‘The devil is in the details’”

  1. Kamija says:

    Apm sewera yomweyo osawapasa chitukuko akumpoto anye basi nthawi ndiyino.Nthawi yama vote 2019 kuzangowanamizira pangono stadium yakukaronga ndi TTC ku Rumphi agalu achabechabe awa alira

  2. KUKHALA says:


  3. NEEMA says:

    Akumpoto adikile funding ya azungu akuti. akhalira yomweyo ya AIDS ndi mdulidwe. Condom and abortion. Mutha muona ndi atsamunda anuo. kumadabwa kuti 50yrs sitinalemere chifukwa chiani? kuli kukhulupilira satana. ( mzungu) amakudyerani masuku pamutu. amangokupatsani hand to mouth. mukadya nkunya kukamwa yasaa! Chitukuko ndi infrastructure. A chisi chitukuko mumachidziwa inu?? tamangogwirani yachipatala. munthu kukanika kulankhula chilamkhulo momveka bwino, mutu ulu bwino uwO?????

  4. Loan need to be paid back. Where is Malawi going o get the money to pay back? To pay back Malawi need to get aid. Because Malawi has no dollars on their own. China is dealing with western world bu western world are not borrowing from China, they are investing. They have moved their factories to China because it is cheap labour. Why they not move to Africa? Its corruption. Africa leaders want some who can give them a part of investing money to start a company in the country. China pay bribe and so Mota Engil. This is why Malawi has few investors. How do you expect job creation?

  5. levelheaded says:

    There is no aid that is free everywhere. Even in the church we pay tenth so that by fulfilling that pledge we should win favour from God. God himself blesses us with conditions that we should extend those blessings by helping others if you don’t He takes it back. Those are the strings to any aid. Actually that’s how this world is like.

  6. mtumbuka1 says:

    So every project has to called bingu this or bingu that? Bullshit! You guys must change all that shit cos it smells dictatorship.

  7. chingolopiyo says:

    what has this issue has to do with Devex newswire? Since when did we start questioning aid/ donations/ loans in Malawi. We have people who give us aid, but they also benefit from from the country. Chinese aid has come at the right time.

  8. Munyane says:

    this grant is equal to our national budget but as usual I don’t see any project for the north this is very unfortunate and unfair.We youth from north are watching

  9. levelheaded says:

    “The analyst” you have really made my day.

    1. The Analyst says:


  10. BigMan says:

    Why not just be appreciative instead of just barking, barking, barking, barking and barking some more….. for nothing. You prefer aid from colonial masters who treat you like children and interfere with your culture by forcing you into homosexuality etc…?

    The Chinese want one thing, political influence and support internationally and they are willing to assist us with grants as well as loans that bring real structures on the ground in exchange for the support.

    Nothing wrong with that.

    As for them wanting minerals, of course they do, but they will pay for them after negotiation. You prefer the colonial way of trade, go see the British steal your tobacco and tea every year… for nothing!

    1. Kenkkk says:

      BigMan, the Chinese already have international economic and political influence, they don’t need small poorest country Malawi for support.

      Yes we need Chinese funded structures built but they should be built throughout the country and not just the south as you dpp thugs and bootlickers are currently doing. You are actually dividing the country and you will be held responsible for the consequences that could follow.

      Also we shouldn’t just go to China to run away from our perennial problems holding the country’s development in the form of thieving and corruption and poor governance that the west and all decent Malawians want stopped but vehemently defended by you dpp thugs. Of course China turns blind eye to such things, they are also part of their fabric.

      You say China wants the minerals but we need transparency on how the deals are being made by the Malawi govt.

      We shall continue barking barking barking until dpp thugs come to their senses.

  11. milonde says:

    beggars cannot be choosers. never look at a gift horse in the mouth. banana republic.

  12. Katakwe says:

    The understanding is that all these are loans from China. Some will attract interest while the small amount loans are the loans that will be paid back at the same value. It is important to note that there is focus on improving energy supply in Malawi to boost industrialization. The question is: which type of model of energy generation should be embarked on? My worry is the coal powered energy plan which its sustainability id highly questionable. This plant will consume a lot of coal each day and local production will not be sufficient to run to run this hence will be importing from other countries. The key challenge is the importing part which will push us back to the same black out experiences. Will Malawi manage to pay its coal on time to avoid the suppliers suspending the supplies? This is the question Goodal Gondwe need to assure Malawians when he has already gravely failed to pay civil servants on time….. Mukupanga another Nsanje Economic Disaster. We need to have another Hydro Plant in the north and not this short time unreliable thermal plant. Our engineers cant think outside the box where they only think that electricity can only be generated along Shire river. Our Lake is surrounded by Mountains and there is potential to develop hydro plants in the North where we will not need to import water to run the turbines. Unfortunately, our politicians are full of regionalistic thinking that all big projects should be in the south. Shame!

  13. Good samaritan says:

    Nothing is for free my dear friends…….
    We will pay dearly one way or another.
    I cry for mother Malawi……mamaweeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. MSANA WA PETURO says:

    Ndi Ahlomwe okha angayamike izi because they lack analytical skills and vision. Mbuzi zachabechabe. Mxiiii!

  15. I will not mind if i hear that some mineral deposits will go to China 4 five yrs. I will not get worried if they will take all the turtles from Lake Malawi. Malawi has no capacity to turn them into finished products. Go Peter go

  16. The Only Democrat Left says:

    Our concern should be about whether Chinese aid is intended to enrich Chinese contractors who will construct the airport, cancer center etc.
    What is critical is that all donor aid is directed to benefit the millions of Malawians who are still living in poverty of Biblical proportions.
    What possible benefit can a large expensive airport at Chileka be to these long suffering Malawians when our economy will not afford to pay salaries to the larger numbers of police, immigration officers, customs officers, cleaners, airport workers etc.who will be required to be employed at the large airport
    Equally our economy cannot adequately fund our hospitals to offer basic primary care and our hospitals lack basic medicines, our universities lack books etc. and our Government is looking at the Chinese building a new airport, cancer centers, stadiums etc.
    This is highly irresponsible. Lets be for real people.

  17. Rational Being says:

    If there are any strings attached, i dont believe they are worth giving us a headache. What is getting most people worried is the fact that the Chinese use their own companies and human resources to do the projects. They are always timely and efficient, which malawians hate, people here want to do a simple project for 7 years and embezzle as much funds as possible when they can actually do it in a year.

  18. Elias says:

    What do you opposition people want, you say we need aid for us to survive then developmental aid has been found by Chinese government it shows you are happy then what is good for you sometimes remain silent if you have nothing to contribute than arguing everything happening. Be the solution than fault finders, love your country in patriotic way.

  19. Tina says:

    Mwakomedwa ndithandizotuu kuzolowela kupempha, mutuluka zidzolo zaku China pompano

  20. We are silly minded kod akati thandizo ndie kuti ndie kut ndingongole ndimavuto Ali kumudziwa awona kuti ndibwino kutithandiza motero I don’t see any matter from Chinese donations.

  21. Nankununkha sadzimva says:

    Either we agree or disagree but there is one thing clear, “Malawians(Africans) are too dull to do for ourselves”
    Things speak for themselves!

  22. Mungawa says:

    aMalawiii, mmmmh let us use our heads carefully please.

  23. Owonelera says:

    The fact that government is failing to disclose what China will get in return (forget the nominal interest charged) simply means that its something dirty. There is no way they can give us free lunch…Malawi for sale

  24. wodabwa says:

    I have ever entered into the office of one of the bosses building the stadium in ll outside there was a sculpture of the dragon then iasked about its use one man said they don’t worship God no time to go to church but 24 hrs working that’s all igot as response I suppose if we fail to repay the loans we will need to be working 24 hrs no going to church til we make their money and the dragons eish no deference with gay attachments so China bring the development we need it but if u can’t say the conditions now u will demolish ur establishements if we will not accept them later.huts off to China

  25. Kenkkk says:

    China is not giving us money for nothing. Anyone thinking otherwise would be very stupid. Only recently China took tonnes of mineral samples from the north for the so called stupid testing. Those are the hidden deals that this thieving dpp govt is making with the Chinese.

    Dpp knows that its poor governance, corruption and thieving will go unpunished by China who are themselves the kings of human rights abuse, corruption and poor governance. hence dpp’s heavy reliance on China. But what message is Peter and his dpp thugs sending to malawians? Continue with corruption, funding abuses, poor governance and human rights abuses because China is there to help us?

    I personally support the Chinese bringing their own people to do their projects, that is the only way they can guarantee timely completion of their projects because they avoid the thieving of their resources and also their workers work harder than us, they don’t dispute anything such as wages demands, strikes, etc which just holds back timely completions of projects. The few Malawians they employ are enough.

    Unfortunately all the new fully Chinese funded projects to start immediately are all in the south including the cancer centre. How does parliament feel and think about this? You look stupid and powerless as these dpp thugs match on. And how does the north feel about the cancer centre being hundreds of miles from them, not even in Lilongwe? Bt will get its cancer centre first fully built by the Chinese while Lilongwe where parliament chose for the location of the centre languishes empty waiting for Mra funding.

    Pure evil, selfish and unpatriotic by these dpp thugs.

  26. KAMTEDZA says:

    Number 16 your analysis is very intelligent and the questions you ask the ECAMA president are very logical and sound. How I wish Mr ECAMA president responded to your issues. I personally have no problems with the Chinese projects in Malawi even if they came with some strings. This is better than nothing. By the way go to Capital hotel and check on the smoothness of the walls and the corners of their buidling (Malawi’s best labour at work) and compare the President Hotel’s corners and walls (Chinese labour), you will appreciate that it has to be Chinese labour. Malawian contractors have let this country down, have you already forgotten about the Neno hospital under Clinton fund how it developed cracks before it was opened. Malawians should not be given jobs because they are Malawians but rather because they capable and they deliver with excellence. Having said that I am not sure what the Umodzi President could have done if he was in APM’s position (i.e. running the country on 60% of the required budget and then someone like the Chinese is offering you something. I dont belong to any party but I would to see people bringing in constructive criticism.

  27. Free Born says:

    The word China in Malawi is associated with something that does not last long. You cannot loose smart donors due to rotten minds of civil servants and politicians as master minders of corruption and cashgate. Malawi is turning China, as short lived nation because Government is failing to tame evil and corrupt politicians in Government. Half bread is better than none but I do not think Malawians voted for their nation to be thrown to dogs and temporary living as Chinese projects do.

  28. mapwevupwevu says:

    What do we have to show for the western grant and loan money in 51 years? Poverty!

    What do we have to show for the three years of” bad chinese” money?
    Chitipa-Karonga road
    Lilongwe city centre dual carriage streets
    Bingu conference centre
    Umodzi hotel
    Nsanje port (kikiki)
    Bingo stadium.

    Lets go the Chinese way. The gazing are gone anyway!

  29. Mzee says:

    It doesnt mean the projects are on. Parliament will have to approve first. The Chinese are not stupid the know that only after parliament has approved can a loan become effective otherwise any incoming govt would not owner the obligation to repay. On using MW labour chonde lets face facts Malawi doesnt have the quality of labour that the country need.

  30. belekiya says:

    China aid is good because they come and do the work themselves and the work is done. No cash gating. Much as we also want employment, it is better that they come and do the work so that we see the real value of the aid.

  31. Change says:

    Wait and see what China will do to Malawi. Ask Zambians.

  32. Happy Eduardo says:

    Thanks Mr. Analyst, I like your piece. You are a a patriotic Malawian. That is the way to go. For others, please school me which donor gives money without conditions? Azungu nde you know them already to the point of wanting us to yield to homosexuality. I salute the Chinese for what I call the “Roller-Coaster Aid) to Malawi. Malawi will never be the same in the next five years with this amount of aid.

    1. The Analyst says:

      You are always welcome

  33. Ilala says:

    Apa pokha tiyamike APM, but let us know indeed what China will benefit from this Warm Heart of Africa

  34. koma ada says:

    these critics are abunch of hypocrites who are just critising anything this government does for the fun of it…

  35. mulopwana says:

    if the president is stupid,he has to be undressed.He shuld learn to respect his employers.

  36. The Analyst says:

    There are no gay issues attached to this money! This is what we know! And we should be happy and grateful (to the Almighty) for that!

    Chileka airport will be reconstructed, power generation-capacity will be increased and a Cancer Centre constructed. All these in the next 3 years. These are projects that will benefit the country, big time. This, we know also.

    Now let us all sober up and stop making empty assumptions and being afraid of what we don’t know hence lose focus of what we know. A child is always afraid of the dark yet if only it can light a candle, the darkness vanishes. Let us grow up!

    And Henry Kachaje is angry that the Chinese bring their own labour force and that the projects could have been done by locals? Which locals? Caroline Savala? Are you sure you have a problem with that? Which local contractor could have built the Bingu Intl. stadium for example? You have no answer, ryt? Now listen . . .

    Abuse of funds, missing deadlines, poor quality is what characterise a project controlled and done by a Malawian contractor. You have forgotten already? And the Chinese are controlling for these! And you have a problem with that? Tell me which Malawian contractor could have built the magnificient Bingu Inter Stadium?

    Let us not make common mistakes when we ourselves (or the position we hold in public e.g. ECAMA Presidency) are not common!

  37. Jab says:

    I welcome the Chinese Aid but I have a problem with the use of it. $1.5 billion all will be spent in Southern Region and not Central and Northern Region. How can the Parliament approved this. How can malawians accept it. Mr president all malawians treat them equally . Share the aid to meet the needs of all Malawians

  38. tsetsefly says:

    If Malawi was family it could be that of a village idiot who moves from one door to another asking for arms for 51 years. World over no country has lifted itself from povelty using donations. Perhaps loans although its niether here nor there. what we need is leadership that can change of peoples’ mindset, make us believe in ourselves and propel the nation into a spirit of hard work. We have better natural resources than some of the countries in the west. The same country if given to the whites it would turn around beyond recognition in a few year.

    Our leaders are not patriotic. They put thier interests in front of the national interests. This is why we sign funny contracts as long as we know that something will go into our pockets. Not long ago we had contractors being paid for no work done. We experienced a situation where in one year officers in the ministry of agriculture accumulated allowances for over 1000 days each. You call that leadership? God have mercy on us.

  39. Meja says:

    Number 2 and Number 3, kumamvetsetsa zinthu bwino, nkhani si APM tu apa!!1 Ngati amakuc@#ndani izo ndi zanu

  40. chatonda says:

    There is nothing for nothing. China is very clever when it comes to business interests. The country need to discuss such issues before such loans were signed. We will lose this country to the Chinese as we have already started losing it.

  41. kanyenga Mbeta says:

    A Malawi kukokana kokani ndiye kwachuluka sitingatukuke. Ife ndiye enewake a democracy pajatu inayambira kuno.

  42. Issa Kabudula says:

    The last two weeks NGOs from where the funds, were toyitoying that the president must resign because there is shortage of medicines, cash and economy is going down. Today China has come at a right time to rescue Peter Mutharika and his detested government, we are a gain crying of the funding, different people talking different things; I some times still appreciates the leadership of Robert Mugabe, Bingu Wa mMutharika and Kamuzu Banda. The above presidents, we want them in Africa to teach African politics. For Malawi, it worse, less people understand politics, and many of us just follow – this is dangerous.

    Lets be specific, we either need change, which we voted for Peter, lets assist the government and development will come, and if we need the other way round, lets do what we do. For me if Bingu wa Mutharika had good local support he would have not died, we Malawians are to blame, the man was fighting our war and we were aiding the enemies (shame to us). Lets support Peter, he is the right president to have in Malawi, few of know this – please share this information with others – the west if they wanted to develop Malawi it suppose to be developed long time, we need change and the East is the way to go.

  43. tzbvxhn says:

    what do you expect in global politics, the first thing you learn about aid is that, aid is not only there to benefit the receiver its also there to benefit the givers.

  44. benjnes says:

    there is a good side as well as the bad side. we are so corrupt that we are unable to develop our country we actually exchange our valueble to develop and yet we have the rich who have billion in foreign banks just lying. SHAME ON ALL OF US WE ARE ACTUALLY SELLING MOTHER MALAWI FOR OUR GREED

  45. GAMAH says:

    Mukufuna chiani kodi? Mukufuna chitukuko kapena chiani? Mukufuna chitukuko chisamachitike mudzanene kuti boma la DPP lalephera. Mwalemba m’madzi ndithu.

  46. Sake Chilling says:

    I generally appreciate how these Chinese grant their aid to developing countries. They focus on infrastructure development. In Kenya, for example, the government has gone for high speed rail infrastructure among other projects. What recipient governments should require from the Chinese when implementing these projects is employment of locals versus Chinese labour. On top of that there should be a clause for training professionals e.g practical training for University of Malawi undergraduates etc.
    I wouldn’t want to compare aid from the West with aid from China. The only aid without strings attached which you would receive from USA, for example, is to ask them to build a military base in the country. They would do that within a month.

  47. mnyamata wa nzeru says:

    Whether they have hidden agendas or not, I like the development work being done by the Chinese in this country. Tell me, what development work did the Malawian Cashgaters do in this country despite siphoning billions of money from our coffers??? Give the money to the Chinese and let them deliver on their projects as they are doing and thats what I call a win-win situation. Ma professor inu izozo mukukambazo use them for your academic papers but leave the Chinese alone!! Isaaaaaa!!!

  48. Mr Pheee says:

    Koma a Malawi kupepetulidwa kapena bwanji? kikkkkkkkkk! tchwitchwatchi wakuonetsa ka Green light kamatambala mwayamba kale kuyaluka nayo? yes yes yes yes yes yes!

  49. Ndiye za munthu zimenezo,alibenso pabwino.

  50. mlomwe mnzanga says:

    mulibe pabwino……..bwana APM wakambirana ndi china zinthu zatheka mmalo moti muthokoze mwayamba kulankhula ndikuthako, …muzayamikira bu*** basi

  51. Kanyimbi says:

    Some countries have state secrets as observed from this story. But in Malawi everything is open even to the extent of undressing the president in public. Childish country.

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