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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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




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?????

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… Read more »

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.


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


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.


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


“The analyst” you have really made my day.

The Analyst


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… Read more »
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… Read more »

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