The socio-economic development and subsequent economic growth of any nation is strongly linked to its transport infrastructure. Lack of adequate transport systems is one of the major factors hampering development in Malawi and the entire African continent. This problem is most felt in the rural areas.
It is good to highlight that the DPP led government has prioritized infrastructure development as key in its development agenda for the country. I am also pleased to see that the DPP government has pledged to construct new and comprehensive network of rural access roads and trunk roads to serve the remote agricultural areas so that produce can reach the urban markets safety and efficiently.
Speaking after unveiling a groundbreaking ceremony at Mhuju in Rumphi on Saturday, March 21, 2015 President Peter Mutharika said his government will leave no stone unturned in its efforts to fulfill its promises to Malawi.
“The construction of this road will mark yet another milestone in the development of the country, and Rumphi district in particular,” said Mutharika of the road project that the Democratic Progressive Party pledged in its manifestos in last year’s polls.
As a rural development specialist myself, I commend this development principally seeing that the DPP government is walking the talk and endeavoring achieving its campaign promises. The need for road networks and infrastructure cannot be overemphasized. Rural people can effectively drive the socio-economic development of the country and feel more included in national level interventions, but they are being hindered by limited access to good road networks connecting them to the larger society.
The level and quality of transportation systems in any area are of crucial significance in influencing political, economic and social progress, and these must be considered at every stage of local, national and regional development planning.
Without good roads, it is difficult to have socially inclusive development interventions. In Malawi, the rural roads infrastructure is a specific area of concern, imposing significant limitations on growth and development of rural communities.
While community members in Malawi always exhibit great zeal and commitment, the poor road networks in their areas have proved to be a major setback to their progress. Improved road networks bring many benefits for local communities. These include improved accessibility to social infrastructure (schools, churches and health centres), increased access to education and health facilities and improved social interaction and mobility. These are important for social and economic development, improved access to markets through the reduction of transport costs and improvement of the marketability of perishable goods through timely and cheaper transportation.
On the supply side, direct benefits of improved road networks include reduced vehicle operating costs, savings in travel time, reduced accident costs resulting from the upgrade of the proposed roads, possible savings in road maintenance costs (because roads are bound to withstand harsh weather if they are well-maintained).
If again we have to take the Mhuju road as a case study of how a road can transform a community, the road splits the Henga Valley—an agricultural hinterland for tobacco, maize and coffee–on the way to Livingstonia and descends the treacherously mountainous terrain through Golodi Road, a narrow winding road built in 1906 by the early missionaries. It also leads to Kaziwiziwi Coal Mine on Phoka Hills.
The road will open up the CCAP’s historic mission station at Khondowe Plateau, a stunning tourist attraction which is home to Livingstonia University, Gordon Memorial Hospital and legendary Scottish missionary Robert Laws’ iconic stone house.
Considering all these facts, transport infrastructure should be accorded priority in the catalogue of development projects by the government in order to transform the living conditions of the rural people.
Lastly, all I could say is bravo DPP, bravo APM, your government is on the right track.
- Tadala Mwale is a Rural Development Specialist