Malawian clinches deal with German publisher: Vera Kamtukule writes book on urban housing for middle income

In what is being deemed as a breakthrough for blossoming Malawian writers, a German based publisher has published into a book an academic project for a Masters Degree dissertation which has largely exposed long term challenges Malawi is facing in dealing with the supply and demand of urban housing in the country.

The author of the book Vera Kamtukule told Nyasa Times in an exclusive interview that when she was starting the project she never thought of the day when an international publisher would consider publishing her dissertation into a fully fledged book.

The book has been published by Lambert Academic Publishing of German where it is tackling the thorny issue of rising urbanization which is at neck breaking speed especially in the country’s two cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre.

However, according to the book despite the fast pace of urbanization in the two cities, still they are home to poverty stricken residents.

Vera Kamtukule:Book on  urban housing for middle income

Vera Kamtukule:Book on urban housing for middle income

“The project was part of my Masters Degree thesis. However, I was astonished when I was contacted by Lambert Academic Publishing house asking for my permission for them to publish my project into a book.

“I couldn’t resist the offer, it was a dream come true for me. Right now the book is available in bookstores across the world as well as online and is going at an all inclusive price of 49 Euros,” said a visibly excited Kamtukule.

Research

According to a summary of the book by the publisher, Kamtukule did a research on first Urban Development Project by World Bank in Lilongwe (Area 49 Gulliver) and Blantyre (Manja).

She described the pilot projects as “very good initiative aimed at producing a suitable housing system and introducing a wide range of affordable house designs, options for purchasing with loans obtained from a bank.”

Kumtukule however criticizes framers of the initiative for not including key stakeholders in project design and critical decision making like the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) which implemented the project as well as the beneficiaries of the same.

Writes Kamtukule: “The project was implemented through Malawi Housing Cooperation (MHC). However neither MHC nor the beneficiaries were included in project design as well as decision making for the same, thereby highly compromising monitoring, acceptance as well as quality of the end product.

“Housing stock in Malawi is low and largely influences pricing thus making access to adequate affordable shelter unattainable for a larger group of urban dwellers in Malawi. The frequency and unattractiveness of poor people’s income levels hinders them from accessing formal housing finance. Malawi lags behind in terms of building technologies and this greatly affects standards,” it reads further.

Meanwhile, Kamtukule’s study concludes that poor people have a deeper understanding of their situation and should be at the centre of each development initiative.

“This is not only cost effective, but maximizes people’s potential while accurately responding to their priorities,” observes Kamtukule in her book.

This is not the first time in Malawi history for a German publisher to bring on board a blossoming career writer, but it is the first time a young person has taken an interest to expose some of the effects of urbanization in Malawi with a deliberate focus on housing for the low and middle income.

It is also argued that Government while in the process of reviewing the housing policy has not done much to improve the situation in this regard. It is believed that less than 25 percent of all housing in Malawi is permanent and that if the country was to address the housing stock challenge, about 21,000 units would have to be constructed annually.

Responsibility

Kamtukule however argues in her book that the supply of housing should not be the responsibility of government alone, but that the private sector should also get on board to help alleviate the problem.

She further states that housing has a multiplier effects such as the creation of jobs and a potential to boost the country’s ailing economy but that investment in this regard would have to be encouraged.

Kamtukule also observes that in the face of climate change, the country needs to be looking at other building technologies that will contribute to an increase in housing stock in a sustainable manner.

According to Malawi Writers Union (Mawu) the development should be an eye opener and pillar of encouragement to secondary school and university students so that they take writing seriously.

Malawi has over the years been reeling from a scourge on non-reading culture a development Mawu says has largely contributed to the dwindling in number of career writers.

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