The Department of Transport and Public Works plans to rehabilitate the Mzuzu Airport. According to press reports, the Department has earmarked K200m for the rehabilitation project. The government has neglected the airport for too long.
Some decades ago Air Malawi used to have flights to Mzuzu including Karonga. But successive governmentsunder UDF, PP and DPP have neglected the airport to the extent that Mzuzu and the north in general has no flights. Mzuzu is probably the only city in the world which is not served with air transport.
The absence of flights is one of the reasons undermining the growth of tourism in the north. Tourists and Malawians have to use public or private transport when they want to travel to and fro Mzuzu. This is a great inconveniencing travellers but tourists as well. Imagine the nearest airport is Kamuzu International in Lilongwe, some 360 km away.
However, rehabilitating Mzuzu Airport is not the right decision to make. Mzuzu Airport has outlived its usefulness. It looks more like an aerodrome than an airport. The buildings are so old and tiny not befitting an airport. They look more of a clinic or tax office. They are not suitable for an airport, certainly not in 2016. These days many countries are modernising their airports to align them to international standards. Even Chileka and Kamuzu International Airports need upgrading. They are below international standards.
Rehabilitating Mzuzu Airport will just be a sheer a waste of money. Mzuzu needs a new, modern international airport with good runway and modern buildings. The current location of the airport is also not conducive for an airport. The space is too limited to construct spacious building. The runway is close to the Luwinga-Karonga road and cattle graze on the edge of the runaway.
The advantage of having an international airport is that Mzuzu would open up new routes for airlines and serve as a transit point. For example, airlines thatfly to East Africa such as Malawi Airlines and Kenya Airways will serve passengers in the north. They will not have to go to Lilongwe to board their flight. More importantly, tourists can arrange for direct flights to Mzuzu without having to go through other airports. From Mzuzu they can visit places of interests such as Lake Malawi, Vwaza Mash, Livingstonia and NyikaNational park.
Mzuzu Airport should be relocated somewhere. According to those in the know, an airport site was identified between Sonda and Ekwendeni a long time ago. But there has not been any political will for the government to construct it. Government should identify a financier and identify contractors experienced in airport construction, not the mickey mouse ones. Since this is a social project, the private sector is unlikely to invest in it. So government has just has to find funds to construct it.
The current location of the airport should be reserved for a shopping mall. Mzuzu city deserves a huge shopping that should be graced by a dam between CCAP Church and Mzilawayingwe.