Mzuzu airport is beyond rehabilitation, construct new international airport

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.

Mzuzu Airport

Mzuzu Airport

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.

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17 thoughts on “Mzuzu airport is beyond rehabilitation, construct new international airport”

  1. Mtumbuka says:

    Northern Malawi should be independent state because we have been neglected for so long.Africa countries are moving with tremendous pace with development and only Malawi at snails pace.

  2. Chirwa says:

    I think Mr Hater is right, there is a lot more that goes into building a shopping mall than just the flashy buildings. Location, Market, Customer Segment, USP or Unique Selling Preposition? Case Studies, Research, Operation Expenses, Investors. We all want nice things but it doesn’t mean that we can/should have them.
    Governments don’t build shopping malls. What investor in the right mind would erect a shopping mall in Mzuzu? The ‘dead north’ remains dead!!! Stop trying run when you haven’t learnt how to walk.

  3. Banda says:

    I agree with hater. Malawi a small country, poor country with an underutilised aviation capacity. What would be the point of constructing a new airport when we can’t afford to buy drugs in our hospitals or maintain our roads? No international bank or investor would be willing to fund such a project? Airport is not a bus depot….Are you suggesting kuti boma la Malawi should use tax revenues to construct an airport? This is why Atumubuka are always regressive. That’s why dzikoli simungalamule. You vote for AFORD, UDF wins, you vote for MCP, DPP wins, you vote for PP, DPP wins. Maybe try annexeting yourselves and become part of TZ.

  4. Nsena says:

    There are more cattle than humans in the north, so maybe we shud construct airport ya ng’ombe.

  5. [email protected] says:

    Hater, I think you have not travelled. You were born in Malawi and you will die in Malawi. Shopping Malls are located along or near the main road.Because of the geographical position, a shopping mall is a fitting place. Let me school you. All shopping Malls in Johannesburg are located along the main roads including N1 like Southgate Mall.
    In Lusaka there are two huge shopping malls along the Great East Road near the show ground. The malls are about 500 metres apart.

    And why should Mzuzu not have a shopping mall. Ndiwe kape. In fact, the shopping malls in Blantyre and Lilongwe are tiny. We need huge malls like those in Johannesburg. They do not only make the city beautiful, but you get everything under one roof: supermarkets, banks, etc.
    I think Hater is from the South. He does not understand the issues of development. Mbuzi yachabe chabe iwe. Mzuzu needs a good shopping complex in Mzuzu not these substandard buildings constructed by Indians.

    1. Hater says:

      I think I’ve struck a nerve here. Apologies if I caused upset. Part of my comment was just ‘locker room banter’
      The point I’m trying to make is that you have to get the basics first before demanding such huge expensive projects. Where is the evidence that there’s airport capacity demand (or that it will increase) in Mzuzu? Are there any commissioned studies that have been conducted? You’ll end up with a ‘White Elephant’ without anyone utilising it. Get the basics right first and everything else will fall in place easily. You need to sort out issues like sewage treatment plants, water sources, electricity etc. etc. before you start talking about building malls and airports. Someone else commented; they built a Reserve Bank in Mzuzu to gain political points and yet it is under-utilised. By the way, Governments DON’T build malls; private firms do if they see potential in an area. Private firms would be queuing to erect Malls if Mzuzu had the basics sorted.
      I live in the UK; the government is already planning for airport expansion/transport networks/Electricity/Hospital demand 50 years ahead. So my issue is not with the location of the airport or shopping malls. My point is that Mzuzu hasn’t got the right basic infrastructures to start demanding new airports and shopping malls

  6. dagobert says:

    Just buy two more Lexus with it, makes the same sense! We really have a government who gets priorities right!

  7. Nsipe-Bawi says:

    this govt will only give refugee camp in the north, no useful developments like airport. TZ will build us the airport when we become its southern region soon.

  8. sasamba says:

    The current location of Mzuzu airport cannot best fit a shopping mall, shopping mall are not suppossed to be located along busy roads, in Blantyre the shopping mall is along a busy road thats why accidents are the order of the day.

  9. Hater says:

    Stop being so dramatic!!! I can name an endless list of cities that are not served with airports- Canterbury, Bath, Chichester,Ely,Newry,Ripon.
    We don’t need an airport in Mzuzu. It’s only a few hours drive from KIA.
    How many people would really utilise it? Osamangopanga zinthu to please your egos.
    Shopping mall?Really? In Mzuzu?Maybe za dam zo.
    Vuto la atumbuka ndi limenelo: misplaced and misguided priorities. Mwaona ma shopping mall ku Lilongwe and Bt, basi inunso. Instead of demanding practical and useful projects like the dam or a sewage treatment plant.

    1. Bibo says:

      Hater,what is your point? As your name shows it all,you hate to see the northern region and Mzuzu city in particular have modern infrastructure right? Do you understand tourism or business development? I guess you hate Mzuzu and the region with a passion,but you are wrong because no matter what, Mzuzu will be a modern city with a modern airport.

      Guess what? northerners like high standards and have been eluded development by jealous leaders in power who are afraid of a cosmopolitan northern society. Gradually, things will fall in place for the betterment of the region .

      What some of you don’t understand is that a developed Mzuzu with a modern international airport means a more developed tourism industry which also means that the region will be an economic magnet for the whole country. Developing tourism will be a catalyst for more other industries like construction, high-tech, and retail.This also means the expansion of Malawi’s export base.

      I guess Malawi has some people who hate to see the country proliferated with development in all corners and feel proud to look down upon less developed areas .However, the whole country needs revamping with massive infrastructure be it in Blantyre, Lilongwe, Zomba, or Mzuzu or all district centers. I don’t see real infrastructure development even in places some haters of the north brag about.The fact is the country needs at least 6 modern international airports covering all regions and tourism will naturally be the main export earner- tourists like modern facilities, from airports to hotels and to leisure and amusement parks. Like I said earlier on,earning cash from tourism will develop other industries. The problem with Malawian leaders has been lack of emphasis on setting development plans e.g 5-year plans. The focus should have been on revamping the energy sector or electricity production in the first 5-year plan after the start of multiparty democracy, then the next 5-year should have concentrated on tourism; by now, twenty two years after start of democracy, I am pretty sure, Malawi would have been an upper middle- income country with key industries in agriculture, commerce, energy, construction, mining, tourism, and pharmaceuticals.Priorities in development lacked which killed progress and instead, corruption was prioritized, and now the country needs divine intervention as if it does have leaders who have wisdom.

      1. Hater says:

        KIA has what? Maybe 3 commercial flights a day? Are you really suggesting that we require extra airport capacity? The problem with Malawians is that we are great at ‘dreaming’ but very poor at implementing effective infrastructure programmes. You’ve put beautiful words together but there’s little substance in what you are saying. Everyone knows that Malawi lacks visionary leaders,no arguements about that. The government needs to be planning 20-50 years ahead, not 5 years. The vision has to be realistic, achievable and ambitious not just putting beatiful words together.
        The problem with the tourism industry in Malawi is the cost(not lack of aviation capacity/connectivity). For example here are the costs of a Safari Holiday from London. £2000 to South Africa, £2300 to Kenya, £2350 to Tanzania and £3580 to Malawi. Why would anyone spend double to come to Malawi?
        An airport is not like a bus depot that you can just build. A lot goes into it. You have to conduct a robust, integrated and transparent process to assess all options, considering a range of economic, social and environmental factors and engage extensively with interested parties through formal consultation, public evidence sessions and a programme of meetings and visits. And then you have to look at the funding…this would be a massive capital project that would require the Government to borrow heavily with crippling interest rates. Is this really what we need?
        Does the ‘north’ need a new airport? It probably does. But so does my grandmother in my village need a 50 inch flat screen TV. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to buy her one. Mzuzu Airport can be renovated to accommodate and carter for domestic flights that can improve connectivity with KIA and Chilkeka (international airports). That will help enhance tourism in the north. That’s what other countries with similar economic muscle do. We don’t need a new International Airport in Mzuzu, it is pointless and a waste of resources that we don’t even have.

        1. SHOCKER says:

          Mr. Hater, you are a very good analyst. Do you think some roads constructed in the lomwe belt were constructed there with an economic objective? I have traveled through the Chiradzulu – Phalombe road and Robert Mugabe high way but I rarely see traffic on these raods and tend to ask myself why the constructing the roads there than somewhere where there is more traffic.

          1. Hater says:

            That’s exactly what is wrong with our country; incumbent governments develop areas that voted for them instead of developing areas that need them. Unfortunately the north gets ‘punished’ for voting for parties that don’t win elections. It’s sad but that’s the reality for Malawians.

    2. Boba says:

      MZUZU is still chile Hahahaha maybe after 30 years yes but not now there will be only 1 passenger a week look here in mzuzu reserve bank is nearly empty only 50 staff woriking what a waste of money….abale

      1. SHOCKER says:

        Boba, infact Malawi is still chile

    3. Monsieur says:

      i asked myself the same question in Europe and N.America many cities bigger than Mzuzu do just fine without scheduled passenger/cargo services. I feel like writers at Nyasatimes are not serious or under trained on their job most of the articles have so many spelling and grammatical errors let alone unverified facts.

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