Mzuzu will soon get a facelift when government constructs a new airport near Lusangazi, some 15 kilometers from the city centre. The new airport will replace the old “airstrip” which has been neglected and not serviced by any airline for the past 15 years.
While this development may have brought excitement to Mzuzu city residents and perhaps other parts of the country, government need to identify a credible to contractor to undertake the project. Many contractors in Malawi construct sub-substandard structures or abandon projects. Take for example the Mzimba-Kafukule-Mzuzu road. One contractor constructed from Ekwendeni to Mtwalo representing about 20km. The other contractor only constructed from Mzimba Police to Chasato (this portion of the road is already worn out!) The project was abandoned seven years ago. And Government is not saying anything about it.
A seasoned contractor experienced in constructing airports should be awarded the contract. Say what you like, there is no local contractor qualified to construct an airport. Government should not take chances, but look for external contractors for quality work. For example, the Mzuzu-Nkhata Bay road, being reconstructed by Straback from German, is of very high quality. Once completed, it will be the best road in Malawi. Such foreign companies should be also awarded contracts to construct roads and streets in cities of Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Blantyre where local contractors are failing Malawians because they construct very poor roads that only last a few months and the surface looks like a drive way! Contracts should be not awarded at the expense of quality. It is costly!
Even the architectural designs should conform to international standards. It will be unfortunate to see an airport that has buildings like a warehouse! The airport should be spacious and have modern terminals, shops and other facilities befitting an international airport. In this way, it will attract international airlines and promote tourism.
Plans to construct the airport piece meal is not a good idea. The government has the tendency of abandoning or not finishing projects and there is not follow up when another government comes to power. Phase 1 of the airport can be constructed accordingly. But thereafter, government may ignore the other Phases. Adequate resources should be mobilised so that the project is completed without phases.
Inevitably, the construction of the airport will create other important linkages such as public transport which need to be considered. Residents in Mzuzu get along using kabaza (bicycles) because there is very limited public transport. The private sector should come on board and complement government efforts through provision of public transport.
Alternatively, the City of Mzuzu should take up the challenge to provide public transport like other city authorities around the world. Visitors will return to their countries with bad memories if they will have difficulties moving from the airport to city center or within the city.
Meanwhile, Malawians are looking forward to the construction of the airport. It should not just be a mere talk show like Rumphi TTC and Mombera University which have failed to take off the ground.