How realistic are Malawi road construction costs: K6.6 billion for 4.2km road?

Road infrastructure is a critical component of development. It facilitates mobility of people and easy transportation of goods from one place to another. For more than two decades government through the Roads Authority has been engaging various contractors to maintain or construct roads both in the rural and urban areas. However, the country is losing billions of kwacha through overpricing, corruption and poor quality of roads. And the gravy train!

Tsangano road project porject will cost K9.6 billion a distance of about 65km

The pricing of many of these roads is questionable. This does not suggest that contractors should charge the same price. It suggests that contractors should be fair and not rip off government. How does one justify the cost of a dual carriage being constructed by Mota-Engil at K6.6 billion (almost 7 billion) from Parliament Building roundabout to Bingu Stadium a distance of 4.2km? The distance is just too short to justify such as colossal amount. How was the amount arrived at?

We should not be hoodwinked by the term “dual carriage” because the other two lanes are already there.  Compare this to other roads: the 45km Nkhata Bay –Mzuzu road being reconstructed by Strabag is only K6 billion, the Blantyre Ring road will cost K4.6 billion, but it is 185km. The Ntcheu-Tsangano-Neno road will cost K9.6 billion, a distance of about 65km. The Lirangwe-Chingale-Machinga road which is 61.2km is pegged at K5.3 billion. Lilongwe City Assembly has earmarked about K3 billion for upgrading about 10 roads to bituminous standard, meaning that each road will cost less that K1 billion and the combined distance of these roads will be more than 4.2 km.

While politics is a huge factor in awarding contracts in Malawi (i.e. connections or corruption) accessing information about the details of how the cost is arrived at is not transparent. Owing to exaggerated costs and corruption, government is losing billions of kwacha.  Road Authority and councils can do Malawians a huge favour by giving work to contractors who charge reasonably for quality work rather than just accepting any bid price.

The money saved from overpricing can be channelled to other critical sectors such as health and education. It is heart breaking to learn or hear that hospitals do not have drugs or students are dropping out of university or colleges while others cannot even make it because of lack of funds. Yet government is allowing contractors to be overpricing projects.

The quality of work of many road construction companies is also very poor. It is disappointing that shoddy contractors continue to win contracts. Is the RA or councils serious about their work? Lilongwe City Assembly CEO Moza Zeleza has said they have put in quality control measures for the roads to be constructed in the city. Last time Zeleza justified the poor quality by saying the roads were built for light traffic. Whether it is light or heavy traffic, quality of work should not be compromised. The council lost money through poor workmanship because those roads will soon require serious maintenance. Roads are meant to last decades not a few months or years!

Hence, contractors who failed to deliver last time should not be given work. The same applies to civil engineers who certified shoddy roads for payment or project managers hired to oversee the projects. They do not deserve to be hired again because they are unprofessional and did not do a good job. They were complicity in defrauding government. Travel around our cities and rural areas and see how worn out newly constructed roads are.

And no one holds such inept contractors and engineers accountable. And then there are contractors who do not finish work on time or simply abandon the project. Why give them another contract when they do not have the capacity?

The construction industry needs to be revamped so that pricing is more transparent. No corruption or favouritism in the award of contracts and quality of work should be of the highest standard.

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How much did you want it to cost?
They use machines and they have a timeline that the roads have to be in good workign condition before repairs are undertaken, in short am sure investment evaluations were done to come to this cost so to me its fair. How many Malawians can exercise by running only covering 4km? few of us so think of machinery paving that road and making it easy for us to commute. To me the cost looks reasonable


I guess the greatest challenge in Malawi is lack of patriotism. Until we develop true love for our country, bearing in mind that this is the only country we will ever own, corruption will continue to be an order of the day. Another unfortunate fact is that, there is no school that can teach anyone patriotism. Its just a mere personal choice.

James Banda

The problem with construction contracts is that it is a MAFIA, and you cannot control them. They will take their money no matter what.

Bitter malawian

Ntchito za mutharika. He is simply a guy who is not in control and very corrupt

This is the problem we have in Malawi, we think everything should be cheap. Cheap roads has ended up badly, poor work because the contractor knows that the price is not going to give quality work. Check in every nation that has quality road in place, they invest heavily in it. It is not only about pushing a grader and do the work, we need strong and solid foundation. We are used to those contractors who used hoes to do our jobs and those who used poor materials to tarmac our roads with only one layer and within a month,… Read more »
From likoma
@ Napoleon You are just being stupid . Which countries are you talking about. These are technical issues and party sycophants like you can’t understand. How I wish I had your email address I would show you DPP supporter the kind of road Mk6.6 billion Would build . With that mentality you can’t fight corruption. Not surprising your government is one of the most corrupt government currently sitting on position 123 ( CPI). Uzimvere Chisoni . The writer has given you a very vivid example of the Mzuzu nkhatabay road which is one of the most complicated and difficult road… Read more »
@ Napoleon You think like a fool. What you have written does not make any sense. It does mean that if the road is expensive then it is of high quality. No! What the writer is saying is that many of roads are expensive for nothing. More money is given to contractors, but the quality is poor. Common sense should tell you that DPP leaders and public servants are pocketing the money. Starbag which is constructing a 45km between Nkhata Bay and Mzuzu charged K6billion. Yet the distance is long and the quality is very good. Starbag is by far… Read more »
Lipoma , I will not call you anything than your name. First have you asked yourself what type of the road is being constructed. The road is a dual carriageway, and don’t be cheated that because there is another road existing then it should be cheap. Have you done the costing yourself , if you know how.? Do you have any evidence of the procurement procedure and what was the need when they called for the tender process. Sometimes you better do so research before you open your mouth and vomit any nonsense because you belong to MCP. If roads… Read more »

You’re right Napoleon. I saw a World Bank presentation a while back that put the global average for a paved single lane road at 3 million US dollars per km. We’re considerably cheaper at 2.1 million US dollars per km


As a company we ran into the similar obstacles when dealing with the Congolese government. We offered them a much cheaper alternative, but they made all sorts of excuses to shut us down. Instead the government opted for giving the contract to a chinese company who’s got back deals with them. Thus using an inferior product and the roads collapsing after a few months. Until this corruption is cleaned, these countries will never have decent roads at affordable prices. God bless.


Indeed our roads needs qualified contractors, that is why our country is way behind development, let us be reasonerble, if we can build quality roads and put tollgate in each road then the tollgates will help the country to maintain the roads across the country .


Malawians already pay high taxes (16.5%) plus we pay a lot of money at the road traffic. Some of that money should be allocated to fixing our roads. You don’t pay toll on shitty roads. STOP looting tax payers money and all will be good!


Kugawana from top down. How much will it cost the nation by the time we finish upgrading our road network in Malawi


This i how the ruling party steals our taxes in the name of developments which are highly overpriced. Can a nation develop like this?

Just like the chiefs in the late 1800’s who sold their own subjects to slave traders, our president has willingly opened the safe to the foreigners to loot, leaving the the entire sovereign state poor and unable to look after its own inhabitants. These political leaders are far from being patriotic or caring. They don’t even know how much is enough. People are dying of hunger and poor health and they’re busy driving in expensive cars, living in mansions, feasting like queens & kings and getting fat like pigs oblivious of what’s happening around them. No wonder they go to… Read more »

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