Malawi leader opens ‘Karonga – Chitipa road funded by China

Malawi President Mrs. Joyce Banda on Monday made history by officially inaugurating a long-awaited Karonga-Chitipa Road  102 Km road that has been neglected for almost 50 years since independence in 1964.

The People’s Republic of China funded construction of the Karonga-Chitipa Road in a grant of $70 million, which is around MK 10 billion for the road project. China Road and Bridge Corporation constructed  the road in two phases with phase starting from August 2008 – November 2009 and phase two commencing from August 2009 – November 2012.

China Road and Bridge Corporation general Manager Peihao Zhane said his company met a lot of challenges which meant that the initial cost rose with a margin of 10-15 percent.

According to Zhane some of the challenges included lack of diesel and other construction materials leading to occasional suspension of works.

President  Banda also took time to school the nation on how she dreamt that the road will be of bitumen standard during the time she traversed the length and breadth of Malawi as leader of the National Association of Business Women (NABW) and as a politician.

The road connects Karonga Boma with Chitipa Boma and passes through Kayelekera Mines Turn-Off, Wiliro and Tondola Trading Centers. It then proceeds to Kamyala Boarder Post in Zambia.

Motorists, Cyclists and pedestrians enjoying the newly opened Chitipa – Karonga Road at Chitipa trading centre.-Photo credit MANA

In the past years, a drive between Karonga and Chitipa used to take more than five hours but now motorists take an hour and some minutes at the most.

The Malawi leader said besides linking the district to its sister districts, it will also help improve the economic status of the district residents who will now without effort venture into small enterprises to improve their living standards.

“The road will facilitate easy movement of crop and animal products and other trade commodities from Chitipa to other parts of the country and beyond, where they will access viable markets and  fetch good returns which will not only boost  economic  growth at residents household levels, but also at district and national levels,” said Banda..

As Malawi’s Foreign minister, Mrs. Banda was at the centre of negotiations that saw Malawi switch diplomatic ties from Taiwan to Peoples Republic of China and the total completion of the Karonga to Chitipa road was one of the many projects that she emphasized must see the light of the day.

“I signed the agreement as Foreign Minister that saw us switch to China as our diplomatic friend. By the way presidents do not sign such agreements but are required to be there as witnesses,” Banda said in Chichewa after reading her seven paged letter.

The President also emphasized that it is her Government’s commitment to develop this country through the Economic Recovery Plan which, among other priority areas, has chosen infrastructure development as one of the five sectors in order to promote economic growth and wealth creation.

“The upgrading of the road will also induce more investment in agriculture, tourism, mining and the financial sectors, thereby creating more employment for Malawians and improving their incomes.  This will in turn contribute to the reduction of poverty, one of the cornerstones of my government’s development policy,” she said.

The President said the importance of the road could not be emphasized.

“This completed road will be of great economic importance as it will benefit a lot of people living along the road corridor. The completed road project passes through areas where both commercial and subsistence farming are being practiced extensively.

“The road also passes through mineral rich areas where commercial mining is being practiced.  Prospecting for more minerals in the area is ongoing and it is envisaged that the road will lead to increased investment in mining in the surrounding areas,” Mrs. Banda said.

She then warned the general public living along the road corridor to take ownership of the road and guard your property and investment against vandalism.

“I am also told that compensation was paid for a road corridor of 60 metres, implying that all land within this corridor has been appropriated for future expansion. No one should develop or cultivate in the road reserve,” she warned.

Senior Chief Mwaulambia said the upgrading of the road to bitumen standard has shamed off critics who insinuated that Chitipa was in Tanzania.

“We are Malawians,” the chief said.

The chief said the road has connected people of Chitipa and other districts. He said the road will also boost business activities in the district.

Chinese Ambassador to Malawi Pan Hejun said the Karonga to Chitipa road has been a cherished dream for the people of Chitipa in particular and Malawi in general.

Hejun then said that building a road in a mountainous area is hard adding that there was need to congratulate the contractors and all those involved for their hard work and dedication.

President Banda unveils the plaque
President Banda speaking after opening the Karonga-Chitipa road
President Banda and Chinese Ambassador, Pan Hejun, Monday, cutting a ribbon symbolising official opening of the much talked Karonga-Chitipa road

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