President Joyce Banda on Thursday inaugurated a US $1 billion railway project, to be constructed by Vale SA of Brazil.
The project will involve the construction of a 138-kilometre railway line through Chikhwawa and Balaka and the rehabilitation of existing railway line from Balaka to Nayuchi on the Mozambican border, a distance of a further 98 kilometres.
When this project is finished Malawi is set to save US $120 million annually in transport costs. This represents a 40 per cent reduction in current transport costs.
While the country is celebrating such a positive development, in this edition we are carrying an almost similar story where an American engineer has designed a US $260 million waterway from the Indian Ocean through the Zambezi and the Shire Rivers into the ports of Lake Malawi.
Christened the 'travelling lock' the project – if it materialises – is set to compliment current initiatives to ease movement of imports and exports in Malawi.
As a landlocked country, transportation alone constitutes up to 60 per cent of the landed cost of goods in Malawi. This cost is inevitably pushed to end users of such imports and export, thereby making in-coming and out-going goods very expensive and therefore unattractive.
Any initiative to ease transportation costs must therefore be supported fully. We therefore urge government to support Vale SA as they lay the rail line and the American engineer in his 'travelling lock' project.
We are also mindful that the late President Bingu wa Mutharika's dream Shire-Zambezi Waterway World Inland project is laying idle in Nsanje. We urge government to own this project in spite of who originated it and explore ways of making it into a reality.
If we have a thriving road and rail network to be complimented by a direct link to the sea through the proposed waterways Malawi will significantly reduce the cost of transporting imports and exports.