President Lazarus Chakwera has said the government intends to create 240,000 jobs through the Special Economic Zones initiative.
Chakwera said this in Parliament Tuesday when he responded to a question from Blantyre City Centre lawmaker Chipiliro Mpinganjira on the Tonse administration’s plans for Malawi’s cities regarding setting up of industries, for jobs and export of Malawian manufactured goods, expansion of cities and making available land for houses to reduce slums and for businesses in view of the Malawi 2063’s industrialisation agenda.
Chakwera said government has been quick to lay the foundation and kick-start the industrialisation process.
He said Capital Hill has already earmarked 624 hectares across three regions to develop special economic zones which will transform cities and provide jobs through value- addition of export oriented products and other products that can compete favourably with imports.
The Malawi leader said, in the Southern Region, government has the 22.7 hectares Chigumula Industrial Site that would host agro-processing and light manufacturing enterprises including small and medium size firms owned by Malawians.
He added that there is another site located at Matindi with 128 hectares earmarked for manufacturing, agro-processing, chemical and pharmaceuticals, light engineering, mineral processing and construction material production.
“In the Central Region, my government has identified Area 55 in Lilongwe where 420 hectares have been identified for a special economic zone that will, among other activities, focus on agro and food processing, production of electrical equipment, manufacture of chemical and plastics, general and light engineering, electronics manufacturing, ICT and logistics centre.
“In the Northern Region, government has identified 53 hectares at Dunduzu within Mzuzu City to establish an industrial park that will provide an opportunity for food and agro-processing, light manufacturing, timber industries and pharmaceuticals, among others,” Chakwera said.
He observed that, in the Eastern region, government has already embarked on plans to develop the Nankumba Peninsula in conjunction with the private sector in an area spanning over 1,000 hectares.
According to Chakwera, government is working to boost eco-tourism in the Cape Maclear area.
He observed that Malawi had a vibrant manufacturing sector in the 1990s, whose contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) was around 19 percent, but that this has been deteriorating to the current 11 percent.
“Among the major contributors to this deterioration include lack of ready-made factory shells for industrial development, appropriate infrastructure for industries including water and electricity; and special incentives designed to attract both domestic and foreign investments. Special economic zones are therefore designed to provide these industrial development shortfalls.
“The special economic zones and industrial park programme is, therefore, the main vehicle for accelerating the achievement of the national industrialisation agenda while the regional focus will support the growth of the regional hubs of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Mangochi,” Chakwera said.
But Leader of Opposition in Parliament Kondwani Nankhumwa said the Tonse administration has been singing the special economic zones song for the past two years with little to no action on the ground.
According to Nankhumwa, what Malawians desperately need at the moment is action and not empty promises.
“President Chakwera has been saying the same thing about special economic zones. The former Finance minister Felix Mlusu also spoke about the same issue.
“I can even assure you that the new Finance Minister will also speak about the same thing when he presents the national budget on Friday. But what is on the ground? Nothing,” Nankhumwa said.