By Audrey Kapalamula & Taonga Sabola:
The Malawi Government and Bridgin Foundation of Belgium Monday signed a game-changing $6.8 billion (about K7 trillion) grant for the implementation of seven key infrastructure projects in the country.
The seven key projects to be targeted by the, otherwise, too good to be true financing include construction, equipping and full operationalisation of a high-tech Kamuzu University Teaching Hospital (Kuth) in Blantyre with satellites in Mzuzu, Lilongwe and Mangochi; construction and equipping of Inkosi ya Makosi M’mbelwa University with a High-Tech Livestock Industrial Centre in Malawi; construction and equipping of a hi-tech bioscience and fertiliser manufacturing industrial park at the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar).
The grant would also involve construction and equipping of Mzuzu University Teaching Learning and Research Facilities with geo-mining necessities; construction and equipment of Malawi University of Science and Technology hi-tech technology and engineering hub; construction of Capital Hill Twin Towers; development of power generation facilities with a total installed capacity of 1GW and related infrastructure; and the upgrading of the electricity transmission infrastructure.
The targeted infrastructure projects are expected to be implemented in the next three to four years and are aimed at boosting the country’s economy.
Bridgin claims to have a mission to contribute to the economic, social and industrial development of emerging countries by funding its priority projects and programmes. It provides funds exclusively for public investments on a Public- Private Partnership (PPP) model.
Speaking at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe during the signing of the grant agreement, Bridgin Foundation President Tanko Mouhamadou said the United States, Israel and the European Union are willing to support the country, including transferring knowledge and skills to the locals in Africa.
“It’s a win-win situation. We are aiming to bring technology, fund experts and transfer all this knowledge to the universities.
“Once we bring those funds, once we bring those technologies, our intention is to transfer the full knowledge to locals,” he said
Minister of Finance Sosten Gwengwe said the investments are specifically meant to unlock bottlenecks the Malawi economy is encountering.
Gwengwe, however, did not disclose the conditions attached to the grant but said the projects are for Malawi and not co-owned.
“[In terms of] infrastructure, there will be a certain period when some revenue will be coming out of the projects and there will be an account that the resources will be ploughed back [into, including] to small health centres and everything else,” he said
In his remarks, President Lazarus Chakwera said the signing of the grant signifies the trust that the foundation has in his leadership.
He said all Malawians will benefit from the grant.
“There is no region of Malawi that will not benefit from this grant. There is no region of Malawi that will not have projects from this grant.
“There is no political party whose members will not benefit from the projects to be financed by this grant. For this reason, today is a day of celebration for every Malawian,” he said.
Chakwera said the proceeds that Bridgin will generate from its investment in the identified projects would be invested back in projects that will contribute to meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“This means no money will leave Malawi in the form of repatriation of earnings or debt repayment as a result of this cooperation,” he said.
He thanked Regional Universities Forum for making him Champion for Higher Education, an opportunity that has opened the doors that led him to the Bridgin Foundation.
Associate Professor of Economics at the Malawi University of Business and Applied Sciences, Betchani Tchereni, said, if what has been outlined in the grant becomes a reality, it could turn around the country’s fortunes.
“You know how much our budget is. This is three times our annual budget. So, this is huge, especially where the boxes are ticking. It is an ideal situation because we do not have the resources ourselves to undertake the projects,” he said
However, Democratic Progressive Party spokesperson Shadric Namalomba said Malawi needs to tread carefully when dealing with such grants.
“We seem to be in a hurry. We, as a nation, seem to be desperate,” Namalomba said.