Roads finance gap at K1.57 trillion
A World Bank report released Wednesday has shown that Malawi is failing to meet its commitments on financing road infrastructure with a deficit for the projects standing at K1.57 trillion.
The shortfall—which is for medium-term investment commitments to the road sector— represents 70 percent of the investment framework for 2020- 25 which is pegged at K2.30 trillion.
The report, entitled ‘Connecting People and Markets for Economic Transformation’, indicates that, this far, donors have pumped in K703.1 billion (30 percent) for some road projects, with the country yet to raise the K1.57 trillion before the 2025 mark.
The amount would be ideal to meet the total investment envisaged for paved and unpaved road projects across the country.
Some of the roads, as indicated in the report, are Kasungu-Jenda, Kasungu-Kamuzu International Airport Turn Off, Crossroads Roundabout-Kanengo and Liwonde-Zomba.
The report has further stated that because of financing gaps and failure to invest in the country’s road infrastructure, Malawi’s roads are in poor state, causing a rise in road crashes and fatalities; thereby increasing the burden on the health sector.
“In 2021, the Directorate of Road Traffic and Safety Services reported 1,226 fatal road traffic crashes and 25 percent of these accidents occurred between Lilongwe and Blantyre along the M1 Road.
“World Bank estimates that road crash deaths and injuries are costing Malawi around 10.8 percent of annual [gross domestic product], with an annual cost of $558 million due to road traffic incidents,” the report reads.
On connecting people and markets, the report has indicated that rural roads have also been neglected in construction and rehabilitation plans; thus, frustrating efforts to get agriculture produce to markets.
“Malawi’s rural access index data show that 23 percent of the rural population is within two kilometres of an all-season road. The northern half of the country has poorer rural access to main roads, though a lower population and population density,” it says.
Speaking after releasing the findings, World Bank Practice Manager for Transport in Eastern Africa, Almud Weitz, stressed the need for Malawi to have good road networks to connect people for economic transformation.
“Malawi will have to make some tough choices in terms of investment in the road sector going forward. We know the needs are many; how do you make choices when you are confronted with so many needs across the sectors?
“But poor road infrastructure affects tourism, agriculture and many other economic sectors. So I would say, for the economy, Malawi needs to make tough choices,” Weitz said.
Principal Secretary for Transport and Public Works, Madalo Nyambose, admitted that financing road projects is indeed a big problem in the country.
“One of the issues that we are grappling with is financing of those recommendations. We have financing for some of them but for others, we do not. Our needs are huge because in this country we still have a bigger population that is not reached to by any road at all,” Nyambose said.
She cited instances where during previous general elections, people had to carry ballot papers on their heads to reach certain locations as a sign that some people are reached by just using footpaths.
Speaking during the official release of the report, Transport Minister Jacob Hara admitted that Malawi needs to mobilise more resources to address the challenges exposed by the survey.
“I should admit that resource mobilisation is a challenge in the absence of fully prepared projects in Malawi and, of course, across the continent.
“The proposals are timely as we start the process of coming up with a new reforms contract for the sector and they will be taken on board,” Hara said.