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Uncertainty surrounds Mzuzu airport plans

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Uncertainty on when Mzuzu would have a functional airport lingers as authorities suggest a proper location for the northern capital’s airport remains unidentified.

Ministry of Transport spokesperson, James Chakwera, confirmed in an interview with The Daily Times Tuesday that the government is yet to settle for a proper location for a new airport.

“The main challenge has been encroachment. A land which had been earmarked for the new Mzuzu airport in Ekwendeni has since been encroached on and it is no longer viable for an airstrip,” said Chakwera, adding that they might resort to rehabilitating the old airport.

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Without disclosing the actual figure, Chakwera said the money for the renovations was approved in the 2016/2017 budget.

However, the continued delay has seen the Northern Region city have no viable commercial airline service.

The development has prompted Mzuzu-based business captains to express concern over the continued delay in renovating the Mzuzu Airport.

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Some of the business captains we talked to said lack of a proper airport in the city is isolating the Northern Region from the fast-paced business world.

Grand Palace Hotel General Manager, Francis Saliya, said lack of domestic flights linking the Northern Region city with other cities is slowing the pace of doing business as top business executives have to spend hours on the road.

“Top executives have a lot of tasks at hand and time is often a scarce resource to them. Air transport is, therefore, critical in accelerating efficiency,” Saliya said.

He stressed that poor road transport system linking Mzuzu with other cities also fails to compensate for the absence of reliable air transport infrastructure.

“Need I say that this is not punitive to businesses and individual travelers alone, but government is also losing much on potential revenue,” he added.

However, Chakwera said stakeholders should remain optimistic as government finalises processes to start renovation works.

“We’re hoping to upgrade the Mzuzu airport soon. The process will be gradual but a team of experts has been to the site for inspection and will soon be recommending to the ministry on what facilities should be rehabilitated,” Chakwera said.

Chakwera could, however, not specify when the upgrade works would start.

Under the on-going government reforms, some of the country’s airports including – Likoma and Kamuzu International – have been put under the management of the Airport Developments Limited.

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