Despite its economic viability, all the preceding administrations neglected Mangochi-Makanjira Road, leaving the people of this area in economic despair and hopelessness.
But a candle has finally been lit! On Friday, November 11, 2023, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Government of Malawi signed a financing agreement that will facilitate the construction of this road.
President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera witnessed the signing ceremony amidst a delegation of government officials, member of Parliament (MP) Benedicto Chambo and Traditional Authority (T/A) Makanjira of Mangochi.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through the Saudi Fund for Development, has provided approximately US$20 million funding for the construction of this important 100-kilometer infrastructure.
The signing ceremony took place on the sidelines of the First Saudi-Africa Summit in Riyadh – the capital of Saudi Arabia.
But what does the road project mean to the people of Makanjira and Malawi as a whole? As Mangochi-based Times Group journalist, Yohane Symon, wrote in August 2022, the people of Makanjira have been denied infrastructure development, as political governments came and went without fulfilling their promises.
For instance, during his whistle-stop tours in January 2018, former President Peter Mutharika pledged that his government would construct the Mangochi – Makanjira Road all the way to Namwera Turn – Off to Lake Malawi past Mpilipili Trading Centre.
“Very soon we will embark on the construction of the Makanjira Road all the way to the lake; we have already secured funds for the project and we will also construct a state-of-the-art international airport Mangochi and a five-star hotel at Cape Maclear will turn Mangochi a landing place for huge airplanes straight from as far as Europe,” lied Mutharika.
But soon, light dawned on the people of Mangochi as they learned later that Mutharika only needed their vote and not to develop the district for despite claiming that the government had already secured funding for the project, the Mutharika-led administration implemented none of the projects he mentioned during his political rallies.
Thus, the people of Mangochi, especially those from Makanjira, continued being subjected to “a journey in a form of corporal punishment” because of the poor road network.
“The situation gets worse when one uses public transport, as one is condemned to spending an average of six hours on the road just to cover a stretch of 130 kilometres. Lucky ones, meaning those that use private forms of transport, are not even lucky as they have to spend between three and four hours to complete the journey,” wrote Symon in his feature published on Africa News Agency.
He added that during rainy seasons, travel on the road becomes a nightmare because, apart from it being bumpy and unpaved, the road has about 45 narrow bridges and drifts, some of which get washed away by running water every rainy season, further compounding challenges travellers face.
He said even when areas along the road are not receiving rains, travel on the road is sometimes disrupted by floods, emanating from river water that goes off course.
“The water comes from Namizimu hills, which border Malawi and Mozambique on the eastern part of Makanjira and serve as the source of water for the rivers. Due to this, mobility, access to crucial public amenities such as healthcare service facilities, banks and markets becomes a challenge,” narrated Symon in his article.
Living with this sad reality for decades, the people of Makanjira felt rejected and disowned by their own government.
But as their hope was fading away, President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera visited the area this year. His first assignment in the area was to officially open Centre for Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care (CEmONC), which he said was his special gift to women of childbearing ages in Traditional Authorities Makanjira, Lulanga, and Namabvi in Mangochi.
Actually, President Chakwera travelled to Makanjira by road to experience what the people of Mangochi and all users of Makanjira Road experience.
He said he wanted to see for himself what people are going through and how his administration can intervene to bring lasting solutions, hence the drive to Makanjira.
The road is narrow and was further damaged by Cyclone Freddy with most bridges washed away, among others.
This prompted President Chakwera to request the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to assist the Malawi Government with financial resources for the construction of the road to ease transport problems the people of Makanjira are experiencing.
The Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia responded positively and agreed to provide US$20 million for the road construction project.
The signing ceremony of the financing agreement took place on Friday.
“This is an historic day for Malawi and for Malawians, on whose behalf I wish to thank the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the partnership we have, through the Saudi Fund for Development, culminating in the financing agreement we have entered today for the construction of the Makanjira Road,” he said.
President Chakwera said the road will bring with it significant attributes in the facilitation of meaningful trade, food security and access to essential social services. The road, he added, will increase economic activity and connect communities to major markets and public facilities in the entire Eastern Region, including rural trading centres.
“It is time to connect Malindi, Lungwena, Namalaka, Lugola, Bakili-Binali Litufu, Likoloma, Mauni, Mpiripiri, Lulanga and Fort Maguire to the rest of the national road network. What a momentous day for people from Traditional Authorities Chowe, Namalaka, Makanjira, Lulanga and Sub-Traditional Authorities Moto, Chilawe and Mambo,” wrote the President on his Facebook page.