The Karonga songwe boarder Road offers a huge potential to Malawi’s business as it connects to the Eastern countries of Tanzania and Kenya among others.
The road is a busy corridor route connecting Tanzania through Karonga district which is situated 220 km north of Mzuzu city and 50 km south of the Songwe-Kasumulu border.
As a landlocked country, Malawi depends on the same road for major exports and imports through the Tanzanian major port of Dar Es Salaam.
The road does not only benefit the local citizenly but also to multinationals plying various trade across the country and beyond.
Even majority of farmers in Karonga depend on the same road to explore other potential international market for their famous Kilombero Rice commodity.
However, since the road was constructed many years ago, it has never undergone maintenance despite heavy in transit vehicles on daily basis.
Today, the road is a tedious narrow path, full of potholes which make it difficult to drive especially for heavy traffic.
This has led to occurrence of several accidents because the road does not have a pavement for cyclists and even pedestrians.
But, there is hope for a change when government announced plans to reconstruct the Songwe-boarder road into a four lane for vehicles and another lane for cyclists and a pavement for pedestrians.
Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jappie Mhango launched the construction of the Karonga-Songwe border road earlier in December 2017.
The Minister said the Songwe road is a corridor that connects Malawi to Tanzania and there is much reliance on the road for major export and import.
“This road therefore is the lifeline of most of our economic activities. Being a landlocked country, we depend on this very important road to import and export our goods to overseas markets.
” The DPP manifesto is very clear in as far as infrastructure is concerned. We had promised to build new roads and indeed maintain existing roads that are in no good shape as a way of moving the economy forward through various activities,” he said
He said with the booming of construction industry, over five thousand jobs have been created for the people and mostly the youths.
The Minister is optimistic that once the project is completed, cost of vehicle maintenance will drastically come down since vehicles will be plying on good roads.
He said this will in turn enable vehicle owners to make savings that would be used to improve other spheres of their lives.
The 45.6-kilometre road is being rehabilitated by a Chinese contractor Zhejiang Communications Construction Company Limited (ZCCC) with financial support from the World Bank to the tune of US$20.3 million (over K14.6 billion) and is expected to be completed in February 2019.
A recent visit to Karonga by Roads Authority (RA) earlier in March this year, assured people in the district that the Karonga-Songwe Border Road currently being constructed will be of high quality.
RA Public Relations Officer, Portia Kajanga remarks came amid fears from some people in the district that the road may be substandard.
“This road will be asphalt road. If you have been to Nkhata Bay, a road that a Germany company, Strabag, is constructing between Nkhata Bay and Mzuzu, that kind of finishing is the one we are going to have here.
“The specifications that have been agreed upon depending on the amount of money that World Bank has made available is going to ensure that the road is of good quality, durable and widened; so no need for people to get worried,” Kajanga said.
One of the taxi driver, Alfred Mwemwaya thanked government for the consideration to rehabilitate the road saying travel will be easy and fast compared to the current situation where cars frequently generate faults due to increased portholes.
Traditional Authority Kilupula also hailed the development works saying the road had many potholes that sometimes-caused road accidents.
“The road will be busy and viable for everybody including those traders from East Africa. Malawi is behind in terms of business avenues as compared with people in East Africa.
“This is one way to take advantage and utilize the good road to be constructed and offer competitive commodities on an international market,” he said
Group Village Headman Mwakaboko warned his subjects staying along the road against theft of materials meant for the construction of the road saying usually the standard of roads become compromised because individuals steal or sell construction materials.
Lewis Mkandawire, a Rice farmer from Kanyamani Village, in the traditional Authority Kilupula said despite offering good economic boost, the four lane highway will also change the face of Karonga Township.