Land-locked Malawi seems to have finally given up hope that the $6 billion-worth inland port at Nsanje linking it through waterways to the Indian Ocean will be operational in the near future, IRIN reports.Jerry Jana, Director of Economic Affairs for Malawi’s new ruling party (following former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s unexpected death in April) has said that long-term projects like the Nsanje port would be shelved while the government dealt with more pressing issues, like the country’s fuel shortages and foreign exchange, according to Nyasa Times.
The only way Malawi can import and export goods is by road via Blantyre, the country’s commercial capital, to the Mozambican port city of Beria, a round trip of 1,200 kilometers (745 miles). The port, which was meant to link the town of Nsanje through the Shire-Zambezi river to Chinde in Mozambique, aimed to reduce travel costs by $175 million.
But the enthusiasm of Mutharika was not matched by the President of Mozambique, who insisted on conducting environmental and feasibility studies before taking part in the project. Mutharika went ahead anyway, and in October 2010, presided over the official “opening” of the port, attended by the Zambian and Zimbabwean presidents and a large crowd of townspeople. But the first barge never arrived from Mozambique, according to Africa News.
No one has been more affected than the very people it was meant to benefit the most, the people of Nsanje, whose land and farms were taken away to build the defunct port. They were promised compensation (which many are yet to see), jobs, and development in return. Since none of that has materialised, many have had to move to other countries to earn a living.
No progress has been made since then, despite delegations from Malawi visiting Mozambique to break the deadlock. The African Development Bank (AfDB) allocated $3.5 million to conducting a feasibility study, according to an agreement signed by Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia in 2007. And while the bank says the study is proceeding, it is yet to materialise.
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