Mzuzu — A good road network is a catalyst for economic development as it reduces distance between communities and service providers.
This is no exception for people using the 80kilometre road that runs from Njakwa at Chipokababoli Bridge to the historical Livingstonia Mission up the escarpment to Chitimba.
That's why government embarked on a construction project on the road which has seen people in these areas beaming with excitement as they look forward to its completion.
A visit to the project site by Malawi News Agency (Mana) to appreciate progress of the Njakwa-Livingstonia Road project found a road which used to be narrow, in widen sate.
The road is graveled up to the Phoka Court where we meet a lone motorcyclist, Kondwani Chisambo, who is among the group of people cashing in by carrying passengers.
"It used to be hard task to travel through this road. The road has been tarred up to Kaziwiziwi on several stretches between Livingstonia and Kaziwiziwi. It is our wish that these stretches are linked up.
"Nonetheless, there is positive impact in the sense that we are able to travel to various destinations within a short period of time," he said.
Chisamba added that there was need for the contractor to expedite work on the stretches that remains undone for businesses to flourish in the area.
A farmer, Emmanuel Nkunguli from the Phoka noted that the project has created jobs for many who only relied on seasonal crops for cash.
"Most of us youth who could potentially involve ourselves in criminal activities are now employed. We are able to give something to our elders in the village," he echoed.
Business lady, Salome Harawa added that the area has been opened up that business was booming with some shop owners who confined themselves in busy trading centers opening up business enterprises on the mountain.
"We have a weekly market day where mobile businesspersons come here to sale or order various merchandise. It used to take us two days of travelling as there were no vehicles. This is history as today we are able to go to Phwezi, Rumphi and Mzuzu and return the same day without hassles.
"The Motor bikes are now picking us up right on our door steps which was not the case before. Those that are living in areas like Mphompha, Chakaka, and Vunguvungu are travelling smoothly. Even students at Livingstonia institutions are now not feeling the burden of travel, "she said.
Traditional Authority (TA) Kachulu was over the moon with the current progress the works are shaping up.
"There is remarkable progress that has been made. People and vehicles are moving freely even in the areas that were difficult even at this time of the year. Nobody should cheat you. We are seeing how things are moving," he explained.
The road leads to a historical place harboring institutions like Gordon Memorial Hospital and Livingstonia University Laws Campus which is the headquarters of the CCAP Synod of Livingstonia.
University of Livingstonia (Unilia) Vice Chancellor, Dr Timothy Nyasulu hailed government for the construction of the road.
He said the road which leads to the Livingstonia University's main campus at Khondowe was critical since it gives access to one of the most important places in the country.
"I need to thank government for bankrolling the construction of this road which to us has been a very long standing challenge,"
"We were finding it extremely difficult to go up to the main campus because the road there is in a very bad condition. The new road will provide a huge relief to the university," said Nyasulu.
Roads Authority (RA) Spokesperson, Portia Kajanga said the contractor has completed 21 kilometre of the 75 kilometre saying the rest of the road is being worked on at different levels.
She said "Initially, the project was supposed to be completed in May, 2020 but it will not be completed on the said date."
Kajanga said the new completion date was still being discussed and it might be around September, 2020.
Mota-Engil is the contractor working on the project and it says the work on the road is in progress and hopes to complete soon.
Mota-Engil Public Relations Officer (PRO), Thomas Chafunya said the work on the site has been demarcated in several sections.
He said the May 2020 deadline has been missed due to rains and demonstrations that called for resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission commissioners over alleged mismanagement of 2019 Presidential Elections.
Considering that a robust transport network was crucial to the development in the country, President Prof. Peter Mutharika in March 2018 launched a revolutionary infrastructure development Plan (NTMP) aimed at guiding the development of the transport sector in road, ships and airports to be implemented from 2017-2037.
The National Transport Master Plan is a comprehensive blue print for developing the road and the rail network, the inland water transport and the civil aviation and urban transport in the country.
The Master plan which was developed with funding from the World Bank provides a framework for delivering sustainable interventions on multiple-mode transport network across the country.
Mutharika said during the launch at BICC that a robust transport network was key to the development of the country saying government would make improvements in all modes of transportation in order to bring in efficiencies that will translate into reduced transport costs.
Again government embarked on construction and rehabilitation of both rural and urban roads country wide and in the north some of the roads include, Nkhata bay road, Karonga-Songwe, Jenda-Edingeni and Bolero-Nyika-Roads
The Njakwa-Livingstonia-Chitimba road once completed will boost the tourism as the area hosts a tourist attraction the Mantchewe Falls where there was a hydro power generator that supplied electricity at the mission.
The agricultural sector is likely to thrive as the area the road is passing through is renowned for growing maize, bananas, vegetables, beans, soya beans, potatoes, beans, cassava, tobacco and coffee among others.
There is glimmer of hope among many that the agro sector will get further boost with the completion of the road that Mota-Engil is constructing in Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement with the government.
As a good road network is vital for socio-economic growth of the country as it enables people to transport their agricultural produce, access social amenities, Njakwa- Livingstonia-Chitimba Road will transform socio-economic status of the communities thereby contributing to national economic growth.
The road's component branches to Phwezi where it will pass through economic zones in the region such as Kaziwiziwi Coal Fields.