President Edgar Lungu of Zambia has pledged to connect Malawi to the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (Tazara) line through extension of the Chipata-Mchinji Railway Line to enhance cooperation and regional integration
In his address during a State Banquet hosted in his honour at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre on Monday evening, Lungu said the railway line needs to be fully established to realise its potential to the two countries.
He said: “My government has made strides to ensure that the Mchinji-Chipata Railway Line connects to Tazara which connects to our neighbour Tanzania. This [connection] will ensure that we make regional integration a reality.”
Lungu, who was President Peter Mutharika’s guest during the 51st Independence Anniversary Celebrations on July 6, also disclosed his administration would soon deploy a contractor to start working on the project.
Through the Tazara route, landlocked Zambia is connected to Indian Ocean ports in Tanzania by rail, one of the low cost means of transport compared to road transport.
Lungu observed that the railway line and proposed Shire-Zambezi Waterway were two channels through which Zambia and Malawi could facilitate trade between them in the region and beyond.
Railway is regarded as one of the most reliable and low cost forms of transportation, especially for bulk goods, and it also reduces pressure on other transport means such as road.
The Chipata-Mchinji rail was first initiated in the early 1970s as a bilateral project between Zambia and Malawi and construction work started in 1982 only to stall for several decades due to lack of funds until 2006 when it resumed.
Reacting to the news, Minister of Transport and Public Works Francis Kasaila said in an interview yesterday Malawi expected its counterparts to act that way because of their great interest in the railway line.
Said Kasaila: “It is something which we expected because we know their interest in terms of wanting to use the Nacala Port in Mozambique. So, the only way out for them is to connect through Malawi.”
The Chipata-Mchinji Railway Line, which links Malawi and eastern Zambia, would provide Zambia with the shortest route to Mozambique’s Nacala Port on the Indian Ocean and its full operation, besides boosting trade in Malawi and Zambia, would also benefit most parts of southern Africa.
Currently, Zambia holds an operating licence within the country where the Zambian railway line operates between Chipata and Nkaya in Machinga District which connects to Nacala.
On his part, Mutharika said Malawi attaches great importance to the friendship and cooperation which had developed between the two countries.
“Your presence among us confirms the strong relations that our brotherly countries have built and will serve to give further impetus to the relations,” Mutharika said.
Malawi and Zambia were former British colonies and attained independence in the same year, 1964.