The Public Private Partnership Commission (PPPC) has courted the private sector to explore construction of modern airports under the public private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The move comes as experts have long decried that the country’s airport facilities are not up to standard to attract modern and direct flights, leaving the country less attractive to tourists and foreign direct investment.
In an interview in Lilongwe on Monday on the sidelines of a World Bank-funded specialised PPP expert training course for technocrats in selected ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), PPPC chief executive officer Patrick Kabambe said that they are undertaking feasibility studies that will culminate into practical investment decision-making in the aviation sector.
He said: “We are doing some pre-feasibility studies in the aviation sector to see if we can involve the private sector as a way of addressing airport challenges in Malawi.
“The study is currently ongoing and its outcomes will determine and advise us on the best way of getting the private sector into the aviation industry.”
Of late, the country’s airports—Kamuzu and Chileka international in Lilongwe and Blantyre have been under scrutiny from the International Civil Aviation Organisation and at one point condemned the facilities as not safe for use.
Three years ago, the Japanese Government gave a $33 million (about K26 billion) grant to the Malawi Government to construct three terminal buildings, rehabilitating the existing terminal and installation of a new radar system at Kamuzu International Airport.
On the other hand, Treasury made available K4.8 billion for the rehabilitation of the main runway at Chileka International Airport.
During the interview, Kabambe admitted that the demand for infrastructure in the country is huge, with the national budget having the capacity to only absorb less investment because there is pressure on funding.
He said over the years, the country has missed out by not having PPP experts, resulting in MDAs waiting for the government to fund infrastructure projects other than courting the private sector.
On his part, International Road Federation senior adviser Eric Dean Cook said the growing infrastructure needs are not unique to Malawi, but across the globe.
He said many PPP projects suffer some negative impacts of market forces and disaster risks, among others.
“The primary cause of failure of the PPP projects is poor preparation and structuring, inadequate risk assessment between the parties of the contract and procurement modalities, among others,” said Cook.
Ministry of Economic Planning and Development; and Public Sector Reforms spokesperson Allan Jere said the demand for infrastructure remains high, but extra avenues can be opened through the private sector financing.
He said the training will build necessary capacity for PPP technocrats to work on better deals for public infrastructure.
The PPPC was established in 2011 by an Act of Parliament to facilitate the implementation of the PPP programmes in Malawi.