Thursday, January 3, 2013

■ MALAWI: Establishment of new Airports Authority to aide improvement of ageing airport infrastructure.

MalawiThe Malawian Government is optimistic that the establishment of a new independent airports management company - the Malawi Airports Authority - will provide the country with a unique opportunity to improve its ageing infrastructure.

Malawi map
The unbundling of the regulatory and operating powers of the country's Department of Civil Aviation, as well as the dissolution of the Airports Development Limited (ADL) and the Lilongwe Handling Company Limited, will lead to the establishment of the Malawi Airports Authority, expected to be operational in July 2014.

However, before the new enterprise can be established, a revision of the current Civil Aviation Act must be effected in order to clarify jurisdictions and responsibilities. Under the proposed amendments, the Civil Aviation Authority will be solely responsible for regulatory and safety oversight, while the Airports Authority will be responsible for the management of all airports in Malawi and for the provision of supporting infrastructure.

The process of unbundling is being overseen by the country's Privatization Commission, who are also overseeing the privatization of national carrier, Air Malawi (QM).

Amongst infrastructural projects urgently in need of attention are the relocation of the current airport in Mzuzu, Northern Region, said to pose a threat to the safety of residents in the city owing to its proximity to the city centre

In December 2003, an Air Malawi Cessna 208 (MSN 208B-0679 | 7Q-YKU) carrying Malawi's second vice president, Chakufwa Chihana, back to the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, during its takeoff roll reportedly "started to swerve and ran off the 1'308 meters long (4291 ft) runway". The plane skidded onto the Mzuzu - Karonga M1 highway, colliding with a moving minibus, killing one passenger.
Mzuzu Airport
Mzuzu Airport (FamilyCareMinistry)
Following the incident, the Malawian government announced plans to replace the existing facility with a new one located in Ekwendeni about 20km northwest of Mzuzu, but to date, no progress has been made.

Aside from the safety aspect, as part of its Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), the Malawian government has highlighted the aviation sector as being critical in returning the Malawian economy to health.

Speaking at a function in October, in which the development of a new airport in Mangochi, in the Southern Region of the country, was proposed, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Culture Daniel Liwimbi said the tourism sector had the potential to generate revenue, employment and improve infrastructure, given adequate investment and legislation:
"The sector has direct linkages with other sectors of the economy. However, the industry faces a number of challenges which include poor supporting infrastructure, poor service delivery, uncoordinated and insufficient marketing of tourism products and inadequate purpose-built infrastructure," said Liwimbi.
Source [DailyTimes]

The country's two main international airports, Lilongwe Kamuzu and Blantyre Chileka, are also due for much needed upgrades. 

However, improvements like the acquisition of new elevators, new conveyor belts, CCTVs, aerobridges, new check-in systems and other airfield basics require massive investments; investments that are being stifled by the country's inefficient bureaucracy, leading the Airport Development Limited company to "urge government to review the existing legislation and speed up the formation of the Civil Aviation Authority and an Airports Authority mentioned above, so as to improve efficiency in aviation operations."