After travelling six hours in a packed country commuter bus from Lilongwe Bus terminal in the capital city, all the way to Mzimba and then passing through the winding road inside the Chikangawa Forest, John Kapauka finally reaches Mzuzu, a small city in the northern part of Malawi which at one time was sarcastically called the ‘dead north.’
Malawi’s northern region was scornfully labeled the dead north because of lack of meaningful development despite the part of southern African state being endowed with evergreen forests, wildlife reserves and scenic beaches along the shores of fresh waters of Lake Malawi stretching from Karonga passing through the districts of Rumphi, Nkhata Bay and Likoma Island in the region, then Nkhotakota and Salima districts in the central region all the way to Mangochi district in the southern region.
As he reaches Mzuzu, Kapauka is fascinated by the sparkling silver and blue colours of the Reserve Bank of Malawi branch and cannot help staring a picturesque piece of infrastructure development brought to the northern region in the recent years.
Standing tall, about a kilometre to and from Mzuzu Central Business District (CBD) the five storey building has added beauty to the city which for many years lacked a glimpse of such magnitude.
Reserve Bank of Malawi – Mzuzu Branch. Pic by Frank Nkonde Majaliwa
Even the Malawi leader, President Arthur Peter Mutharika – APM as he is fondly called – agrees that the Mzuzu branch of the Reserve Bank of Malawi has really decorated the green city and wonders how honourable would the city look like if there were at least 10 of such buildings.
He says central bank branch building has transformed the scenery of Mzuzu as the city deserves magnificent buildings just like the ones found in Lilongwe in the centre and the commercial city of Blantyre in the south.
Beautiful scenery created
President Mutharika says construction of the central bank branch in Mzuzu tells that Malawi is moving forward and that economic development is spreading in all the regions of the country.
“We all know that we cannot build a bank where nothing economic is happening. It is because there is growing economic activities in this region that we can now have a branch of the reserve bank,” APM said during the official opening of the facility recently.
Construction of the branch started in 2010, during the reign of President Bingu wa Mutharika, when the Reserve Bank of Malawi noticed tremendous increase in economic activities in Mzuzu and the entire northern region.
Reserve Bank of Malawi branch decorating Mzuzu City. By Frank Nkonde Majaliwa
Sadly, Bingu wa Mutharika who laid the foundation stone died while in office in April 2012 leaving the mantle to his estranged vice Joyce Banda but four years down the line, brother to Bingu wa Mutharika, APM, officially opened the branch.
Perhaps, it is for this reason that APM says the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) which he leads and helped to bounce back to power in 2014 is development conscious and he will carry on with DPP development agenda.
“You have heard in the past some people calling the northern region, dead north. I say with my government’s development agenda, the north is very much alive,” he says.
Infrastructure development has been the trademark of the DPP administration, no wonder President Mutharika refuses to call northern Malawi –the dead north.
As he returns to Lilongwe, this time in a luxury coach that takes him about four hours, Kapauka learns that construction of Njakwa Road is underway to ease mobility for travellers to historically important but hard to reach Livingstonia Mission in Rumphi. The construction project seeks to upgrade the 100 kilometre Njakwa – Livingstonia – Chitimba earth road to bitumen standard. Plans are also at very advanced stage for reconstruction of the busy road from Mzuzu to the lake in Nkhata Bay to start.
He also learns that technical bottle necks that stalled construction of the road from Jenda to Edingeni which potentially will increase border trade between Malawians in Mzimba and Zambians at Lundazi in eastern province had been sorted out and second phase of road construction will soon begin.
Looking at facilities like the Reserve Bank of Malawi branch and other projects on the cards including the upgrading of Mzuzu Airport as well as the current bituminizing of all city roads, one can only agree that the northern region is not dead but very much alive.