Lilongwe Road construction project not moving as Malawians expected

By Burnett Munthali

In 2019, Malawi Government and the Republic of Japan signed a grant agreement and exchanged notes for the implementation of a detailed design of the project for the improvement of main roads in the city of Lilongwe. Speaking during the ceremony Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Joseph Mwanamveka said the design would cover expansion of M1 Road between Lilongwe Hotel and Lubani junctions from 2 to 4 lanes, replacement of old town bridge and installation of traffic signals among others. Mwanamveka said the construction project was expected to start after six months of developing the design.

In February 2020, A constitutional court in Malawi nullified the election in which Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika won, citing massive irregularities during the process. The verdict resulted from a court challenge filed by Saulos Chilima, leader of the opposition United Transformation Movement Party, and Lazarus Chakwera, leader of the Malawi Congress Party. The court called for fresh elections within 150 days and also reinstated former Vice President Saulos Chilima. Judge Healey Potani’s announcement of the verdict spurred instant celebrations from opposition supporters who attended the court session.

The road construction at crossroads roundabout is still incomplete

In June 2020, Malawi’s opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera won a presidential election re-run with 58.57 percent of the vote. It was a dramatic reversal of fortune for Peter Mutharika, whose victory in the May 2019 election was overturned by the Constitutional Court, citing widespread fraud. Some 6.8 million voters in Malawi had returned to the polls. Mutharika came second with 1,751,377 votes, while opposition candidate Lazarus Chakwera received 2,604,043. Voter turnout was 64.81 percent. The announcement was met with loud cheers and applause as opposition supporters waved Malawi’s flag and chanted “boma!”. Mutharika exited the stage quietly without any resistance but said he lost government through a judicial coup.

In August 2021, President Dr Lazarus Chakwera said the upgrading of roads and implementation of many other projects would create more jobs for citizens, that would in turn empower them economically. He made remarks at Bingu International Convention Center (BICC) in Lilongwe after presiding over the ground breaking event of the road project. He said Lilongwe deserved better attention just like any other place, and that everyone needed to make Lilongwe clean saying it was the role of everyone. Chakwera emphasized that in few months, his government would launch the rehabilitation works of the M1 Road, with the help of development partners.

The president then warned those involved in corrupt practices and continue breaking laws of the land that justice will take its course. The Mzimba Street and Kenyatta Drive, which connects Lilongwe Old town and City Centre, will be upgraded to six lanes. Kenyatta road starts from Parliament roundabout, through Bisnowaty past Tsoka market near Constantini to Shoprite in Area 3.

In 2023, taxpayers were expected to brace to pay more than budgeted for 28 road projects worth about K439.8 billion which stalled due to several factors, including foreign exchange shortage and some contractors’ lack of capacity. In its ‘2023 Progress Report on Implementation of Road Projects and Upcoming Projects Under Procurement’ submitted to Parliament last week, Roads Authority (RA) indicated that the projects missing deadlines included both those funded by the Malawi Government and by development partners as well some jointly funded by the two entities. “Shortage of forex affected most contractors as they were unable to import key construction materials. The scarcity of fuel led to almost all contractors slowing down works on site,” reads the document in part.

The report further indicated that some contractors lacked financial capacity to carry out works, leading to suspension of works and delays. A summary on one project worth K31.4 billion read: “The contractor had capacity challenges to complete the remaining works and the [RA] board granted approval, challenges by government as further affecting the timely completion of projects.


Effects of delay in construction project include time overrun, cost overrun, dispute, arbitration, litigation and total abandonment. Project delays have significant impacts on various aspects of a project, including its timeline, quality, and finances. Some of the consequences of project delays include financial impacts. Delays lead to financial losses, cost overruns, and budget insufficiency, affecting the bottom line of the project.

One of the reasons for the delay in the Lilongwe road construction is the incompetence of some of the construction companies that were given the job. They are not capable to do a good but they have been given the job. The other reason is government corruption. They were given the job because they are cheap, they charged less for the job so that something could be put into someone’s pocket. The final point that I want to put across is that the road projects area taking long because of lack of government funding to the contractors. A visit to the crossroads roundabout in Lilongwe on Wednesday 14 February 2023 was demotivating as no construction was found taking place.