Partnership for Social Accountability Alliance

Strengthening Social Accountability and Oversight in Health and Agriculture in Southern Africa

How Projects To Uplift One Of Malawi’s Poorest Districts Turned Into White Elephants And Brothels

How Projects To Uplift One Of Malawi’s Poorest Districts Turned Into White Elephants And Brothels

By many accounts, Nsanje – home to some 300 000 people – is one of Malawi’s poorest districts, lagging behind in many human development indicators.  An estimated 81.2 per cent of its population is ranked as poor–living on less than a dollar a day, and 56 per cent as ultrapoor.

During colonial rule and the early days of one-party rule, Nsanje was a thriving economy with a railway line that connected the rest of Malawi to Mozambique hence onward access to the sea–a vital trade route.

The shire river, one of Malawi’s most strategic water sources, passes through Nsanje before surrendering its water into the Zambezi river and onwards to the Indian Ocean.

It’s a water passage that had Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s third president, dreaming of ending Malawi’s landlocked status by building a canal that would allow ships to dock here at an inland port. His administration constructed the canal without the approval of neighbouring Mozambique.

Today, the Inland Port is a heartbreaking, expensive white elephant. No ship or barge has ever docked here. Nor is it the only expensive elephant here.

A Platform for Investigative Journalism investigation has been following up on a few development projects in the district which were aimed at uplifting the economic and development profile of the district.

Some projects, whose total value is a whopping 298 million kwacha, have, for all intents and purposes, been abandoned. Some are in a dilapidated state despite the fact that they have never been used before.

Read the full story on the Platform for Investigative Journalism site here