Lack of funding threatens Malawi’s rural connectivity project
Malawi’s plan to complete the roll out of the Last Mile Rural Connectivity Project, aimed at providing mobile phone telecommunication services to rural areas by 2021, is now hanging in the balance due to financial challenges.
Like many other countries in Africa, most of rural Malawi is not connected to mobile networks as operators remain reluctant to invest because of a delay in ROI.
Malawi’s government had put in place a plan to erect 136 towers as part of the Last Mile Rural Connectivity Project to facilitate the roll out of mobile phone communication and internet connectivity to the un-served areas.
The towers will be managed by the Malawi Communication Regulatory Authority (MACRA) and will be used by all mobile phone operators in the country.
However, Huawei Technologies Malawi, contracted to provide services for the project, has warned that a lack of funding could stall progress.
Company deputy managing director Titus Misi said of the 28 towers erected to date, 15 are on air and 13 may not be completed due to inadequate fund allocation by the government.
Misi was quoted by the local Times newspaper as saying, “Civil works have been completed but the remaining part is the actual equipment which is supposed to come on the tower to be able to do its work, but we have been having talks with the ministry of Information on this challenge.”
Malawi’s Minister of Information Gospel Kazako said there was no need for concern because the government will source other available resources outside of the national budget to fund the project.
“Government does not only use money in the national budget. We also have partners that will be coming in and we also have other resources lying elsewhere. So the budget may be low but that should not cause concern,” said Kazako.
The project was allocated just MK350-million from available MK5.5-billion within the 2020/2021 national budget, which the contractor has stated is not sufficient to complete the project.