20 November 2017
Breaking News

From dusty rural growth centre to lakeshore city

Written by  Watson Maingo
New office building block under construction in Salima resized New office building block under construction in Salima resized

Salima, September 5: To some it may appear as another day dream, but to patriotic Malawians this is just a reminder of the wise words from former head of state late Prof. Bingu wa Mutharika, that we have to ‘dream in color’.

The reality in black and white is that for the first time, a local council has taken an unprecedented drive to turn itself from a dusty peri urban centre to a top coastal city.

Indeed, everything started like a dream soon after the current President requested government agencies including local councils to undertake some reforms.

Ernest Kaphuka, Director of Planning and Development (DPD) for Salima District Council, said in the spirit of decentralization the council did not hesitate to seize the opportunity in developing an ambitious and feasible plan to build a coastal city in the nearest future.

“Looking at our position as a coastal town, which attracts many tourists and investors, we thought it proper to put down plans to facilitate growth, both social and economic in terms of infrastructure development,” Kaphuka said.

He added that luckily, the council’s proposal was accepted at once and is now functional.

“In our plans we are going to declare Senga-Bay and Chipoka as controlled development areas. This shall be followed by the development of a land use map (declaring the use of land) and development of urban structures,” Kaphuka said.

As if to add icing on the cake, the council already boasts of two major industries in the names of Malawi Mangoes and the Salima Sugar Factory, both of which are employing many people in the district.

Needless to say, with the railway line, the sea port at Chipoka and the Lake shore road interlinking at one point, Salima is well connected in terms of transport and logistics.

According to the Social Economic Profile (SEP) for 2012-2016, Salima is also one of the best tourist’s destination with over 30 resorts, including the famous Sunbird Livingstonia Beach Hotel.

Apart from tourism and the flourishing industries, the district also depends on fishing and agriculture, with concentration in cotton, tobacco and legumes farming.

Kaphuka believes that determination, hard work and support from the central government are crucial for the achievement of the ambitious reforms.

Traditional Authority Maganga, whose areas cover Senga-Bay, observed that proper planning would beautify the town and increase the flow of tourists.

“We cannot wait any longer, this is the time we have to develop in a planned manner,” said Chief Maganga

Member of Parliament for Salima North West Dr. Jessie Kabwila said no sane person in the district can oppose such a thrilling proposal, which promises more opportunities for Malawians.

“The idea to plan our town as a city is the way to go, not only will this help in tourism, but I think it will ultimately also help to link us to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“This is not only the home of the lake; it is also an agricultural place. So, it combines farming, fishing and the hospitality industry,” Kabwila said.

On his part, Member of Parliament for Salima Central Felix Jumbe said the country has been losing out for not having a coastal city.

“Looking at the developments taking place here, we can as well say that we already have a foundation. As you can see, we have the harbor at Chipoka, the main railway station, Malawi Mangoes factory, Salima Sugar factory, and there are more than four cotton ginners, not to mention the hospitality,” Jumbe said.

District Commissioner for Salima Rodney Simwaka hinted that in the plan, the council would consider good roads with street lights.

“In terms of financing the urbanization process, we have two proposals; first is to ask for support from the Press Trust and secondly is to bring in big companies to invest in the projects through incentives that will be agreed on,” Simwaka said.

According to the roll out plan, all sectors started implementing the reforms in the 2017-18 financial year.

However, some resort owners like Miss Samantha Rudick, owner of Cool Running Lodge, have objections over the plan.  She argues that such a move could potentially kill tourism in the district.

Speaking when the proposal was presented to hospitality captains from and around Senga bay, Rudick argued that tourists were attracted with Senga Bay because of its natural ecology.

“If you make Senga Bay to look like Paris or European, tourists will stop visiting Malawi. You know the tourism industry is cheap in Europe and if Salima will look like Europe, tourists will start shunning the place,” Rudick said.

But District Tourism Officer Japhet Kuweruza dismissed the fears and said that turning Salima into a city does not mean completely changing the face and the ecology.

“We are talking of building modern roads and facilities but the ecosystem shall be preserved. Places of attraction shall be left the way they are. In short, I can say it shall be built in a way that the natural beauty of the place is not defaced but rather preserved,” said Kuweruza.

Indigenous owners of hospitality facilities, Chimwemwe Mwabungu and Dalitso Gome applauded the drive by the council authorities.

“We should not wait. This is the time that a coastal district like this one should be beautified with good roads and infrastructure. This can only be achieved if we stop looking at our self as a rural district,” said Mwabungu.

The kindness of Malawians, Lake Malawi’s fresh waters, the country’s fauna and flora, the presence of the many resorts, including Senga-Bay with its fine glittering sand beaches, rightly makes Malawi truly, the warm Heart of Africa. Indeed, Salima is the aorta of this warm heart of Africa.

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