Lilongwe, It is exactly 5:15 pm at Senti, a high density residential area next to Area 18 in Lilongwe City. The last rays of the late afternoon sun slowly fade into the western horizon.
It is here that one is likely to inhale the dust congested air as people walk from and to all directions. Among them are pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. It is a busy place with a busy road that connects Area 18, 49 and 25 hence creating congestion
I wish you came here before this whole road was rehabilitated. It was hell, dust was all over, said 32-year-old Ganizani Lameck, a bicycle taxi operator.
Lameck moved to the city in 2008 from home village of Chinakanaka, Traditional Authority (T/A) Chikumbu in Mulanje. During that time, bicycle taxi business -popularly known as Kabaza- was tough because many people would not dare risk being transported on a bicycle.
The road then was so narrow, bumpy and dusty, making it hard for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to give one another space. Many people felt it was risky to ride a Kabaza.
Many opted to walk or board a minibus in short distances like from Senti to Area 18 A because it was safer that way, Lameck said.
Forty-six-year-old Tereza Chimwaza gave an insight into how risky the roads. In 2009, her 12-year-old son, Pemphero, was hit by Kabaza operator and spent a week at Kamuzu Central Hospital.
He had a dislocation on his hand. I had to take care of him for the whole time he was in hospital and it cost me my job as a housemaid, said Chimwaza, who now works as a maid in Area 18 A.
However over the years, things have changed as Senti area is fast growing into a recognizable township. The rehabilitation and upgrading of the four-kilometre road from Nankhaka Bridge to Area 25 is shaping the socio-economic status of the area.
For Lameck, his bicycle taxi business is thriving as he is now able to generate four times as much as he made before the road improvements.
Previously, I could only make less than K2000 a day. Now I can make as much as K8000 a day, he said adding that he has managed to open a small retail shop with such money.
Regina Mangochi, a resident from Area 25, said the rehabilitation of the 18-Senti road has brought smiles to people because it has made travelling to town fast and cheap.
She said many people are no longer using the Kanengo route frequently.
This route is long and congested. When I took this route, it would take 40 minutes or more on public transport to get to town and 30 minutes on a personal vehicle. It was so annoying that at times we had to start off at 6 am so that we get in time, Mangochi said.
She added that using the new 18-Senti road takes 20-25 minutes to get to town using, a thing that has also helped to serve fuel costs.
The upgraded stretch is serving people from Area 18, 49 Dubai and Area 25. But a kilometer of the road remains unfinished and dusty as it was left out due to limited funds, according to Lilongwe City Council Engineer, Phyllis Mkwezalamba.
The remaining part will be finished since it has been earmarked in the 2017/2018 financial year, Mkwezalamba said.
The 18-Senti stretch is one among several roads that were targeted for upgrading by government to reduce congestion and curb road accidents across the country.
In the 2015/16 budget, government allocated MK6 Billion for upgrading of roads in the four cities.
In the central region, the project has seen 17 roads including 18-Senti, Napham -Chilinde � Kawale 1 and the Falls-Phwetekere-Area 36 wearing new faces with an allocation of MK1.8 billion.
Spokesperson for the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Muhlabase Mughogho said the project is one of the measures government has put in place to reduce congestion and road accidents.
Most of the road accidents in the country are a result of poor road infrastructure. So government is committed to rehabilitate all roads to save lives of Malawians and help them manage time when travelling, Mughogho said.
She said there is tremendous progress on the road upgrading project in all the cities and there are indications that first phase of the project will finish by August this year.
Six roads are being rehabilitated in Blantyre, three in Zomba and five in Mzuzu where the Luwinga-Nkhorongo and Airport-Chiputula roads have been allocated funds the 2017/18 budget.
She added that for Blantyre, the council is currently upgrading a number of roads which include the Safarao Road, Chigumula �Ntenje Parish Road and Bangwe �St Patricks Road just to mention a few.
It is the hope of residents in nearby areas to these upgraded roads will also improve their lives.
Source: Malawi News Agency � MANA