Malawi is yet to develop national standards on buildings and related infrastructure, a development the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) claims is a time-bomb for the country in case of catastrophes.
Currently, the country uses South African and British standards, and construction experts have often warned that this could prove costly during times of natural catastrophes such as earthquakes. They say what holds in South Africa or United Kingdom, in terms of standards, may not necessarily work for Malawi owing to differences in environment.
MBS Director General, Davlin Chokazinga, said in an interview the need for standards on housing, and general infrastructure development, was an urgent one. He said Malawi, being part of the Great Rift Valley, needed to put in place mechanisms that would held curtail, or reduce, the costs of destruction during disasters.
"This (the standards) will help us a lot, as we will be sure that our buildings will be able to withstand natural catastrophes, even electrical fires. This is the missing link at the moment, and may have a bearing on Foreign Direct Investment because every investor wants safety in his business transactions. Safety does not only entail the presence of strong law enforcement mechanisms, but also infrastructure," said Chokazinga.
The country last had a devastating earthquake in 1989, which hit the Central region district of Salima- leaving over 1,000 homeless and property worth millions of Kwacha destroyed. Over 100 people also died.
But that was not enough to spur the government into action as, 44 years after independence from Britain, the country still 'borrows' national standards from South Africa and Britain.
It takes over a year for a standard to be developed, according to Chokazinga.