An Overview of Building and Construction in Malawi

Originally posted in The Hard Hat Professional on 31/03/2016 as “INSIDE AFRICA: AN OVERVIEW OF BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION IN MALAWI”

Building and Construction in Malawi is vastly different from South Africa’s own burgeoning construction sector. Mulima Phiri, registered Pr.CM shares his insight.


1. Building Equipment Resources – Malawi tends to make use of more orthodox, low cost building materials such as wood poles for propping, while SA uses more conventional materials like steel scaffolds

2. Health & Safety – In Malawi, formal health and safety procedures are not regarded as a mandatory practice during construction.

3. Main Construction Contracts – Whereas in South Africa, the majority of contracts are generally awarded to a few companies, in Malawi, the load is distributed across all qualifying companies

4. Economic Status Predicts Magnitude of Projects – in SA, the big projects are provided to local contractors whereas in Malawi, main contracts are reserved for international contractors.

Overall, South Africa can learn from the passion of Malawian built environment professionals as well as their innovative use of low cost building methodologies that are inherently more productive. On the other hand, South Africa benefits from more consistency in quality as a result of better building materials. Another thing that South Africans can learn from the Malawians is to institute design freezes at the tender stage of the project lifecycle. The project close out and demobilisation process in Malawi construction is also a lot smoother than currently experienced in South Africa.

Malawi is not without its challenges in the construction sector, however, and political interference and influence on construction works, collusion and corruption, and the current economic status of the country have been identified as barriers to a more sustainable industry.

In terms of skills in construction, unlike in South Africa where skilled construction and built environment professionals are scarce, Malawi’s professionals by far outweigh the number of available projects. This means that as a foreigner, finding a job in the construction industry in Malawi would be very difficult.


Mulima Phiri holds a Master’s Degree in Construction Management and is currently a Registered Professional Construction Manager (Pr.CM) in South Africa. He has 18 years of experience in the construction industry, working on power stations, stadiums, bridges, roads, piping, etc.


About Hastings Fukula Nyekanyeka Betha

Born in Malawian and advocate of community mobilization, citizens' active participation in sustainable community development, and youth empowerment. Primarily focusing on "Organizing Against Poverty" by encouraging a new generation of players to participate in and influence the development of our communities
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