Urbanization in Malawi with special reference to the new capital city of Lilongwe
This thesis examines the process of urbanization in Malawi, with special reference to the new capital city, Lilongwe. At independence Malawi inherited an extremely underdeveloped urban system. It is argued that colonial Nyasaland's involvement in the migrant labour system and its reluctant membership of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland were contributory factors, both of which related to Nyasaland's economically and politically subordinate position in Southern Africa. Analysis of the static and dynamic nature of independent Malawi's urban system shows it to be very simplistic. It is emphasized that the growth of the truly 'urban' population in most of the small centres in the urban hierarchy has been slow, and that institutional hindrances and government perceptions of the urban process may dissipate the impact of policies designed to promote their development. The major aspect of urban policy since 1964 has been the development of Lilongwe, which the government emphasized had two objectives: to create a new capital replacing the colonial creation of Zomba, and to develop a growth centre to promote greater regional equality and act as a counterattraction to the commercial 'capital' of Blantyre. President Banda's key role in the: instigation of this project is empahasized, and it is suggested that the second objective was rhetorically promoted as a justificatory expedient. The results of original research on urban policy implementation and private sector investment in Blantyre and Lilongwe support the contention that government commitment to Lilongwe as a growth centre is weak, and also draws attention to problems inherent in applying such strategies in small, underdeveloped economies such as Malawi's. Lilongwe's economic development has not been in theoretical accordance with that of a growth centre. Nevertheless although it is proposed that a new capital programme per se cannot be used as a surrogate for a regional development policy, major infrastructural developments in Lilongwe have allowed it to provide a degree of economic competition to Blantyre. These are argued to be mainly associated with government commitment to its development as the capital city rather than its weakly developed growth centre role.