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Malawi Faces Another Nationwide Fuel Shortage

Blantyre, Malawi — Fuel stations in Malawi’s economic capital, Blantyre, are running on empty after a fresh, nationwide fuel shortage this week.

Long lines of motorists are waiting for hours, sometimes overnight, in hopes of fueling their vehicles, while public transport fares have doubled. Malawi’s energy regulator says the country has depleted its fuel reserves, largely due to a lack of foreign currency.

The problem became apparent July 16 when motorists started to scramble for gasoline, though diesel still was readily available.

Now, both products have run out. Long lines, some as long as a kilometer from a pump station, are common, attracting a lot of speculation from motorists such as Labani Chirwa.

Chirwa has heard there are plans to hike the prices of fuel, leaving many thinking some filling stations are deliberately hoarding the fuel to make huge profits from the old stock.

The government has rejected that speculation.

This is the first time since March the fuel supply situation has reached critical levels.

The fuel scarcity has pushed operators of public transportation vehicles to almost double their fares.

However, the operators say despite the increase in fares they are not making any profits because they are spending a day or two lining up for fuel without doing any business.

The fuel scarcity is a big blow because many people and their families rely on minibuses, said Calisto Kambani, who runs a minibus business in Blantyre.

Malawi has been facing recurring fuel shortages since August 2022, largely because the country lacks enough foreign currency. The Reserve Bank of Malawi said in June that the government’s foreign exchange reserves were not enough to last a month.

Henry Kachaje, chief executive officer for the Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority, told reporters Tuesday that Malawi cannot keep up with rising international prices for petroleum products.