As part of the ongoing Ethanol Propelled Vehicle Project, the Malawi government launched the first flex-fuel vehicle on Thursday, 4 September, 2007. This vehicle has been imported by the Ethanol Company Limited (Ethco) from Brazil. Flex-fuel cars can can use pure ethanol, pure petrol or any combination of the two fuels in a single tank.They were introduced to the Brazilian automobile market in 2003.

According to newspaper reports, Malawi is the first country in Africa to import a flex-vehicle from Brazil. On the launch of this vehicle, Professor Matthews Chikaonda, who heads the Press Corporation Limited, which is a parent company to Ethco said

Malawians seem to be afraid to be the first.We were the first to come up with the cash budget but we dropped it.Uganda picked up the idea and did a brilliant job on it and perfected it.

I concur with Professor Chikaonda.Now that Malawi is the first on this one, she must act fast or else other African countries will pick it up just like the Ugandans did with the cash budget. If I am not mistaken, the flex-vehicle bought at a cost of MK5 Million. This excludes duties and taxes because they were waived. If these cars can be imported in bulk, the cost per car will surely go down. I am sure some Malawians can buy these cars and save on their fuel costs. The Malawi government must forge cooperation agreements with the Brazilians now and learn their ethanol story.Countries such as Ecuador and India have already signed such agreements with Brazil. Why are we delaying? We do not have to be too futuristic in our thinking because the ethanol technology has been tested and proved already.I am glad because the Brazilian ambassador designate to Malawi, Mr Raul Taunay also attended the launch of the flex-vehicle and in his remarks he said

Brazil is using ethanol successfully to the extent that Brazilian filling stations have three pumps; thus for petrol, diesel and ethanol

Mr Raul Taunay will be more than eager to help establish connections between Malawi and the various players in the Ethanol propepelled vehicle industry in Brazil. That will surely be a big achievement in his diplomatic assignment to Malawi b