Working with Malawi’s Privatization Commission, Nathan Associates explored options for liberalizing passenger transport. We analyzed the operating environment, current operations, route network, and route viability of the state-owned Shire Bus Lines (SBL), reviewing the road transport sector as a whole and SBL’s fleet, management, staffing, operating systems and procedures, fare structure, and company infrastructure.


  • Described constraints on operational efficiency and recommended measures to remove constraints;
  • Identified problems that must be resolved if SBL is to survive regardless of ownership;
  • Examined options for privatization;
  • Discussed general public transport problems that should be addressed with regard to SBL privatization and for the benefit of Malawi; and
  • Recommended subsidies for routes deemed not financially viable but necessary.

Shire Bus Lines liquidated later the same year when loans could not be redeemed. Former line managers salvaged and purchased SBL assets, renamed it United Bus Company Limited, and entered formal post-liquidation operations in May 2008.

The transition was smooth, with investors acquiring the company entirely with cash generated by operations.

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