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Malawi Public Road Network

The Authority is responsible for construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of the public road network, which is classified into five categories, namely main roads, secondary roads, tertiary roads, urban roads and district roads. The Public Roads Act enacted in 1962, the Local Government Act enacted in 1998 and the Urban (Public and Private Streets) Act enacted in 1956 define the five categories of roads as follows:
Main roads: Inter-territorial roads outside cities or towns unilaterally designated by Government providing high degree of mobility connecting provincial capitals and/or serving as international corridors;
Secondary roads: Roads outside cities or towns unilaterally designated by Government providing a high degree of mobility linking main centres of population and production and connecting to the main road network;
Tertiary roads:Roads outside cities or towns unilaterally designated by Government linking collector roads to arterial roads accommodating the shorter trips and feeding the arterial road network;
District roads: Roads outside cities or towns designated by Government after consultation with the District Authorities providing intermediate level of service connecting local centres of population and linking districts, local centres of population and developed areas with the principal arterial system; and
Urban roads: Any other road in an urban area other than a designated road including arterial and collector roads crossing city boundaries. Main function is provision of accessibility over relatively short trip lengths at low speeds and providing services to smaller communities. In functional terms, the main, secondary, and tertiary roads effectively make up the country’s primary road network, with district and other undesignated roads acting as a feeder system to the primary network. Of the primary network, the North-South portion on both the plateau and the lakeshore is paved providing a high quality all weather road surfaces. The East to West trunk roads have also been improved to provide better services to communities and linking them to urban centres, where most of the roads are paved. The district roads, which are normally of earth standard, have also been improved and provide access at local level.

Road Network

Roads, which handle more than 70% of internal freight traffic and 99% of passenger traffic, are the country’s most dominant mode of transport. Road transport is also important for international trade as it handles more than 90% of freight and passenger traffic. The national road network is composed of 15,451 km of which about 26% are paved. The rest of the road network (74%) is of earth/gravel surface. Studies carried out in 2005 identified about 10,000 km of undesignated road network that serve the rural communities. Hence the total public road network will be approximately 25,000 km once the new classification has been gazetted.