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Accelerating Malawi’s Economic Growth

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.