Examining priorities and the sad state of Malawi’s M1 road

On 21st October 2013, the South African President Jacob  Zuma made a profound statement where he said, “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We’re in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi.” As a patriotic citizen this was one such painful statement to swallow.

Damaged Karonga-Chitipa road

Damaged Karonga-Chitipa road

Even though this was painful to hear, the fact of the matter remained that the statement itself reflected the truth about the poor state of our national roads particularly the MI. Truth pains. For us Malawians the truth remains that after 52 years of independence, the status of our MI Road remains undesirable, small, narrow with potholes and unattended to. What we expected our MI road to look like and become has not been realized. In this paper, I will share my concern as a patriotic son of this nation on the poor state of MI road which to my view need a serious attention and re-fixing.

To begin with, let me point out that our MI road was constructed some five decades ago when the nation had few cars. However today we are witnessing a daily increase in the population of cars which calls for us to think from outside the box when it comes to road network construction. We all agree that it is a challenge to drive in the city roads today be it in Blantyre, Lilongwe or even in Mzuzu during peak hours due to the narrowness of our roads. Having said this, let me show you why it is paramount for any government to put more energy and efforts in making MI Road the most beautiful Road in a country.

M1 road is the mother of all roads in Malawi

The level of economic development in any nation is seen through the standard of MI Road a nation has. For instance, developed nations are seen through their sophisticated road network. The nature and quality of road network in a country shows the level of economic development a country has experienced. Through the type of MI road we have, you easily see the depth of poverty, corruption and many misplaced social economic development.

Since the birth of democracy in 1993, there has been enough economic support that could have moved this nation to a certain level of development but all failed due to our poor way of thinking which misplaces priorities. Why must Malawi a nation that has never seen war be this poorly developed and overtaken by small nations that are just coming out of wars and conflict?

 The status and quality of MI road reflect our level of our thinking and seriousness

The level of our seriousness and thinking is seen through the nature and quality of MI road we have. Many of our friends who have visited our country get amazed when they look at the status of our MI road mainly that the nation is 52 years into independence. After Kamuzu who laid the foundation, there have been three Presidents in Malawi who used the same MI road we are talking about but in their wisdom they decided not to expand or improve its quality.

Why have Malawians who have widely travelled not proposed to government for modification and expansion of this road network? Must Malawi wait for the next 52 years to have MI road of a good quality and standards. Development specialists have said that Malawi as a nation has everything we need to develop and the only major challenge has been our way of thinking and the way we made decisions on important social economic issues. Our decision and thinking has been upside down with all priorities misplaced.

MI Road must be our no. 1 priority in terms of expansion and maintenance.

Wisdom and common sense in Malawi says that when it comes to road maintenance and expansion, priority must be given to MI road due to its viability and contribution in the nation’s economic development. It is MI road that connect Malawi with Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. From KIA or Chileka airport, tourists are welcomed into MI road that takes them into the cities business centres and other destinations. This road is the centre of attraction and need more attention in terms of expansion and maintenance. Travelling through MI all the way from Blantyre to Lilongwe the road is too narrow and bumpy and this is the same from Lilongwe to Jenda.

Now President Zuma’s statement was part of what Malawians have always wondered as to why the MI road network is in such a worrisome state. Now as the nation is 52 years into independence, it’s about time that we begin to put priorities right by making sure that we give this nation a well constructed MI road of the same quality as the BT-Zomba Road.




MI Road interconnects the cities.

MI road is interconnects all cities in Malawi. This means that MI Road is the most used and the busiest road in Malawi. It’s a social economic scandal for us as a nation to have feeder roads looking good than our MI road. If we have to be true to ourselves then something must be done to make MI road the most beautiful road in Malawi. As the busiest road, it is the economic hub of the nation which means that in our planning, this road must get all the attention it deserves than any other road. Therefore decision and policy makers and all of us must look into such issues with urgency.

More resources and thinking outside the box need

MI road is of great benefits to all Malawians and all those who come to visit our country as they in turn bring in forex and many other benefits to the nation. A small feeder road to my village cannot be as important as this MI road since my village road is used by a small population unlike MI road. Sacrificing MI road in national development leaving it narrow and small for 52 years is a regrettable thing for us Malawians to do. If all priorities were put right, by today we could have been having MI Road with dual carriage all the way from Blantyre to Dzalewa passing through Ntcheu to Dedza until we get to Lilongwe. This dual carriage could have continued passing through Kasungu and all the way to Jenda until we get to Mzuzu.

Then from Mzuzu this could have been the same to Phwezi crossing Chiweta to Karonga. All these are possible venture in construction so long priorities are put right and funds are used right. Unless the shape of our MI road is improved the economic development status of this nation will not change. Prof Bingu wa Muthalika (MHSRIP) said that good road network is key to any form of economic development. So something must be done concerning our MI road in Malawi today.

  •  Dr Qeko Jele is Systematic Theologian, a social scientist and an alumni of the University of Fort Hare and he writes this in his personal capacity as a specialist in Religion, Democracy, State and Development
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Nice piece of advice to the clueless DPP led government and thankyou for this


I wonder whether Malawian leaders feel ashamed when they enjoy the modern and wide roads during trips abroad having come from a country with tiny and pot-holed road network. Something needs to be done with urgency and Malawi needs a highway revolution-we live in modern times

koma kumaneko

When the leadership thinks all big projects / developments should be done in his region , and developments should be politicised we shouldnt axcept nice M1 raod soon. M1 from Lumbadzi up to njenda is one lane now , with drum holes on the way. Stadium , paja inapita kwawoko, cancer centre iyi ikutchulidwa za konko not thinking some malawians are in chitipa will need same services and look at the distance now. Sometimes you may think God doesnt exist why allowing Bingu to die and bring back unpatriotic leadership, tribalistic, regionalistic , nepotismists, greedy.

Just a small correction Dr jeke. The M1 road was not constructed 52 years ago. The only part of the M1 that is over 50 years ago is Blantyre Lilongwe via Zomba. The Blantyre-Zalewa Road up to Cikengeni known as Matope road was constructed between 1982-1984. The tarmar road between Lilongwe and Mzimba was constructed in 1974, Mzimba to Mzuzu via Chikangawa was in 1983 same as Mzuzu to Karonga. Mind you,Mzimba- Chikangawa-Mzuzu is not part of M1. The real M1 is Mzimba-Kafukule-Ekwendeni road. Incidentally, the M1 is not fully tarred up today. So the M1 road is actually less… Read more »

Money for roads, like for so much else, is pocketed because of a lack of accountability. That’s why it is said so often, after 52 years, Malawi is not developing.

For a country with Malawi’a GDP, our M1 highway is fairly well-maintained. What we are lacking in our road infrastructure is maintainence of our main CBD roads. Both in Lilongwe and Blantyre, the maintenance of the roads in the Central Business and industrial Disticts is appalling. The main road arteries are generally maintained somewhat, but almost all of the feeder roads are full of cracks and potholes. Especially at inter-sections, there is precious little room for cars to turn. What makes it worse is people like to park right at the inter-section! As for the state of our roads in… Read more »
Baltmore Chipande

You have told it as it is and as it should


For sure Jacob Zuma said this, but to see this called M1 road is not like national road. But who to blame? The ministry of transport and public works is filled with engineers who don’t think like. In South Africa the roads are reconstruct themselve using TOLL GATE fund why can’t we make these tollgate to correct money for our road. In Zimbabwe the tollgate are working now in Mozambique anytime they will be work already constructed. Zuka Malawi

The Ear and Eyes
You have observed correctly and your observations apply to the whole road network in Malawi. Tell me; 1. Why should you go via Karonga when you are travelling to Chitipa from Mzuzu, when a good short cut from Rumphi via Nyika is feasible? 2. Why should you go via Mzuzu when travelling to Mzimba or Kasungu from Kande in Nkhata Bay when a road network to Mzimba through Luwawa in the Viphya plantations is feasible? 3. Tell me why should you go via Salima from Dwambazi in Nkhota Kota to Kasungu when a good road network can be constructed connecting… Read more »
Mtondoli Jonazi

My apologies, I meant to say Dr Qeko Jele and I wrote Jeko. Also I came up with my own word ‘deteriorisation’ instead of deterioration. But who can blame me on my second mistake – with the current state of things, deterioration does not cut it – ‘deteriorisation’ seems to be better suited! LOL.

I remember while in college at Chirunga we used to say describing something as ‘garbage’ is better than saying it is ‘ga-ra-be-ji’! Catch the drift?

Any way my apologies to Dr Jele once again.

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