Highway M1, “Malawi’s National Road”

Were it in the states it might be called Route 66 or Interstate 40. These were roads that influenced history, connected the ends to each other, and the center of the nation. They are credited with joining cultures, languages, commerce, and travel, giving each of them the opportunity to move across the nation with greater ease and comfort. Such is the story of Highway M1 in Malawi.

During the colonial period there was little in the way of paved roads in this part of Africa. In Nyasaland, as it was known at that time, the pavement was primarily in the southern part of the country around Zomba, the colonial capital of Nyasaland, and Blantyre, the commercial center of the nation.

After independence in 1963 MI was paved from Lilongwe to Mzuzu, and in the 1970’s it was extended north to Karonga. During the 1980’s attention was given to another north-south route, the M5 along the lake shore. Roads crossing from east to west and west to east followed.

M1 north of Lilongwe has fallen into serious need of repair. Heavy traffic over the years, coupled by large weight loads that were never imagined when the road was built, along with a lack of money for repairs has left M1 crumbing along the edges and laced with potholes that are sometimes impossible to avoid.  The work has begun for a new M1. Can it be this construction signals the coming of a new Malawi, one that is stepping into the commerce, travel and tourism of a searching world?

The video shows a stretch of M1 under construction north of Lilongwe. It offers hope that soon travel between the north and the central parts of the nation will be handled with ease. The condition of the current roadway is plainly evident in this video.


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