European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Union (EU) have signed loan agreements to refurbish roads in Malawi.

At the signing ceremony, €139m of European financing and €191m for the road rehabilitation programme were formally agreed upon.

The loan will fund work to reduce transport costs, cut travel time and facilitate exports.

The work will also increase safety for travellers by upgrading the roads to meet international standards.

EIB will provide a €95.5m 20-year loan for the M1 road upgrade programme, which will be complemented by a €43.1m grant from the EU under the EU Africa Investment Platform.

This investment covers work to upgrade the M1 road, including the restoration of the Tanzanian main road connection.

The road is responsible for one fifth of national exports and connects eastern Zambia with the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam.

The work also includes the transformation of around 346km of road. As part of the work, 46km on the Karonga-Songwe road, 66.5km of the Kacheche-Chiweta road and 234km of the Mzimba Turn Off to Kamuzu International Airport road will be transformed.

Minister of Transport and Public Works Ralph Jooma said: “Improving road links is crucial for the sustainable economic development of Malawi and the SADC region, as the M1 road forms part of the north-south corridor linking Malawi and other SADC countries to the port of Dar es Salaam.

“Once work to upgrade the M1 road is complete, farmers in rural districts will benefit from improved access to local markets and our country will have easier access to international markets.”