Access to Land

According to the new Land Act 2016, Malawi has two categories of land, namely:
•    Public land which comprises Government land and unallocated customary land used for the benefit of the community as a whole, and
•    Private land which comprises freehold land, leasehold land, and customary estates.

The new Land Act prohibits granting of freehold to a person, but allows those that are already holding such land titles to continue. The Office of Commissioner of Lands administers and manages land issues such as making grants, leases and other dispositions.

Acquisition procedures
The new Land Act 2016 which has been assented but not yet in force and the National Land Policy, 2002, outline the conditions and procedures for land acquisition by investors. These are as follows:

•    Land designated for investment purposes shall be identified, published in the Gazette and allocated to the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre which shall create derivative rights to investors in accordance with the Investment and Export Promotion Act, 2012.
•    The size of land allocated to investors shall be in accordance with the ceilings which may be set by the minister responsible for lands in consultation with minister responsible for investments, based on the type of activity and location of land.
•    Non-Malawian investors can be granted lease of land with a maximum period of 50 years, while for Malawians it is 99 years.
•    Sale of leased land to a non-Malawian shall be done if the sale of land is published in a newspaper in daily circulation not less than 21 days before the date of sale, specifying price, location and size of the private land, and developments on the land. Sale of the advertised land shall be made if no Malawian is able to purchase the said land at the advertised price or higher.
•    Non-Malawians shall not exchange title of land amongst themselves by way of gift.

Construction permit procedures
An investor who has acquired land and requires a construction permit needs to take the following steps:
•    Prepare block and building plans using engineers and/or architectures approved by the National Construction Council of Malawi;
•    Fill in and submit Development Permission forms at the office of the Regional Commissioner of Lands. Attached to the Development Permission Form should be site plan, and block and building plans;
•    Once the block and building plans have been approved by the Regional Commissioner of Lands, the applicant takes them to the district or city council in which the investment is to take place;
•    A scrutiny fee charged by the council should be paid upon submission of the block and building plans;
•    At the council, the plans are first reviewed by a technical committee which could decide whether an Environmental Impact Assessment report is required to be included in the submission or not;
•    Upon the recommendation of the technical committee, the council’s town planning committee further reviews and approves the submitted investment plans;
•    Once the town planning committee is satisfied with the application details, it issues a grant permission in accordance with the Town and Planning Act (cap 23:01) outlining conditions of the granted approval including validity of the granted approval, payment of certificate of occupation fee after completion which is 1% of total cost of the development, amongst others.