As of 1996, Malawi was divided into three administrative regions—Northern, Central, and Southern—which were subdivided into 24 districts. District councils provide markets, postal agencies, roads, and rural water supplies and exercise control over business premises and the brewing and sale of beer. More important, however, are the councils' responsibilities for primary education. Some of the councils run public health clinics. Council expenditures are mainly financed from direct government education grants, calculated to meet the salaries of teachers in most of the district schools. Other sources of revenue include annual taxes on all males over the age of 17 years who are residents in the district and charges for services rendered.
Town councils have powers similar to those of the district councils, but with greater emphasis on the problems that arise in urban areas. Their main functions are sewerage, removal of refuse, the abatement of nuisances, construction and maintenance of roads, and, in some cases, the provision of fire-fighting services. Revenue for town councils comes mainly from direct taxes on property.