Malawi Government - History

Malawi Government - History

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Malawi is an emerging democracy. The popularly elected president is the head of government and head of state. Malawi has a directly elected unicameral parliament, and an independent judiciary.
PresidentMuluzi, Bakili
Vice PresidentMalewezi, Justin
Second Vice PresidentChihana, Chakufwa
Min. of Agriculture, Irrigation, & Food SecurityChihana, Chakufwa
Min. of Commerce & IndustryMpasu, Sam
Min. of DefenseMunyenyembe, Rodwell
Min. of Economic Planning & DevelopmentMutharika, Bingu Wa
Min. of Education, Science, & TechnologyMtafu, George Nga
Min. of FinanceJumbe, Friday
Min. of Foreign Affairs & Intl. CooperationPatel, Lilian
Min. of Gender & Community ServicesSumani, Alice
Min. of Health & PopulationMwawa, Yusuf
Min. of Home Affairs & Internal SecurityMaluza, Monjeza
Min. of HousingPhumisa, S. D. Kaliyoma
Min. of InformationChisale, Bernard
Min. of JusticeMaulidi, Paul
Min. of Labor & Vocational TrainingMlanga, Lee
Min. of Lands, Physical Planning, & SurveysMaloya, Thengo
Min. of Natural Resources & Environmental AffairsMussa, Uladi
Min. for PrivatizationMalewezi, Justin
Min. of Sports, Youth, & CultureMabeti, Henderson
Min. of Tourism, Parks, & WildlifeChiume, Wallace
Min. of Transport & Public WorksStambuli, Clement
Min. of Water DevelopmentLemani, Dumbo
Min. Without PortfolioMughogho, Chipimpha
Min. of State for Local Govt. & District Admin.Bagus, Salim
Min. of State in the President's Office Responsible for HIV/AIDS ProgramsBanda, Mary Kaphwereza
Min. of State in the President's Office Responsible for People With DisablilitesChitimbe, Susan
Min. of State in the President's Office Responsible for Presidential AffairsLipenga, Ken
Min. of State in the President's Office Responsible for Poverty & Disaster ManagementShati, Ludoviko
Min. of State in the President's Office Responsible for Statutory CorporationsKhamisa, Bob
Min. of State in the President's Office, Special DutiesMbewe, Patrick
Attorney GeneralFachi, Peter
Governor, Reserve BankNgalande, Elias
Ambassador to the USKandiero, Paul Tony Steven
Permanent Representative to the UN, New YorkLamba, Isaac Chikwekwere

Malawi Government, History, Population & Geography

Environment—international agreements:
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography—note: landlocked

Population: 9,840,474 (July 1998 est.)

Age structure:
0-14 years: 46% (male 2,249,108 female 2,228,934)
15-64 years: 52% (male 2,512,768 female 2,584,516)
65 years and over: 2% (male 111,089 female 154,059) (July 1998 est.)

Population growth rate: 1.66% (1998 est.)

Birth rate: 40.22 births/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Death rate: 23.68 deaths/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (1998 est.)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.97 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.72 male(s)/female (1998 est.)

Infant mortality rate: 133.77 deaths/1,000 live births (1998 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 36.59 years
male: 36.64 years
female: 36.54 years (1998 est.)

Total fertility rate: 5.62 children born/woman (1998 est.)

noun: Malawian(s)
adjective: Malawian

Ethnic groups: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European

Religions: Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, traditional indigenous beliefs

Languages: English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 56.4%
male: 71.9%
female: 41.8% (1995 est.)

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Malawi
conventional short form: Malawi
former: Nyasaland

Government type: multiparty democracy

National capital: Lilongwe

Administrative divisions: 24 districts Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Chitipa, Dedza, Dowa, Karonga, Kasungu, Lilongwe, Machinga (Kasupe), Mangochi, Mchinji, Mulanje, Mwanza, Mzimba, Ntcheu, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Nsanje, Ntchisi, Rumphi, Salima, Thyolo, Zomba

Independence: 6 July 1964 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day 6 July (1964) Republic Day 6 July (1966)

Constitution: 18 May 1995

Legal system: based on English common law and customary law judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Appeal has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Bakili MULUZI (since 21 May 1994) note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Bakili MULUZI (since 21 May 1994) note—the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet named by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term election last held 17 May 1994 (next to be held by May 1999)
election results: Bakili MULUZI elected president percent of vote—NA

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (177 seats members are elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 17 May 1994 (next to be held by May 1999)
election results: percent of vote by party—NA seats by party—UDF 84, AFORD 33, MCP 55, others 5 note—because of defections and byelections, the seats in the National Assembly were held at the end of the year as follows: UDF 84, MCP 47, AFORD 34, independents 8, and vacant 4
note: the constitution of 18 May 1995, in addition to reducing the age at which universal suffrage is conferred from 21 to 18 years, provided for a bicameral legislature by 1999, in addition to the existing National Assembly, a Senate of 80 seats is to be elected

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Appeal High Court (chief justice appointed by the president, puisne judges appointed on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission) magistrate's courts

Political parties and leaders:
ruling party: United Democratic Front or UDF [Bakili MULUZI]
opposition groups: Alliance for Democracy or AFORD [Chakufwa CHIHANA] Congress for the Second Republic or CSR [Kanyama CHIUME] Malawi Congress Party or MCP [Gwanda CHAKUAMBA, president/John TEMBO, vice president] Malawi Democratic Party or MDP [Kampelo KALUA, president] People Democratic Party or PDP [Rolf PATEL] Social Democratic Party or SDP [Eston KAKHOME, president]

International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Willie CHOKANI
chancery: 2408 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 797-1007

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Amelia Ellen SHIPPY
embassy: address NA, in new capital city development area in Lilongwe
mailing address: P. O. Box 30016, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
telephone: [265] 783 166
FAX: [265] 780 471

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green with a radiant, rising, red sun centered in the black band

Economy—overview: Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural, with about 90% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for 45% of GDP and 90% of export revenues. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. The new government faces strong challenges, e.g., to spur exports, to improve educational and health facilities, and to deal with environmental problems of deforestation and erosion.

GDP: purchasing power parity—$8.6 billion (1997 est.)

GDP—real growth rate: 6% (1997 est.)

GDP—per capita: purchasing power parity—$900 (1997 est.)

GDP—composition by sector:
agriculture: 45%
industry: 30%
services: 25% (1995 est.)

Inflation rate—consumer price index: 83.4% (1995)

Labor force:
total: 3.5 million
by occupation: agriculture 86%, wage earners 14% (1990 est.)

Unemployment rate: NA%

revenues: $530 million
expenditures: $674 million, including capital expenditures of $129 million (1993)

Industries: tea, tobacco, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods

Industrial production growth rate: 0.9% (1995)

Electricity—capacity: 185,000 kW (1995)

Electricity—production: 800 million kWh (1995)

Electricity—consumption per capita: 82 kWh (1995)

Agriculture—products: tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, cassava (tapioca), sorghum, pulses cattle, goats

total value: $405 million (f.o.b., 1995)
commodities: tobacco, tea, sugar, coffee, peanuts, wood products
partners: US, South Africa, Germany, Japan

total value: $475 million (f.o.b., 1995)
commodities: food, petroleum products, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment
partners: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Japan, US, UK, Germany

Debt—external: $2.3 billion (1996 est.)

Economic aid:
recipient: donor pledges, $332 million (1996)

Currency: 1 Malawian kwacha (MK) = 100 tambala

Exchange rates: Malawian kwacha (MK) per US$1㬍.5300 (October 1997), 15.3085 (1996), 15.2837 (1995), 8.7364 (1994), 4.4028 (1993)

Fiscal year: 1 April㬛 March

Telephones: 43,000 (1985 est.)

Telephone system:
domestic: fair system of open-wire lines, microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations
international: satellite earth stationsר Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations: AM 10, FM 17, shortwave 0

Radios: 1.011 million (1995)

Television broadcast stations: 0 (1987 est.)

total: 789 km
narrow gauge: 789 km 1.067-m gauge

total: 28,400 km
paved: 5,254 km
unpaved: 23,146 km (1996 est.)

Waterways: Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) Shire River, 144 km

Ports and harbors: Chipoka, Monkey Bay, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota

Airports: 45 (1997 est.)

Airports—with paved runways:
total: 6
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 4 (1997 est.)

Airports—with unpaved runways:
total: 39
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 14
under 914 m: 24 (1997 est.)

Military branches: Army (includes Air Wing and Naval Detachment), Police (includes paramilitary Mobile Force Unit)

Military manpower—availability:
males age 15-49 : 2,248,023 (1998 est.)

Military manpower—fit for military service:
males: 1,151,594 (1998 est.)

Military expenditures—dollar figure: $10.4 million (FY94/95)

Military expenditures—percent of GDP: NA%

Disputes—international: dispute with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi)

  • Region: Africa
  • Population: 18 million (2018)
  • Area: 118,500 square kilometres
  • Capital: Lilongwe
  • Joined Commonwealth: 1964, following independence from Britain
  • Commonwealth Youth Index: 44 out of 49 countries

Human rights

The Commonwealth Small States Office in Geneva helped Malawi engage with UN organisations, including the Human Rights Council.

The Secretariat helped the Malawi Human Rights Commission mobilise traditional leaders and young people.

Legal education

The Secretariat worked with Malawi to establish the Malawi Institute for Legal Education to provide vocational training for Malawian lawyers.


The Secretariat is helping the Malawi government fight corruption. One strategy is to publicise bids and contracts when it buys goods and services.


The Secretariat helped the University of Malawi and the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources develop and deliver youth work skills and qualifications.


In 2018, the Secretariat helped Malawi develop, negotiate and implement trade policies and agreements. In March 2018, the Commonwealth worked with Malawi to review and design a National Export Strategy.

Connectivity Agenda

Malawi is a member of the Physical, Digital, Regulatory and Supply Side Connectivity clusters of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda. The Connectivity Agenda is a platform for countries to exchange best practices and experiences to trade and investment and undertake domestic reform.

Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

It has been more than twenty years since Malawi first held multiparty elections. While democracy has expanded freedom and justice, Malawi’s political transition after thirty years of one party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu Banda has not been without its hurdles. Still reeling from the 2013 “Cashgate” financial scandal and contending with more recent additional public corruption issues, the Government of Malawi (GoM) must fulfill its mandate to provide its citizens with fair and competent governance with limited resources. Malawi faces daunting challenges in implementing its Public Sector Reforms agenda, but must succeed to fully engage a citizenry that grows weary with poor services, lack of a clear voice, and unaccountable local government systems.

USAID supports the Government of Malawi (GoM) and civil society to address the governance issues that affect sustainable development, including strengthening accountability, service delivery, and public sector performance at both the national and local government levels. USAID’s work with Malawian civil society includes efforts to increase citizen engagement in decision making and oversight, as well as building capacity to advocate for responsive, effective, and fair government policies and practice. To ensure political economy issues are thoughtfully incorporated throughout our sectoral goals, USAID programming integrates democratic principles, including accountable and responsive governance, in health, education, environment, and economic development activities.


In support of the GoM Public Service Reform initiative, USAID supports the Office of the President and Cabinet, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, and 28 district councils to reform the civil service, restructure government, and bring decision making and services closer to the people.

CIVIL SERVICE REFORM: Recognizing that civil servants are the lifeblood of government performance, USAID supports GoM efforts to reform its performance management laws, policies and systems, and to create incentives for excellence and consequences for poor performance. USAID also supports human resources managers operating throughout government to ensure transparent and merit-based hiring, improved labor productivity, and appropriate staffing levels.

DECENTRALIZATION: USAID’s Local Government Accountability and Performance (LGAP) activity supports the Government as it devolves personnel, finances, and service delivery responsibilities to increasingly autonomous local government councils. In the first year of implementing LGAP (August 2016-September 2017), the GoM officially devolved management of local level civil servants from the central government to the country’s 28 local government councils. Through support from LGAP, GoM transferred the payroll management of 113,000 government personnel from central government to local governments - including health workers, teachers, and other front line civil servants - with minimal disruptions. As a result, payroll and personnel records are now reconciled monthly, minimizing financial mismanagement and “ghost workers.” Districts now create development plans in line with citizen priorities, newly created revenue management units enhance public financial management, and district offices are restructuring to improve efficiency and service delivery.


PARLIAMENT: USAID, through its Supporting the Efforts of Partners (STEPS) program, supports the National Assembly’s effort to advance evidence-based policy making by building its capacity to conduct policy research and budgetary oversight. The research will bring new rigor to policy debates and development among government committees. It will also support Parliament’s review of the proposed National Budget, development of amendments (based on citizen priorities), and increased accountability of public funding.

POLITICAL PARTIES: USAID, through the Regional Political Party Strengthening Program, works to strengthen the electoral process and Parliament through long-term capacity building for political parties, with a particular focus on institutional strengthening and platform development.


USAID is assisting the Malawi Electoral Commission and civil society to prepare for, conduct, and oversee the 2019 Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections. Assistance includes support for voter registration through deployment of a biometric National ID, pre-election systems reforms, long and short-term observation, media assistance, political party training, and electoral security support.


Strong democracies require an active and engaged citizenry. USAID supports communities, religious leaders, traditional authorities, and activists to advance locally owned and led initiatives, building self-reliance and greater agency for reform. Through the Supporting the Efforts of Partners (STEPS) and Localworks direct grants, USAID supports over 30 Malawian organizations to become more sustainable and well managed by improving their internal governance, financial, human resources, strategic management, and advocacy capabilities. In doing so, partners are more powerful advocates in Parliament, more effective elections observers, and stronger voices for accountability.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption) Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending) Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom) and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.>>

Country Risk


Some key dates in Malawi's history:

1480 - Bantu tribes unite several smaller political states to form the Maravi Confederacy which at its height includes large parts of present-day Zambia and Mozambique plus the modern state of Malawi.

17th century - Portuguese explorers arrive from the east coast of present-day Mozambique.

1850 - Scottish missionary David Livingstone's exploration of the region paves the way for missionaries, European adventurers, traders.

1891 - Britain establishes the Nyasaland and District Protectorate.

1915 - Reverend John Chilembwe leads a revolt against British rule, killing the white managers of a particularly brutal estate and displaying the head of one outside his church. He is shot dead by police within days.

1953 - Despite strong opposition from the Nyasaland African Congress and white liberal activists, Britain combines Nyasaland with the Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively).

1964 6 July - Nyasaland declares independence as Malawi. Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, "the black messiah", becomes president and rules over a one-party state for the next three decades.

1994 - Bakili Muluzi is elected president in first multi-party elections since independence. He immediately frees political prisoners and re-establishes freedom of speech.

2011 - Police kill 19 people in two days of protests against the way the economy is managed. Britain suspends aid over governance concerns. US follows suit.

2012 April - President Bingu wa Mutharika dies in office, is succeeded by vice-president Joyce Banda.

2014 May - Peter Mutharika, brother of Bingu wa Mutharika, wins presidential election.


Malawi is a landlocked nation that shares its borders with Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia. About the size of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania or 118,484 square miles in area, Malawi straddles Africa's third largest inland lake, Lake Malawi. Large plateaus, about 4,100 feet high, and mountains, roughly 8,200 feet in height, dominate much of the landscape.

In 2001, Malawi's population was 10,386,000 people. This population has doubled since 1977 when it was 5,547,460. Most of these individuals lived in the south and central regions, which foster more economic activity and jobs, since these regions are blessed with fertile land and adequate rain. The dominant Chewa tribe lives in central Malawi and the next largest tribe, the Nyanja, lives in the fertile south of Malawi, where commercial farming is big business. An estimated 3,500,000 Malawians make up the active workforce. The annual population growth rate has slowed to 1.61 percent due to a combination of AIDS, malaria, and premature death due to malnutrition. A high incidence of disease is attributable to diets low in nutrition, insufficient medical care, and low levels of sanitation, except in large cities. Many Malawi citizens rely on traditional herbs and healers for cures to ailments. Life expectancy at birth is only 37 years. The infant mortality rate is 122 per 1,000, and there is 1 doctor for every 47,634 Malawians.

Malawi's population is overwhelmingly rural, as 86 percent of Malawians live in rural areas. In rural areas, rights and duties are defined by tradition. Conformity and cohesion are emphasized, and honor grows with age. Money and a cash economy are however changing rural communities. Population pressure on land also forces change, and long periods of absence by men who work in distant cities are making rural cultures change as women, children, and the elderly cope with their absence. Despite these changes, family, kinship, territory, and tribe are the glue that bind rural society together. About 14 percent of Malawians live in cities. Lilongwe replaced Zomba as the nation's capital in 1974 and has a population of 395,000 people. Blantyre, Livingstonia, Mzuzu, and Chiromo are also important urban centers.

Approximately 90 percent of Malawians belong to the Chewa ethnic group. The remaining 10 percent belong to the Nyanja, Lomwe, Yao, Nguni, Tumbuka, Sena, Tonga, Ngonde, and other ethnic groups. Europeans, Asians, and other racial groups compose less than 1 percent of the population but exercise considerable economic influence. More than 50 percent of Malawians speak Chinyanja, which former president Banda renamed Chichewa when he made it the national language. Many Malawi Africans speak Chichewa at home, and more than 80 percent understand it. Both Chichewa and English are considered national languages. An estimated 55 percent of the population is Protestant, 20 percent Roman Catholic, 15 percent follow Islam, and the remaining 5 percent practice indigenous religions.

The per capita income is $940 dollars per year. Malawi's economy is growing at 4.2 percent per year, which is down from 6.0 percent in 2000. Inflation is at 4.05 percent, but this is down from 83.3 percent in 1998. Malawi's natural resources include limestone, uranium, coal, and bauxite. Its major agricultural products are tobacco, tea, sugarcane, cotton, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, pulses, livestock, and tea. The industrial sector processes tobacco into cigarettes, sugar refineries, sawmills, cement factories, and consumer goods. It has 17,600 miles of roads, which helps it take its produce to market for sale, 498 miles of railroads, 44 airports, and 55,000 cars and trucks. Individuals 18 and over are eligible to vote. The government is a multi-party democracy, and the major political parties are the United Democratic Front, the Malawi Congress Party, the Alliance for Democracy, and others. The adult literacy rate is 58 percent, and education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 14. Malawi has 1 Internet service provider and 37,400 telephones.

Historical & Political Background: The name "Malawi" is derived from the word "Maravi," who were a Bantu speaking people who migrated to Lake Malawi in the fourteenth century and developed a large confederation. Oral tradition states that these people were the ancestors of today's Chewa and Nyanja people who constitute Malawi's majority today. Portuguese explorers and adventurers were the first Europeans to visit this area but they never colonized it. The Portuguese confined their colonizing activities to coastal regions of Mozambique and traded with Africans from Malawi. The Scottish explorer and missionary zealot, Dr. David Livingstone arrived in Malawi in 1859 while searching for the source of the Nile River. He did not find the origin of the Nile in Malawi but he did find fertile ground for converts to Christianity. Many Christian missionaries followed him to "conquer Malawi for Christ," as they said. Ngoni tribes from South Africa had migrated to Malawi and were devastating Malawi during Livingstone's first visit. They engaged in chronic warfare as they attempted to dominate local Malawi Africans. In this environment the slave trade flourished. Fighting was constant, local African tribes were ravaged and subjugated, and Livingstone asked the British to intervene to put an end to slavery. Great Britain established a protectorate and called the area Nyasaland in 1891. They outlawed slavery and ended the chronic fighting by establishing a Pax Britannia. The region's tropical climate, the absence of mineral wealth, and limited economic opportunities for Europeans meant that very few whites settled in Malawi. Its record of development thus differed remarkably from those of Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, which had mineral wealth, fertile land, and few diseases that debilitated Europeans. Those areas by contrast attracted large white settler populations, huge investments, and rapid modernization.

The first sign that colonial rule was in trouble in Malawi occurred in 1915. The reverend John Chilembwe and his followers rose up against European settlers, but they were quickly suppressed by European military technology. Civil unrest did not die rather it went underground. It emerged again in 1944 in the guise of the Nyasaland African Congress. This was Malawi's first nationalist movement. Agitation for independence culminated in independence in 1964, under the leadership of Ngwazi ("Great Lion and provider"), Dr. Hastings Banda. The former Federation of British Rhodesia and Nyasaland dissolved. By July 6, 1966, the sovereign democratic Republic of Malawi emerged. Despite loud objections from other African leaders, Banda opened diplomatic and trade relations with the apartheid regime then ruling South Africa in 1967. Many Africans considered Banda a sellout. Some even went as far as to call him a traitor. Banda also Africanized the civil service and jobs in private industry but at such a slow pace that it infuriated many Africans and pleased the European and Asian communities who benefited from the slow pace of change. By 1971, Banda became the first African head of state to visit apartheid South Africa and recognize their legitimacy. However, Malawi later joined the Southern African Development Co-ordinating Conference (SADCC) which sought to reduce the dependence of countries throughout southern Africa on South Africa. By 1971, after declaring himself "president for life," and it had become clear that he was a ruthless dictator. He frequently purged his cabinet and ruled through the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), which he controlled with an iron fist. His secret police were universally feared, and his Malawi Young Pioneers eliminated potential rivals. In 1976, he recognized the communist-backed Angolan government in preference to the South African-backed conservative forces of Jonas Savimbi. Malawi never recognized South Africa's Bantustans or Homelands as independent states, despite Malawi's cordial relations with the apartheid regime.

The suppression of opposition created a sense of stability. Until 1979, Malawi's economy grew annually at 6 percent or better, but this wealth went to a small elite who blindly supported Banda. Most of the wealth came from large agricultural estates, which were controlled by white settlers in the past but were currently owned by elite Africans or the state. Industries that process agricultural products thrived in Malawi. However, 85 percent of Malawians farmed 5 acres of land or less. Rural over-crowding led to soil erosion and depletion. Land shortage, soil depletion, low prices paid to farmers for their produce, and a lack of agricultural inputs, such as loans, fertilizers, and insecticides, led to widespread unrest by 1992. Migration to South Africa, mostly by the Tumbuka tribes who were forced to leave their northern land to make money due to farming problems, helped Malawi overcome high unemployment and limited wage employment internally. The country became dependent, however, on remitted wage income that financed imports and contributed cash to rural households with few sources of income.

Forced into exile, most opponents of the government lived abroad until 1992 when Roman Catholic bishops openly criticized the government for human rights abuses and encouraged 60 exiles in Zambia's capital to stage a protest. Detention without trial, torture, and assassination suppressed internal dissent. Union unrest, rioting, and agitation by Chakufwa Chihana for multi-party elections led to reform. The United Nations monitored a referendum on the introduction of multi-party rule on June 14, 1993, which UN representatives monitored. The 63.5 percent of the people of Malawi voted to end one-party rule, despite massive efforts to intimidate them by the MCP.

Opposition to Banda's dictatorial rule led to the first official multi-party election on May 17, 1994. Bakili Muluzi was elected president, ending Banda's 30-year dictatorial rule of Malawi. In 1997, Banda and key associates were put on trial for political murders, but were acquitted. Banda died in 1997 and was given an official state funeral with full military honors. Bakili Muluzi's United Democratic Front (UDF) party has ruled Malawi from 1994 to the present. President Muluzi and his vice-president, Justin Malewezi, aimed to alleviate poverty and ensure food security, as well as to combat corruption and mismanagement of resources. Three prisons, notorious for human rights abuses, were closed. Political prisoners were granted amnesty and all death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. The unequal distribution of land and labor migration remain major challenges for Malawi, as does violence in Mozambique, which spills over into Malawi periodically. As Mozambique repairs its war-damaged communications, industries, roads, railroads, bridges, ports, and airports, Malawi's export economy improves. Many of the 600,000 Mozambican refugees who have lived in Malawi for decades are returning to Mozambique. This too helps Malawi's economy to perform better. Mozambique has reopened its ports of Beira and Nacala, which facilitates Malawi's export strategy. Malawi pays small farmers better prices for their crops as an incentive to increase production. Unfortunately this policy has failed to halt or reverse the decline in rural standards of living due to land shortages and declining production exacerbated by overcrowding.

Educational Background: Traditional African cultures emphasized careful observation, imitation, and memorization of lessons passed down from one generation to the next through a system of age-graded education and socialization. Western-styled schools were established in Malawi by Christian missionaries. While traditional culture competed for the attention of African youth, Islam has never penetrated Malawi and thus did not compete with Christianity. This made westernizing Malawi's African population much easier. At first missionary schools focused on basic reading, writing, and counting. The aim was to help Africans learn to read the Bible in order to reinforce Christian beliefs and values. The British government was happy to allow missionaries to dominate education because it was cost effective. In a poor colony that was not producing much income for Britain, costs were major concerns. Malawi's British colonial administrators merely supervised Christian missionary schools from 1920 onward. Not long after African Christians became westernized, a few opened their own schools from 1930 onward. In both cases money for the salaries of teachers and administrators were generated from school fees and voluntary donations given locally and from abroad. Government financing for schools began in 1963, when Malawi's outgoing colonial government financed 22 primary schools.

The Anglican church of England set up schools on the eastern shore of Lake Malawi (then known as Lake Nyasa) in 1880. Many primary schools were established, along with training institutes for nurses, hospital attendants, and midwives. Roman Catholics created missions from 1889 on, when the White Fathers first established missions. The Catholic Church discovered that schools attracted many new converts. Thus, Catholics built many schools in Malawi and won many converts in turn. By 1970, Catholics ran more than 1,000 schools, 6 teacher training colleges, several hospitals, and 2 leprosy clinics.

The American based Phelps-Stokes Fund conducted a survey of education in Malawi in 1924. The outcome was recommendations for educational reform. These included greater efforts to educate females, the expansion of primary education, and improved teacher training. The pattern of education was 4-3-3, meaning that primary school students attended school for four years. If they succeeded, they attended advanced primary school for three more years. Upon successful completion of both of these levels they advanced to junior high for three additional years. The age ranges were from 5 years to 20, since many entered school late due to farm duties. In addition, although most students finished the entire sequence in 10 years, some students took much longer given home responsibilities, scarcity of funds to pay school fees, and other constraints.

By 1927, Malawi had 2,788 schools, which were staffed by 4,481 teachers, many of whom were poorly trained or even unqualified. That same year Malawi established its first Board of Education, district school committees, and later in 1930 Advisory committees were established to control educational expenditure. In 1938, educational ordinances were revised to enable the governor to decide the composition of the Advisory Committee, and influence the creation of new schools. The government was concerned about local African groups opening schools with no idea of how to pay for ongoing maintenance, teachers' salaries, or other recurrent budget matters. Instruction was in the vernacular, as was Bible instruction, because this allowed western ideas to penetrate African society faster than was possible using English, which was foreign to many and difficult to understand. In this manner elementary arithmetic, reading, and writing spread among the African population.

After World War II, the Colonial government of Malawi determined that control over education and new rules for teaching service were important goals. By 1949, the British Colonial Office decided to reward Africans for loyal military service during World War II by offering two additional years of post primary education. This program was designed to prepare Africans for work in the Civil Service. After 1950, the system followed a 5-3-4-2 pattern. In other words Africans attended primary school, followed by senior primary school, then a four year secondary or high school that culminated in the Cambridge Higher School Certificate, and for a few advancement to a two year Advanced or "A" level specialized course that is comparable to Junior College. In 1963, this pattern changed to 7-5 pattern.

Following the break up of the Central African Federation in 1963, the Malawi Colonial government decided to assume responsibility for schools. Overnight most schools were transformed into public schools backed by the government. They inherited 2 secondary schools and 26 primary schools. The minister of education assumed responsibility for all schools in Malawi and inspected them through district committees of not more than 12 individuals who were controlled by the district commissioner. Church run schools continued, but played a far less important role in education. Two church-run secondary schools existed at Blantyre and Zomba. Europeans were permitted to maintain exclusively European schools, with the agreement that they would fully integrate in the future. Some saw the shifting of the burden of education onto the government just prior to independence as support for white minority regimes in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and South Africa. The more money that free Africans were forced to spend on education and agriculture, the less that was available for arms or military training for freedom movements. Despite major investments in education, not more than 35 percent of Malawi's children attended primary school prior to independence.


Located in Southern Africa, Malawi is landlocked, sharing its borders with Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. The country has an estimated population of 18.6 million (2019), which is expected to double by 2038.

Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world despite making significant economic and structural reforms to sustain economic growth. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, employing nearly 80% of the population, and it is vulnerable to external shocks, particularly climatic shocks.

The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), a series of five-year plans, guides the country’s development. The current MGDS III, Building a Productive, Competitive and Resilient Nation, will run through 2022 and focuses on education, energy, agriculture, health and tourism. In January 2021, the Government launched the Malawi 2063 Vision that aims at transforming Malawi into a wealthy and self-reliant industrialized ‘upper middle- income country.

Malawi is a generally peaceful country and has had stable governments since independence in 1964. One-party rule ended in 1993 since then multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections have been held every five years.

Malawi’s sixth tripartite elections were conducted in May 2019. The presidential results were nullified in February 2020 by the Constitutional Court. Fresh presidential elections were held on June 23, 2020 where Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party and Saulos Chilima of the UTM Party were elected as president and vice president respectively after getting 58.6% of the votes. They won against Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party and United Democratic Front coalition, who received 39.4% of the votes. President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima lead a coalition of nine political parties.

Malawi’s economy has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. Growth is estimated at 1.0% for 2020, compared with earlier projections of 4.8%, but is projected to rebound in 2021 to 2.8%, although the nature of the recovery will depend on the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic and government’s policy actions. The second wave of the pandemic has been more intense than the first. The COVID-19 vaccine is not expected to reach a significant portion of the population until at least mid-2022. As such, stronger social distancing policies and behavior are expected to weigh on economic activity and suppress domestic demand.

The COVID-19 crisis is increasing poverty, particularly in urban areas, where the services and industry sectors have been hit hard. A weak rebound is expected in the services and industry sectors in 2021 while international tourism is unlikely to return to previous levels in the short term. The pandemic is also disproportionally affecting human capital investment in poor households, reducing future intergenerational income mobility.

Given a widening fiscal deficit, the stock of public debt has continued to increase, largely driven by high cost domestic debt. The fiscal deficit is widening due to a slowdown in revenue collection due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with increasing spending pressures including from response to the pandemic, debt service costs and unbudgeted arrears. Malawi is at high risk of overall debt distress and moderate risk of external debt distress, with limited space to absorb shocks.

Malawi has made progress in building its human capital—the knowledge, skills and health that people accumulate over their lives—in recent years. Life expectancy at birth is 63.7 years (2018 Population and Housing Census). The total fertility rate in 2015/16 was 4.4 children per woman down from 6.7 in 1992. Self-reported literacy (reading and writing in any language) for population aged 15 years and above is 83.0 for males and 68.8 for females (IHS5).

However, poverty and inequality remain stubbornly high. The latest poverty figures show the national poverty rate increased slightly from 50.7% in 2010 to 51.5% in 2016, but extreme national poverty decreased from 24.5% in 2010/11 to 20.1 percent in 2016/17. Poverty is driven by low productivity in the agriculture sector, limited opportunities in non-farm activities, volatile economic growth, rapid population growth, and limited coverage of safety net programs and targeting challenges.

Development Challenges

Malawi’s development challenges are multi-pronged, including vulnerability to external shocks such as weather and health. The COVID-19 pandemic has further negatively impacted economic growth and livelihood. Other challenges include rapid population growth and environmental degradation. Energy shortages still stand out, with about 11.4% of the population having access to electricity. Infrastructure development, the manufacturing base, and adoption of new technology are low, and corruption levels remain high with Transparency International ranking Malawi at 129/180 economies in 2020.

Fertile ground for corruption

A number of factors contribute to the current state of affairs.

There is no clear distinction between a party in power and government activities in Malawi, unlike in established democracies. In Malawi, the party in power is the de facto government.

In Malawi, a party in power calls itself boma (a government). Ordinary Malawians look at abuse of state resources by those in power as acceptable. It is almost impossible to tell a party in power from the government.

Even more serious is the fact that political parties in Malawi are not mandated to declare their sources of funding. This breeds corruption and fosters abuse of public resources. This is not unique to Malawi. But in countries like Botswana, hailed as one of the model democracies on the continent, they at least have a debate on political party funding. Debates are also taking place in Nigeria and South Africa, respectively the continent’s largest and second-largest economies.

Another contributing factor is that after 21 years of multiparty democracy, governance in Malawi remains heavily centralised. Although the country has been independent since 1964, it only became a democracy in 1994.

Until then, it had been a one-party state decreed by its first post-colonial leader Kamuzu Banda, who banned political parties. He became president for life in 1971. Since 1994, the country has had local government representation for only six years – from 1999 to 2004 and from 2014 to now.

The central government has been reluctant to relinquish some of its powers. The president makes even the smallest of decisions and undertakes mundane tasks that should be reserved for line ministries. This encourages a system of patronage.

Lastly, government contracts, tenders and board memberships all go to sympathisers of the party in power and not necessarily to the best bidder or the most competent applicant. Government sympathisers or ruling party members get contracts regardless of their levels of competence.

This unfairly benefits the incumbents and weakens opposition parties. Businesspeople are afraid of funding opposition parties because they could lose state contracts and other business opportunities.


(1) From the mid 1990s there were major improvements in primary school enrolment and its gender balance (but not in the quality of primary education) and substantial falls in infant and under-five mortality (though these are still very high).

(2) From 2005 to 2009 there was a dramatic improvement in macro-economic management and consequent reduction of inflation and interest rates and much greater currency stability. Good weather and input subsidies also contributed to growth in food production, as will be discussed later. Macro-economic management declined, however, from 2009 to 2011.

(3) Profitability of and incentives for fertilizer use are commonly measured by the Value Cost Ratio (VCR) with a a general rule of thumb that it needs to be greater than 2 for smallholder investments in fertilizer use (Morris et al., 2007). School of Oriental and African Studies et al. (2008) note that with highly variable inter- and intra-seasonal maize prices and with rising nominal fertilizer prices, the VCR for maize varied markedly from the mid 1990s, with particular divergences between VCRs with peak pre-harvest and low post-harvest maize prices. In the latter case it was generally below 2, while in the former case it was generally but not always above 2. This suggests that profitability of fertilizer use on maize was a constraint to its use on maize grown for sale at or near harvest but not for maize is grown for own consumption. The divergence surplus and deficit maize producers’ VCRs are exacerbated if maize price risk considerations are allowed for, as these would lead to a lower (higher) subjective valuation of maize produced for sale (purchase).

(4) This summary is not a complete account of the many issues involved. Other causes for high dependency on maize include different crops’ calorific yields, dietary preferences, processing and storage considerations, farmers’ familiarity with the crop, and government policies. Poor macro-economic management also constrained wider growth before 2005.

Watch the video: Το έργο των Φιλελευθέρων 1910-1912 ιστορία (May 2022).


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