Malawi: Poor country and failed state

According to Wikipedia, common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has little practical control over much of the issues to do to with operations of government; non-provision of public services; widespread corruption and criminality and sharp economic decline.

Poorest Malawi: Bin, Bathroom, Toilet, Playground - All in one place

Poorest Malawi: Bin, Bathroom, Toilet, Playground – All in one place

As a country, Malawi is dangerously exhibiting these traits, or fast drifting towards attaining a failed state status. To say our public delivery system is in a shambolic state would be an understatement. Just a month ago, Blantyre Water Board avoided with a whisker a fiasco where consumers threatened to smear its offices or anything BWB with human excreta for poor service delivery.

Only about 10 percent of the country’s population has access to electricity, but even those enjoy the services only just half the time. Electricity supply is intermittent like disco lights that no serious investor would risk their fundsinvesting in practical darkness. Instead of improving its services, ESCOM concentrates on serenading political parties and politicians with donations.

Massive slums are just a street away from the Central Business District (CBD) of Blantyre, our much touted commercial hub, and a majority of urban dwellers use pit latrines, not flush toilets. The road network – including the main road linking Blantyre and Lilongwe -is littered with Crater Lake type potholes that have caused some terrible accidents to road users. This is not to mention the more than two thirds of our countrymen who are illiterate.

This is just Malawi at glance. Are we surprised therefore when others are using these pathetic indicators to rank us as the poorest nation in the world? As human beings, it is natural to be defensive when we are portrayed in negative light. It is thus normal to see some “patriotic Malawians” coming with guns blazing criticizingsuch ‘negative portrayals’ as just a concoction of a bunch of lazy technocrats who have just read many books. It is perfectly okay.

Whichever way people choose to look at this, the buck still stops at Malawi and its leadership. What are we going to do as a people and what is the leadership prepared to do, or rather what is it capable of doing? When announcing his arrival on the presidential scene, the President of the now poorest country in the world, Peter Mutharika came with pomp, promising a business unusual approach. He said his is not vindictive politics like we have seen in the past.

He promised a breath of fresh air embodied in unity of purpose, economic development, social inclusiveness and national reconciliation. He promised rule of law and security of life and property for Malawians. He said his country would put delivery of social services on top of its agenda; accountability and a two-way street flow of information whereby Malawians would be appraised on the workings of his government at every turn to loop in their feedback.

Much as it should be appreciated that he has only been in office for less than a year, at least he should have demonstrates capability to deliver within the first months of assuming office.A Chichewa proverb ‘chonona chifumilakudzila’ comes into sharp perspective here. In fact, what happens in the first 100 days of office is an accurate indicator of what people will experience under your government in the next five years. And what did we see?

The first presidential duties for President Peter Mutharika just after assuming office included the firing of top government officials (without following procedures), and replacing them with homeboys, some of whom unqualified and incompetent. The country has run into some serious security breakdown, which has resulted into loss of life and property.

In many instances, armed robbers are targeting and have killed foreign nationals prompting the Chinese investors to threaten to pull out if Capital Hill does not wake up from its slumber and do something.

Donor support that was withheld due to cashgate doesn’t appear to be coming back anytime soon. Donors are not satisfied with how the Mutharika government is handling the issues to do with the infamous looting of public money. This includes selective justice, or using cashgate to victimize political opponents. The German government has actually provided funds for government to investigate the MK92 billionscandal, which took place from 2005, but there is still no real direction and progress from the DPP government.

This and many other episodes have only underlined the fact that President Peter Mutharika and his DPP were catapulted to power least prepared. They are obviously clueless about Malawi and it is evidently showing. Unless something is quickly done, Malawi will continue to slide into a cesspool of nepotism and tribalism as that is a default trajectory of a DPP government. You only have to take it down to history.

The Democratic Progressive Party will continue to find trouble to find its rhythm. It will perpetually be jinxed by legitimacy issues because it came to power not through the ballot but through the courts and at the instigation of MEC (The MEC Chairperson Maxon Mbendera is cousin to President Mutharika). It was simply not ready to deal with the pressures that come with governing and political power.

It is the trouble of gaining power through, not campaigning, but palm greasing election officials. Now you know why the DPP vehemently refused to have a ballot recount; why up to know nobody has been arrested for causing those MEC warehouses fires. It’s just a simple case of we-told-you-so…

  • Hastings Kandoje is a political, social and economic commentator. He writes for Nyasa Times in his personal capacity
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62 thoughts on “Malawi: Poor country and failed state”

  1. Gladson Monjeza says:

    The writer is just too critical and with baseless and misinformed arguments. As much as I wouldn’t agree with the writer, I think we Malawians have a problem. We always blame our leaders for issues that we can handle ourselves. We are good at highlighting problems than suggesting solutions to the problems we have. We shouldn’t expect Peter Mutharika to solve our personal issues…….we need to come up with solutions to our problems not blaming our leaders all the time. We can hardly progress as a country if we keep on blaming the leaders all the time. Let’s try to bring strategies for solving the problems than debating or just highlighting problems.

  2. anzeru says:

    Iwe Kandoje, chonde don’t poison our minds with your false information. Mbendera is not a relation of Mutharika in any way. And to those who have believed this rubbish please, go back to your senses this is cheap propaganda from the DEVIL’s agent by the name of Kandoje. Kandoje the Bible says “Though Shall not give false testimony” And that’s what you have done. To Hell with your Lying toungue from the pit of darkness. Mbendera si mmbale wa Peter. Ndi mmbale wa inetu. Tamuoneni!!!!!

  3. me says:

    Banana republic

  4. dickson says:

    govt can only do what is can based on a budget-of which 40% used to be provided by donors. we have a very narrow tax base based on PAYE and the rest of society (vendors, villagers etc) don’t pay any taxes!! so where do think delivery of services will come from?? 80% of the people are crying for services but pay no taxes!! how crazy is that??? now factor in that of the little budget money that is there another 80% is stolen by civil servants/cashgate/fake allowances etc.!!! and you are complaining??? go look in the mirror my fellow Malawian!! you are the problem!!!

  5. dadaboma says:

    Why is Malawi the poorest country?
    Answer: because of tribalism. Mbendera, being a cousin to APM, had to declare APM winner of presidential elections even if he was not. And most people hated JB for her embracing the north, a region many non-northern Malawians tribally distaste. As a result Malawians have failed to put the right people in presidential leadership.
    What then can be done?
    As Malawians are so tribalistic, the country as it stands now will never have the right leadership at president level. This means the country will get worse or remain the poorest for ever. The solution lies in dismantling or dissolving or fragmenting this country along the indelible tribal lines because we have failed to hold together and embrace each other as children of one country. The fragments or remnants of what was once Malawi can then be annexed to neighboring countries with similar tribes, e.g. most of the south will go to Mozambique, some of the central and north to Zambia, some of the north to Tanzania. This means Lake Nyasa will be shared between Moz, TZ, ZAM. This also means there will be no Malawi, and another country can assume the position of the poorest country e.g. Burundi or CAR which rank as second and third poorest countries respectively.

  6. chadza says:

    i remember in his manifesto he said malawi has everything it needs to develop as people of egypt did with nailo river we will do with lake malawi and malawi will no longer be a consuming nation but producing country and it will be a food basket for africa. It’s almost now a year since he asumed the office of president bt nothing z showing that he will live to his promises now kwacha z not stable bt in his promises he said the problem z not floatation of our currency bt wt z taken out of it we don’t see any different ndi nthawi ya amayi we cn say better amayi bcz she managed to bring back donors in a month and economy waz atleast better only cashgate spoiled her tinakuvotelani chifukwa+ambirife timatengera zamkulu wanu kuti samana koma inu bwanji we need actions osamangoyankhula

  7. chigawenga says:

    One of the best article I have ever read on here. This is reality folks whether we like it or not. Sadly the bootlickers and hand clappers will dismiss this article full of facts. We have leadership that is not only corrupt but also clueless. I wonder how any sane investor would come to Malawi where security is non existent and infrastructure is in shambles. Sadly we have people in this country who actually think APM is doing a great job. How sad is that? This government has failed us. There are no policies to get us out of the quagmire. and yet they want the World bank to change our country’s position as the poorest to a less poor ass if it makes any difference! what a joke. If I was APM I would resign and indeed accept that he has not only failed us but has also ruined our country due to his business “corruption” as usual attitude.

  8. Mbwiyace says:

    It is an achievement to be the poorest of the poor. So let us go and celebrate for this achievement. Democracy, a government of the people, for the people and by the people. The people have spoken. Let us live by it.

  9. Totolitotoli says:

    Indeed we are the poorest country on planet earth.The rason is we are not hardworking ,we always look for easy money and we behave as if someone owes us something yet we are the ones who owe our country our services.

  10. Munthuwazeru says:

    Iam totaly agree with you Mr writer.

  11. Zosautsa says:

    Koma is it true that our illiteracy rate is 66%? Zoona? Am yet to hear from professionals on this one.

    1. ujeni says:

      Know that it is one of the highest if not the highest among countries that have never experienced war

  12. Tnt Dynamite says:

    Taonga You Are A goat. Poti Chizungu Sumamva,chabwino,ndiwe Mbuzi

  13. byo says:

    Hastings……we need solutions. We have heard this for a long time.

  14. chepetsani says:

    Mulungu atithandiza basi kuti tichoke mu uphawi umenewu. Psalm 121.

  15. John Thomas says:

    The sad reality is that what has been written here is true and that the forecast is gloomy. we have to admit that as a nation, we do not have the wherewithal to develop on our own until such time that we wake up from our sectionalism/regionalism/tribalism etc.
    My suggestion is that for us to move forward, we need to bring back investor and donor confidence. To do this, we have to swallow our pride and ask Britain, Germany and the US in particular to help us. We should ask these countries to provide their own people in key positions like the Governor of the Reserve Bank (Kamuzu did it a few years ago), some technocrats in the ministry of finance and the treasury. With their people in keys positions, they will have confidence to put their tax payers money into our economy. It appears like neo-colonialism which it is, but we Africans apart from a few countries are not ready or capable to get ourselves out of the mire… it is sad but true.

  16. Mercy Gogoda says:

    Typical of Malawian mentality, waiting for handouts all the time. Since when has government been the provider of toilets, food items and any other social amenities yet whenever you are asked by the same arms of government to pay taxes you cry foul – foaming all over? You people sucks and are a disgrace.

    1. ujeni says:

      iwe Gogoda differentiate handouts and provision of infrastructure. Government of Malawi is just a weakling, does simple things unlike in other countries

  17. william says:

    Leaders of today more than condoms sha

  18. Kanyimbi says:

    There is more to be done and everyone should be part of the solution. The government should not be happy with the low fuel prices because this is not due to good economic stand of Malawi but global low fuel price. Therefore the government should make sure that more fuel is stored to be used when the prices rise again.

  19. bons says:

    are u sure electricity is available half the time? go to dar el salam and u will find electricity that is avalable only 7 hours. we r indeed useless but we still have working systems. let us support peter even though he is illegitimate

  20. Zingwe says:

    Achimwene Kandoje tribalism and nepotism sizatha ndipo ngati DDP silamulanso, italamulire ndi UDF. Open your eyes munya

  21. pina says:

    Anthu a m’boma ndi andale amandibwitsa smayenda mayiko akunja kodi samasilila nayiko anzaows kukungola kwa mayiko awo?.
    Inetu ntima wanga umandiwawa zedi.. umandiwawa…. koposa…kuona ndi kunva zomwe m’boma lanthu likuchita kwa anthu ao.
    ndikubwelatu kudzatenga malawi…..

  22. enuf said says:

    Thank God
    Nobody has said Asians are to blame
    Cos eventually it all gets down to this

    Trust me fellow Malawians
    Asians dint wrote our Constitution
    Asians dint vote any government
    From what I know they don’t even bother voting

    It’s our fault
    It’s our fault
    It’s our fault

    And we are solely to blame for this nonsense

    till we don’t change our mindset about all this things

    With o without any foreigner
    We will still suffer and be miserable

  23. Phiri says:

    Don’t hate government alone, you people what have you done at family level, village level. Contribute development at least at family level

  24. Malawian says:

    Vuto ndi utsongoleri umene tili nawo panopa sukupereka chiyembekezo

  25. Here we go again says:

    the columnist said and i quote, DPP were catapulted into power least prepared, thats true, how can you expect them to perfom without knowledge on how to run the government, the truth should be told so that this mtchona can start the intended job, yes Malawi is the poorest country in the world noone can denay it

  26. Jelbin mk says:

    The truth has been told because I was wondering why and why Mbendera was always pro DPP if he is really a cousin to the Muntharikas then we have a long way to go to a free, fair and credible elections as long as we still have the injustice Mbendera as MEC chair and this makes many of us to constantly doubt the legitimacy of Muntharika as the president because honestly there was no enough reasons for denying the recount of the votes if Peter legitimately won the elections.

    1. T/A says:

      Abiti Namaloko adakhala president chifukwa cha malamulo, and Mbendera ukukambayo ali pansi pa malamulo a dziko lino.

      Umbuli wako watha tsopano!

  27. Patriot says:

    Malawi to remain number 1 poorest in the World.
    Malo mokagwira ntchito ku ofesi kwawo, a pulofesawa sakudziwa chochita, ali bize kuyendera nyumba zoti zigumulidwe, bize kulowelera ntchito ya anzawo.
    Sore to say so koma ntchito yoyendera nyumba zoti zigumulidwe ndi ntchito ya Noel Chalamanda ndi BCC osati a hole useless leader.
    No offense.

  28. kadamanja says:

    The warm heart of Africa kkkk! the country is in the hands of crooks.

  29. obi says:

    journalism at its worst.ku malawi kulibe atolankhani.chifukwa choti kulibe ntumbuka akulamulira nde basi muzingonyoza.muzafa infa yowawa

  30. L. BANDA says:


  31. Nkhombokombo says:

    Umbuli wachulukadi pa Malawi! Munthu wafotokoza bwino-bwino zamabvuto a aMalawi koma ena akutsutsana naye. Koma ndizoona pano tili ndi utsogoleri wamaso mphenya? All we hear these days is political rhetorics, we are tired of “I’ve done this, or you’ll be given this or that”, we want actions now. We can’t be rated the poorest of the poor when we claim to be having good leadership. How unfortunate are we that since the past 50 years we’ve been ruled by the self acclaimed best leaders. We should force these leaders to change their mind set, they should not be thinking killing off the legacy of their predicesor and build their own fame. This guy is a ginious, keep on poking at these fake leaders. We want leaders who can remove out and away from this shameful position on the ratings. Cashgate is there and was there and it should not be a shield for the non-progressiveness. N’dzamanyazi zedi!!

  32. Mfune says:

    Amarchona apa joni, zomwe wanena tawonga ndikugwirizana nazo. Mfundo zambiri ndizonyoza mutharika komanso zoti sanawine ndi mavoti koma akhoti ndiwo anamuika pampando. Mbendera ndimsuweni wamutharika ndizina zoterozo.
    Izi zikusonyeza kuti nanunso ndiodana naye komanso boma la dpp.
    Mwaonetsa kuti ndinu mchonadi wakujoni, mwina akutumani ajawa.
    Zowona zake anayenera kunena zomanga kusiyana ndikufuna kupotoza anthu.
    Zambiri mzocita critisize basitu.

  33. Jimmy says:

    Che kandoje mavuto adzikoli nanunso mwatenga mbali imu ngati economist , mzika mwachita chani panokha kuti dziko likwele.muli busy analyising zofoka za pulesident,mec ma court anthu ayamba kudabwa kuti mkuluyu amafuna awine ndani? Court ligamule omwe samatsogola. Ngati pali u cousin muthalika ndi mbendela anamusankha mbendela ndi muthalika akanamuchotsa ukanakhala oyamba kunena kuti akuchotsa kuika ma homeboy.che kandoje wasankhidwa kaya timufune tisamufune 5 yrs alamula palibe tingachite. Pelekani fundo boma lichite chani dziko likwele ,aphunzitseni amalawi nawo atani dziko likwele .aphungu nawons aike malamulo otani athandizile dziko likwele, ogwila ntchito mboma atani dziko likwele, ma reform anenedwawa akhudze mbali ziti dziko likwele.apo bi tizilozana chala mpaka kale umphawi ukutizunza.

  34. Mnjonja says:

    The worst is still to come. The leadership only celebrates success when elected to office. It forgets its mandate of improving the economy of the country and the lifestyles of the ordinary citizens of Malawi.

  35. Kadakwiza says:

    Mr Kandoje, Malawi is poorest in the world because of Team Kamuzu (the chewas), Team Bakili (the Yaos), Team Bingu (the Lhomwes), and now Team Peter (the Lhomwes). The are the people who made Malawi the poorest country in the world. And Mr. Kandoje know all this. Main reason why Malawi is poorest is nepotism. If One group of people (tribe), is in government, it is very easy to do corruption and looting. This is what had been happening in Malawi 51 years ago.

  36. richie mwanza says:

    Well aticulated by mr kandoje….ndipo ukufunsa zama toiletwe don’t u knw kut failiure ya govnmnt economic policies imapanga affect developmnt ya munthu at the grassroot level? Consult your books mr

  37. aphiri says:

    Up to now no one has bn arrested for warehouse fire. We know that its Dausi and friends who did this.

  38. Gimbogo says:

    MCP laid the foundation of the Malawi economy UDF started to build and messed Up DPP came and destroyed PP completed the destruction now DPP is stranded

  39. Malindima says:

    If we analyse how Malawi has come to the level of poverty then we should blame ourselves for allowing a one party state for 31 years. Our problems started during this time.
    Electricity problem:
    Kamuzu Banda refused a construction of Bangula Dam which could be like Aswan Dam and could have cater for power generation for the next 100 years of economic growth. If this was done, we could not have been in the situation we are today. He did nothing to explore other alternatives in readiness fore comic expansion. He however brought law and order and the country was stable though poor. There was a culture of Loyalty, Discipline,Obedience and Unity.
    Blame it on UDF government for this culture was diluted by his misunderstanding of a democracy.
    We have seen moral fibre decay,people building shacks on prohibited lands and on lands already demarcated for something else. He destroyed the country for 10 years and will take us 30 years if not more to repair the damage.
    Now my questions is:
    Do Malawians know what they can do to reverse this guacmire?
    What can the Leadership do in the absence of no adequate financial resources given in the Malawi situation?
    What can the very few Malawians who are educated like you Mr Kandoje do to assist your country and Leadership to develope our country?
    I hope I will see the writer consulting the wider spectrum of our society for solutions to our problems that he will publish in his next article.
    We desperately need economy analyzing Journalists in Malawi ; we gave zero!

    1. Zosautsa says:

      I fail to understand your argument of Kamuzu having refused dam for electricity. I believe u r old enough to know that the electricity in 1964 was provided from generators. Kamuzu built all the hydros on Shire river and was adequate to serve the population until 1994. What lacked thereafter is continuity to invest more as population increased,

      Your poor analysis of issues leaves a lot to be admired.

      1. Kanthu Ako! says:

        You are not serious are you?

        In a country you plan for the future. The fact that Kamuzu did not have children did not mean that everybody did not have children, Children have children, so if the power was adequate at the time with no spare capacity, then it was not good planning.

        Stop politicising all arguments. Kamuzu had the last say on everything therefore it is in order to blame him.

  40. A wise man provides solutions to what he/she has noted underperforming.Kandoje,be extra careful with your writing.Did you know meaning of positive criticism,go in class and jearn about it.Foolish commentator.

  41. Malawi is poor indeed! ave seen that one b4,to be poor means to spend more income.Coming with me to believe these, needs to fight astrong and persuasive adefaut trajectory our mine inagulitsidwa lero mwagulitsa nyanja to oil pumpaz sikuti zabwera lero koma atsogoleri monga kamuzu amakana zibwana bwanji osakongola ndalama tiziyendesa tokha mabizinez amenewa poor mentality making poor Malawi kkk! koma kukongola ndalama za official development mumati mubweza ndi chani akakukhululikilani ngongole kunyadira mwati ziko likuyenda bwino.poor!

  42. tuvitwana says:

    Ambiri Alomwe musapota boma apa, nzeru mulibe. Munthu yu walemba bwino bwino but u can’t c sense as usual

  43. T/A says:

    Mr Kadonje zolemba zanu nthawi zonse zimakhala zopanda umphungu ndi upangiri, please tamalembani kuti anthu akawerenga azitolamo nzeru.

    Kapena mukamalemba umakhala kuti mwapsa mtima? Ziwani kuti anthu amawerenga pa nyasatimes pano zochitika dziko muno aliyense choonadi amachiziwa ndipo mukamalemba bwerera zanuz, zimangophera mphongo kuti Hastings Kandoje ndi munthu opanda mzeru.

  44. AMUNAMUNA says:

    MBC has started airing useless messages saying this govt has fulfilled its promisses w/c I feel is just a propaganda.

  45. MWANA says:

    Cry My Beloved Country. Sold To Sons Of The Devil. God Help Malawi.

  46. Tawonga says:

    Ambwiye che kandoje bwanji mukulemba zakuseli kwa chikutiro. Mavuto a dziko lamalawi sanabwere ndi peter or bingu ai. Kamuzu analamula zaka 30, bakili 10, bingu 8, abiti mtila 2 , pomwe peter miyezi 7 yokha.
    So, you want to say mavuto adzikoli akupanfisa ndi banja la amutharika? Kodi unadana nawo ciani anthuwa?
    Sikumanga mudzi kapena dziko zomwe ukulembazi ai. Talembani zina tikuyamilileni apa.

    1. Ambuye Taonga, ndikhulupilira chidzungu chakupindani Apa, Ngati Si chizungu Nde kuti mutu wanu suukuyenda, Kapena tinene kuti ndinu a chitsiru. Munthuyutu walemba zomveka bwino bwino, point iliyonse imene wapanga raise wapanga back up. Sanapange specify kuti mabvuto tili nawo mMalawi anabweretsa ndi ntunda wa a mutharika iyayi. Koma wangofitokoza ma weakness a Anthu amenewo. Chonde osamangotenga chili chonse kuika ndale, but put our beloved country at heart.

      1. pina says:

        Thats a very good point.

    2. MBC says:

      Anthu ngati inu ndiomwe mukusokoneza dzikoli. Patriotism yakuchulukirani kwambiri. Maso any amatsekeka osaona zabwino kapena zoipa zikuchitika. Dzukani kutulo ndipo tsekulani Maso kuti dziko lichoke muumphawi.

    3. Iwenso Tapiwa usadzibeke zokongola nkumanamiza anthu kuti wasamba, you know this guy is writting is truth. Its cursed dpp, udf, pp die hards like you that have destroyed this country so shut up before God shuts you up and make you face the consequences of the lies you tell Malawians daily

  47. jame says:

    In your opinion do you think Government Will come forward to construct baths and toilets for people?

    1. Aluna Chidempete says:

      Yes they took a loan after parliament approval to construct toilets; they should not cashgate the money or zimbuzigate the – government should construct toilets

      1. Think Tank says:

        Whoever is politically brainwashed does not understand what others are saying. Our country’s economic situation is beyond statistics. We fail even with donor money available. What makes the present government vurnable is its preoccupation with blame game. People have forgotten the promise of magic wand DPP promised to use once in power. Where is it? We were told they would do away with donors. Why cry for them? The story of cashgate is too old. When they were ushered into power,no one said cashgate monies would be included into the budget.

      2. ayu says:

        za ziiii. poor Malawians waiting for politicians to even build them a toilet, kkkk. mungoberekana ngati Ngumbi umphawi uli thooooo you cannot even see a problem with this. then you wait for politicians to feed you, clothe you, bath you, give you medicine and provide you with toilets. I think most Malawians are poor, not only financially but largely, mentally. you always wait for someone to do everything for you, while your main duty is to bear children and cut down trees

      3. ujeni says:

        The DPP government only good at talking but practically nothing is happening. Too many theories, meetings, publishing policies but nothing like graders doing the work. You look at the picture on top and you find over three quarters of Malawians live in such sharks and mainly in towns and you want to classify yourselves as doing well?

    2. MBC says:

      I think picture is for illustration.

    3. UNGWERU says:

      jame ur a dead brain indeed Malawi neba Zambia construct houses na toilets for the poor uziyenda uzisiyanisa pomwe ukukhala ndikwina open ur brain now not just be follow_follow!

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