Targeting growth: what factors demonstrate Malawi’s economic progress?

Nestled among Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, Malawi is truly one of the gems of southern Africa.

Geographically speaking, the Malawian landscape is diverse. With rocky highlands, long central plateaus, isolated mountains and the stunning Lake Nyasa, Malawi has a well-developed agriculture sector that produces important crops such as tobacco, tea, sugarcane and coffee.

Thanks to significant economic and structural reforms that have been made within Malawi over the last number of decades, the growth outlook of Malawi has been positive. Malawi has consistently posted positive GDP growth for a number of years in a row.

Chakwera also commended efforts from several partners, including the Covid-19 Private Citizens Response—an initiative by two Malawians in Diaspora Stanley Kenani and Thandiwe Hara—and others for being part of the solution.

While the economy is still heavily dependent on the agricultural industry, which currently employs around 80% of the working population, this is slowly but surely beginning to shift. This is partially down to the gradual development of an economic manufacturing sector, which now accounts for a sizable amount of direct employment.

Much of this growth has come as a result of engagement with external actors. For example, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) has helped to map out an economic growth strategy for the country. It consists of a series of five-year plans that are intended to guide the country’s development and stimulate the growth of the economy.

Currently, Malawi is on the third MGDS, which focuses on building a productive, competitive and resilient nation. The third MGDS is due to run through to 2022, with a particular sectoral focus being placed on education, energy, agriculture, health and tourism.

Most recently, the Malawian Government launched the Malawi 2063 Vision, which is an all-encompassing strategy that looks to transform Malawi into a self-reliant, highly industrialised, prosperous country. And with a recently elected president, it is hoped that Malawi can quickly get on track to achieve these lofty, but not impossible, goals.

Clearly, Malawians have a lot of ambition for their humble nation. In December 2020, the famed London-based magazine The Economist declared Malawi to be its country of the year. This decision was based largely on the stability of the democratic processes present in Malawi. Following the controversial election in 2019, a mass protest movement forced the then government to re-run the election – which they did.

The second election saw President Chakwera elected, with 59% of the vote. The very fact that a second election was held and was conducted to the highest democratic standards signalled to The Economist that Malawi is a country where democracy is truly alive and well.

The stability and soundness of the democratic processes present in a country will generally be echoed in the economic prospects it has. For this reason, all the signs are good for Malawi’s future. But what other signs of economic progress are there in Malawi? How can we get a sense that these structural reforms are beginning to have an effect?

A good sign that economic progress is beginning to trickle down to the citizenry is in how citizens spend their leisure time. The ability to indulge in hobbies and other leisure activities is a good indicator that wages are providing workers with surplus funds they can use for discretionary spending. In the tea industry, for example, the last few years have seen workers in the sector benefit from an 11% increase in their average wages.

This wage growth certainly seems to be evident in other industries within Malawi, where the development of the agricultural sector has helped to improve living standards among many Malawians.

According to experts the rise of online gambling in Malawi, through online casino platforms is a good indicator that disposable income in general is on the increase. This growth is also aided by improved access to mobile and digital technologies among Malawians.

In light of all this, it appears that despite the challenging economic environment that the world faces today, progress is nevertheless being made. Malawi is one such beneficiary of this progress, and through strategic engagements with external actors has been able to put in place structural reforms that will soon bear fruit.

Although there is still a significant amount of uncertainty surrounding the ongoing pandemic and the effects of climate change, the democratic governance processes that Malawi have in place have put the country on a path to success.

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