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Some Background Information and Facts about Malawi

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Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world being 183rd out of 185 in the world, based on their gross domestic product per capita at nominal values as presented by the IMF, World Bank, and CIA ‘Fact book’. Its history is a rich story in itself but the impact of colonial rule by the British and the subsequent independence under Hastings Banda, the Lifetime President, took its toll. Banda was more like a dictator and while pushing some good policies through he ran an oppressive regime. In his old age, many of his inner circle took advantage for their own ends. Some politicians still argue that independence came too early while other say that colonialism interrupted Malawi's natural development within Africa.
Malawi has recently seen a shortage of foreign exchange, which has damaged its ability to pay for imports. Investment fell 23% in 2009 and the government has failed to address barriers to investment such as unreliable power, water shortages, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and the high costs of services. The legacy of poor infrastructure, from Colonial days, is currently being addressed with road developments underway aiming to provide a channel to market for small co-operatives of local farmers leading to a commercial expansion. This is being achieved through aid from China. Solar power in remote rural areas is supported by the removal of taxation on solar panels and at least one village is fully operating on this supply. However, the need for land for farming and wood for fires and cooking is taking its toll on the land. Intensive farming does not allow for adequate crop rotation and they cannot afford fertiliser, therefore the soil quality is becoming depleted leading to poorer crops and more soil erosion. Electricity generation comes from hydro electric generators. Current demands are for 324Mw but the supply is only capable of producing 266Mw. Additional generators will increase this by 64Mw which does not allow for economic expansion.
Political corruption is in the spotlight and the current president, Bingu, is tackling this large problem. The press seem to have got some strength behind them in bringing bad practices into the public eye. The main paid employment is in the public sector with little investment going in to developing a diversified economy. China, Japan and India appear to be making investments and bringing in qualified workers for the industries they sponsor which will be to the detriment of the indigenous workforce.
It is said that the economy is not growing and is below the 6% annual growth rate that the World Bank estimates is necessary to make serious inroads into poverty reduction. However, the newspapers give a healthier outlook and maintain that Malawi now has a 7% growth rate. The impact of world prices on tobacco will have a negative effect but tea, rubber and to a lesser extent cotton, remain positive markets. Malawi's location and underdeveloped transport routes to market will limit its growth.

Summary of Facts

  • The Malawian population is 15,447,500 compared to England's 50,000,000 people
  • Malawi is rated 160 out of 181 of the poorest countries (UN figures)
  • 53% of the population are below the poverty line.
  • Of its 15 million people only 16% live in urban areas
  • Only 57% of the rural population have access to safe water
  • Access to sanitation - only 15% to 30% of the rural population have access to a latrine
  • The risk of major infectious are very high with diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid, malaria, schistosomiasis common.
  • 8% of population has electricity (1% of this is in rural areas - including rural industrial sites)
  • Malawi occupies 118,484 sq km (45,747 square miles) compared to England's 129,720 sq km ( 50,085 sq miles) but this includes 24,400 km² of the lake
  • The average Malawi weekly wage is less than £3 compared to England's wage of £489.
  • The life expectancy in Malawi is50 compared to England's 79 (up from 39 in 2004)
  • HIV/Aids deaths 68,000 compared to the UK at 500 (2007 figures)
  • Population age range 0-14 years: 45.3%, 15-64 years : 52.1%, 65 years and over : 2.7%
  • Almost half of the population is under 15 years old and many of these are orphans.
  • Infant mortality rate 83.5 per 1,000 births compared with UK at 4.78
  • The literacy level in Malawi is 63% compared to England's 99%
  • The local currency is the Malawian Kwacha (MWK) and the exchange rate is roughly MWK 250 to £1.10 or $1.65 or €1.31
  • Industry: Tobacco, tea, sugar, sawmill products
  • Agriculture: Tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea; groundnuts; cattle
  • Exports: Tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee
  • The GDP real growth rate is 5.9 compared with 9.7 for the rest of the world
  • There are a number of ethnic groups: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European.
  • The labour force is split between- agriculture (90%) and industry and services (10%)
  • The road network for the country comprises 9 tarmac roads.
  • The railway network comprises 495 miles of narrow track rail limited to the south of Malawi.
  • Telecommunications accessibility is rated in the bottom four countries in the world
  • Electricity demand is for 324Mw but the supply is only capable of producing 266Mw.There are daily scheduled power cuts.


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