The economy of Malawi is predominantly agricultural, with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. The landlocked country in south central Africa ranks among the world's least developed countries. In 2017, agriculture accounted for about one-third of GDP and about 80% of export revenue. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. The government faces strong challenges: to spur exports, to improve educational and health facilities, to face up to environmental problems of deforestation and erosion, and to deal with the problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
|Economy of Malawi|
|1 July - 30 June|
|WTO, Southern African Development Community, COMESA|
|GDP||$6.206 billion (2017 est.) (nominal; 150th) $22.37 billion (2017 est.) (PPP; 145th)|
|GDP rank||150th (nominal) / 146th (PPP)|
|2.8% (2015), 2.5% (2016), |
4.0% (2017e), 3.7% (2018f) 
GDP per capita
|1200 (2017 est.) (PPP)|
GDP by sector
|agriculture 29.4%, industry 15.8%, services 56.1% (2016 est.)|
|11.5% (2017 est.)|
Population below poverty line
|50.7% (2013 est.)|
|Exports||$1.443 billion (2017 est.)|
|tobacco (55%), dried legumes (8.8%), sugar (6.7%), tea (5.7%), cotton (2%), peanuts, coffee, soy (2015 est.)|
Main export partners
|Zimbabwe 13.1%, Mozambique 11.8%, Belgium 10.7%, South Africa 6.3%, Netherlands 5%, UK 4.7%, Germany 4.3%, US 4.2% (2017)|
|Imports||$2.388 billion (2017 est.)|
|food, petroleum products, semi-manufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment|
Main import partners
|South Africa 20.7%, China 14.2%, India 11.6%, UAE 7%, Netherlands 4.4% (2017)|
|$129.5 million (2014)|
Gross external debt
|$1.861 billion (2017 est.)|
|50.8% of GDP (2013 est.)|
|Revenues||$1.347 billion (2013 est.)|
|Expenses||$1.4 billion (2013 est.)|
|Economic aid||$1.174 million (2012)|
|$364.2 million (31 December 2013 est.)|
Malawi's most important export crop is tobacco, which accounted for half (50%) of export revenue in 2012. In 2000, the country was the tenth-largest producer in the world. The country's heavy reliance on tobacco places a heavy burden on the economy as world prices decline and the international community increases pressure to limit tobacco production. Malawi's dependence on tobacco is growing, with the product jumping from 53% to 70% of export revenues between 2007 and 2008.
The country also relies heavily on tea, sugarcane and coffee, with these three plus tobacco making up more than 90% of Malawi's export revenue. Tea was first introduced in 1878. Most of it is grown in Mulanje and Thyolo. Other crops include cotton, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats. Tobacco and sugar processing are notable secondary industries.
Traditionally Malawi has been self-sufficient in its staple food, maize (corn), and during the 1980s it exported substantial quantities to its drought-stricken neighbors. Nearly 90% of the population engages in subsistence farming. Smallholder farmers produce a variety of crops, including maize, beans, rice, cassava, tobacco, and groundnuts (peanuts). Financial wealth is generally concentrated in the hands of a small elite. Malawi's manufacturing industries are situated around the city of Blantyre.
Lake Malawi and Lake Chilwa provide most of the fish for the region. For many Malawians, fish is the most important source of proteins. Dried fish is not only consumed locally, but also exported to neighboring countries. Most fishing is done on small scale by hand. However, Maldeco Fisheries owns several commercial fishing boats and operates fish farms in the southern part of Lake Malawi.
Malawi has few exploitable mineral resources. A South-African Australian consortium exploits uranium at a mine near Karonga. Coal is being extracted in Mzimba District. Malawi's economic reliance on the export of agricultural commodities renders it particularly vulnerable to external shocks such as declining terms of trade and drought. High transport costs, which can comprise over 30% of its total import bill, constitute a serious impediment to economic development and trade. Malawi must import all its fuel products. Other challenges include a paucity of skilled labor, difficulty in obtaining expatriate employment permits, bureaucratic red tape, corruption, and inadequate and deteriorating road, electricity, water, and telecommunications infrastructure which hinder economic development in Malawi. However, recent government initiatives targeting improvements in the road infrastructure, together with private sector participation in railroad and telecommunications, have begun to render the investment environment more attractive.
The following are Malawi's top 20 agricultural production values and volumes for 2009. (Unofficial figures derived from FAO statistics) 
|Commodity||Production in International dollars (1000)||Production in tonnes||FAO source|
|Bananas (excluding plantains)||95,152||400,000||F|
|Indigenous cattle meat||80,688||0|
|Indigenous pig meat||68,788||0|
|Indigenous goat meat||53,512||0|
|Mangoes, mangosteens and guavas||49,527||82,659||Im|
|Indigenous chicken meat||25,713||0|
Key: F : FAO estimate, Im: FAO data based on imputation methodology, P : Provisional official data
The following table shows the main economic indicators in 1980–2017.
|GDP in $
|2.42 bil.||3.46 bil.||4.52 bil.||5.75 bil.||7.73 bil.||9.76 bil.||10.53 bil.||11.85 bil.||13.00 bil.||14.19 bil.||15.35 bil.||16.43 bil.||17.05 bil.||18.22 bil.||19.61 bil.||20.40 bil.||21.13 bil.||22.37 bil.|
|GDP per capita in $
|0.4 %||4.6 %||5.7 %||13.8 %||0.8 %||3.3 %||4.7 %||9.6 %||7.6 %||8.3 %||6.9 %||4.9 %||1.9 %||5.2 %||5.7 %||3.0 %||2.3 %||4.0 %|
|19.2 %||10.6 %||11.9 %||83.1 %||29.6 %||15.4 %||13.9 %||8.0 %||8.7 %||8.4 %||7.4 %||7.6 %||21.3 %||28.3 %||23.8 %||21.9 %||21.7 %||11.5 %|
(Pct. of GDP)
|...||...||...||...||...||107 %||28 %||28 %||36 %||36 %||30 %||31 %||44 %||59 %||55 %||61 %||60 %||59 %|
In 2013, Malawi's manufacturing sector contributed 10.7% of GDP. The main industries are food processing, construction, consumer goods, cement, fertilizer, ginning, furniture production and cigarette production.
The government's attempts to diversify the agriculture sector and move up the global value chain have been seriously constrained by poor infrastructure, an inadequately trained work force and a weak business climate. In order to help companies adopt innovative practices and technologies, the National Export Strategy adopted in 2013 affords companies greater access to the outcome of international research and better information about available technologies; it also helps companies to obtain grants to invest in such technologies from sources such as the country’s Export Development Fund and the Malawi Innovation Challenge Fund. In parallel, the government has raised its investment in research and development to 1% of GDP.
Most fruits and vegetables are exported raw, while processed food is imported mainly from South Africa. Carlsberg opened its first brewery outside of Denmark in Blantyre in 1965. The brewery also bottles Coca-Cola products under licence. A mango processing plant for the export of fruit concentrate opened in Salima in 2013. Universal Industries operates several food factories in Blantyre, where it produces sweets, crisps, biscuits, milk powder, soy products and baby food. Coffee and tea are processed by half a dozen of different companies in the regions of Thyolo, Mulanje and around Mzuzu.
Malawi has four pharmaceutical companies. They manufacture a limited range of drugs, particularly those that are in great demand on the local market. These are Pharmanova Ltd., which is the biggest pharmaceutical manufacturer in Malawi, followed by SADM, Malawi Pharmacies (Pharmaceuticals Limited) and Kentam Products Limited.
Large man-made pine tree forests are located in the Viphya Mountains, around Mulanje and Zomba. Timber production for building materials and furniture is an important industry for these regions. However, most areas in Malawi suffer from deforestation due to illegal logging for charcoal production and the use of firewood.
Malawi's sole power supplier is the state owned Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi (ESCOM), which generates almost all its power from hydroelectric plants along the Shire River. The installed is approximately 351MW. About 12% of the country's population has access to electricity, according to 2014 World Bank figures.
The country has been suffering from intermittent power outages as a result of an ongoing drought that has halved power output as water levels of the Shire river dropped significantly. The river usually generates 300MW of electricity, accounting for 98% of Malawi's total supply. However, the drought reduced that capacity to 160MW, according to ESCOM.
The service sector accounts for 51.7% of Malawi's national GDP. Notable industries are tourism, retail, transport, education, health services, telecommunication and the banking sector. The Government of Malawi holds shares in many important companies, such as Malawian Airlines (51%) and Press Corporation Limited. Press Corporation Ltd. is the country's biggest company, with subsidiaries in the tobacco, banking, sugar, fishing, ethanol production, steel production, retail, telecommunication and petrol sectors.
Malawi has undertaken economic structural adjustment programs supported by the World Bank (IBRD), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other donors since 1981. Broad reform objectives include stimulation of private sector activity and participation through the elimination of price controls and industrial licensing, liberalization of trade and foreign exchange, rationalization of taxes, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and civil service reform. Malawi qualified for Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) debt relief and is in the process of refining its poverty reduction strategy.
Real GDP grew by 3.6% in 1999 and 2.1% in 2000. The government's monetary policy has been expansionary, and the average annual inflation has hovered around 30% in 2000 and 2001, keeping discount and commercial bank rates high (the discount rate was 47% in December 2000). In the second half of 2001, the Kwacha strengthened sharply against the U.S. dollar, moving from 80 to 60.
Malawi has bilateral trade agreements with its two major trading partners, South Africa and Zimbabwe, both of which allow duty-free entry of Malawian products into their countries. The government faces challenges such as the improvement of Malawi's educational and health facilities — particularly important because of the rising rates of HIV/AIDS — and environmental problems including deforestation, erosion, and overworked soils.
In 2006, in response to disastrously low agricultural harvests, Malawi, through an initiative by the late President Bingu Mutharika, an economist by profession, began a program of fertilizer subsidies that were designed to re-energize the land and boost crop production. It has been reported that this program, championed by the country's president, is radically improving Malawi's agriculture, and causing Malawi to become a net exporter of food to nearby countries.
Economic grievances though took a downward slide during Mutharika's second term. Economic grievances were a catalyst that resulted in the 2011 economic protests in Malawi in July.
The following figures are taken from the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.
GDP: purchasing power parity = $22.37 billion (2017 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2017 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1200 (2017 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 56.1% (2016 est.)
Population below poverty line: 50.7% (2010 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 23% (2014 est.)
Labor force: 7 million (2013 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 76.9%, industry and services 23.1% (2013 est.)
Unemployment rate: NA%
revenues: $1.346 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: $1.556 billion (2017 est.)
Public Debt 59.3% of GDP (2017 est.)
Industrial production growth rate: 2.8% (2013 est.)
Electricity - production: 1.973 billion kWh (2010 est.)
Electricity - consumption: 1.835 billion kWh (2010 est.)
Exports: $1.427 billion (2013 est.)
Exports - partners: Canada 10.6%, Zimbabwe 9.3%, Germany 7.3%, South Africa 6.6%, Russia 6.5%, US 6.1%, China 4.2% (2012)
Imports: $2.42 billion (2013 est.)
Imports - commodities: food, petroleum products, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment
Imports - partners: South Africa 27%, China 16.6%, India 8.7%, Zambia 8.5%, Tanzania 5.1%, US 4.3% (2012)
Current account balance - $280.1 million (2013 est.)
Debt - external: $1.556 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$575.3 million (2005)
Foreign direct investment - inflow $129.5 million (2014)
Currency: 1 Malawian kwacha (MK) = 100 tambala
Exchange rates: Malawian kwachas per US dollar -730.00 (20/June/2016), 460.00 (20/Jan/2015), 360.00 (6/Feb/2013), 165.961 (1/Sep/2011), 145.179 (2009), 135.96 (2006), 108.894 (2005), 108.898 (2004), 97.433 (2003), 76.687 (2002)
Fiscal year: 1 July - 30 June
This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html.
A. L. Bruce Estates was one of three largest owners of agricultural estates in colonial Nyasaland. Alexander Low Bruce, the son-in-law of David Livingstone, acquired a large estate at Magomero in the Shire Highlands of Nyasaland in 1893, and two smaller ones. On his death, these estates were to operate under Trust law to bring Christianity and Commerce to Central Africa. However his two sons later formed a commercial company which bought the estates. The company gained a reputation for the harsh exploitation and ill-treatment of its tenants under a labour system known by the African term "thangata", which was used in the plantation cultivation of cotton and tobacco. This exploitation was one of the causes of the 1915 uprising led by John Chilembwe, which resulted in the deaths of three of its European employees. After the failure of its own cotton and tobacco plantations, the company forced its tenants to grow tobacco rather than food on their own land and significantly underpaid them. After almost three decades of losses, the Magomero estate was in poor condition, but the company was able to sell it at a profit between 1949 and 1952 because the government needed land for resettlement. The company was liquidated in 1959.African Lakes Corporation
The African Lakes Corporation plc was a British company originally set-up in 1877 by Scottish businessmen to co-operate with Presbyterian missions in what is now Malawi. Despite its original connections with the Free Church of Scotland, it operated its businesses in Africa on a commercial rather than a philanthropic basis. It had political ambitions in the 1880s to control part of Central Africa and engaged in armed conflict with Swahili traders. Its businesses in the colonial era included water transport on the lakes and rivers of Central Africa, wholesale and retail trading including the operation of general stores, labour recruitment, landowning and later an automotive business. The company later diversified, but suffered an economic decline in the 1990s and was liquidated in 2007. One of the last Directors of the company kindly bought the records of the company and donated them to Glasgow University Archive Services, where they are still available for research.Agriculture in Malawi
The main economic products of Malawi are tobacco, tea, cotton, groundnuts, sugar and coffee. These have been among the main cash crops for the last century, but tobacco has become increasingly predominant in the last quarter-century, with a production in 2011 of 175,000 tonnes. Over the last century, tea and groundnuts have increased in relative importance while cotton has decreased. The main food crops are maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, bananas, rice,and Irish potatoes and cattle, sheep and goats are raised. The main industries deal with agricultural processing of tobacco, tea and sugar and timber products. The industrial production growth rate is estimated at 10% (2009).Blantyre and East Africa Ltd
Blantyre and East Africa Ltd is a company that was incorporated in Scotland in 1898 and is still in existence. Its main activity was the ownership of estates in the south of what is now Malawi. The main estate crops it grew were tobacco until the 1950s and tea, which it continued to grow until the company’s tea estates were sold. Blantyre and East Africa Ltd was one of four large estate-owning companies in colonial Nyasaland which together owned over 3.4 million acres of land, including the majority of the fertile land in the Shire Highlands. The company acquired most of its landholdings between 1898 and 1901 from several early European settlers, whose title to this land had been recognised by Certificates of Claim issued by the administration of the British Central Africa Protectorate. After the boom for Europeans growing tobacco ended in about 1927, the company retained one large estate in Zomba District where its tenants were encouraged to grow tobacco and others where it grew tea. It was also left with a scattering of small estates that it neither operated nor effectively managed but obtained cash rents from African tenants on crowded and unsupervised estates. Many of its estates, excluding the tea estates which it continued to manage directly, were sold to the colonial administration of Nyasaland between 1950 and 1955.British Central Africa Company
The British Central Africa Company Ltd was one of the four largest European-owned companies that operated in colonial Nyasaland, now Malawi. The company was incorporated in 1902 to acquire the business interests that Eugene Sharrer, an early settler and entrepreneur, had developed in the British Central Africa Protectorate. Sharrer became the majority shareholder of the company on its foundation. The company initially had trading and transport interests, but these were sold by the 1930s. For most of the colonial period, its extensive estates produced cotton, tobacco or tea but the British Central Africa Company Ltd developed the reputation of being a harsh and exploitative landlord whose relations with its tenants were poor. In 1962, shortly before independence, the company sold most of its undeveloped land to the Nyasaland government, but it retained some plantations and two tea factories. It changed its name to The Central Africa Company Ltd and was acquired by the Lonrho group, both in 1964.CDH Investment Bank
CDH Investment Bank (CDHIB), is an investment bank in Malawi. It is licensed by the Reserve Bank of Malawi, the central bank and national banking regulator.Chatsika Report
The Chatsika Report published in 1995, whose full title was “Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Conditions of Service of Civil Servants”, was the report of a commission of inquiry headed by a senior judge into the pay, conditions of service, recruitment and training of Civil Servants in Malawi. Despite two earlier inquiries, their conditions of service were basically those that had been established for the colonial civil service before independence. After the ending of autocratic rule by Dr. Banda, the main aid donors insisted on civil service modernisation and reform in line with Free market concepts promoted by the International Monetary Fund at that time. In the event, the report advocated substantial pay increases to attract suitable recruits, but these proposals were never fully implemented. Civil service reform in Malawi has been proposed several times since its independence but has generally failed because of the country’s lack of sufficient well-trained managers willing to enter the civil service .List of banks in Malawi
This is a list of commercial banks in Malawi
National Bank of Malawi
Standard Bank Malawi
First Capital Bank
CDH Investment Bank
New Finance BankList of companies of Malawi
Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. Malawi is among the world's least-developed and most-densely populated countries. Around 85% of the population live in rural areas. The economy is based on agriculture, and more than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from this. In 2006, in response to disastrously low agricultural harvests, Malawi, through an initiative by the late President Bingu Mutharika,an economist by profession, began a program of fertilizer subsidies that were designed to re-energize the land and boost crop production. It has been reported that this program, championed by the country's president, is radically improving Malawi's agriculture, and causing Malawi to become a net exporter of food to nearby countries. Economic grievances though took a downward slide during Mutharikas second term. Economic grivences was a catalyst that resulted in the 2011 economic protests in Malawi in July.List of roads in Malawi
The following is a partial list of roads in Malawi, under the jurisdiction of the Road Authority of Malawi.Malawi Stock Exchange
The Malawi Stock Exchange (the MSE) is a stock market, with a single licensed broker is based in Blantyre, Malawi.Malawi and the International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has operated in Malawi since 1965.Mining industry of Malawi
The mining industry of Malawi, includes a number of gemstones and other minerals. However, the value of mining is dominated by the extraction of fuel minerals, particularly uranium. Malawi's production of uranium has contributed 1% to the global production of this mineral. Since 2009, with new licenses granted to extract it from the Kayelekera uranium mine in Karonga District, in the northern region of the country, its production has contributed to an increase of Malawi's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from 1% to 10% as of 2013. It is estimated that with increased emphasis on mineral extraction, the sector's contribution to GDP could be 20% by 2023. As of the financial year 2015/2016, the Government of Malawi reported that mining contributed less than 1%. This is attributed to suspension of production at Kayelekera Uranium Mine.Native Tobacco Board
The Native Tobacco Board, or NTB, (later renamed the African Tobacco Board) was formed in Nyasaland in 1926 as a Government-sponsored body with the primary aim of controlling the production of tobacco by African smallholders and generating revenues for the government, and the secondary aim of increasing the volume and quality of tobacco exports. At the time of its formation, much of Nyasaland's tobacco was produced in European-owned estates, whose owners demanded protection against African competition and against the possibility that profitable smallholder farming would draw cheap African labour away from their estates. From around 1940, the aim of the NTB was less about restricting African tobacco production and more about generating governmental revenues, supposedly for development but still involving the diversion of resources from smallholder farming. In 1956, the activities, powers and duties of what had by then been renamed the African Tobacco Board were transferred to the Agricultural Production and Marketing Board which had powers to buy smallholder surpluses of tobacco, maize, cotton and other crops, but producer prices continued to be biased against peasant producers.Native Trust Land
Native Trust Land in colonial Nyasaland was a category of land held in trust by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and administered by the colonial Governor for the benefit of African communities. In pre-colonial times, land belonged to the African communities that occupied it, and they were free to use it in accordance with local customary law. In the late 19th century, large areas of fertile land were acquired by European settlers, and the remainder became Crown land, which the colonial government could alienate without the consent of the resident communities. To give a measure of protection to those communities, in 1916 land in Native Reserves, which then amounted to about a quarter of the land in the protectorate, was designated as Native Trust Land, to be held in trust for the benefit of African communities. Later, in 1936, all Crown Land except game or forest reserves or that used for public purposes became Native Trust Land, and Native Authorities were authorised to allocate Trust Land to their communities in accordance with customary law. After 1936, Native Trust Land constituted over 80% of the land in Nyasaland and most African farmers farmed Native Trust Land (renamed African Trust Land in 1950) from then until Nyasaland gained independence as Malawi in 1964 and after.Rail transport in Malawi
Malawi Railways is the national rail network in Malawi, run by a government corporation until privatisation in 1999. As of 1 December 1999 the Central East African Railways, a consortium led by Railroad Development Corporation, won the right to operate the network.
The rail network totalled 797 kilometres in 2001. It is a narrow gauge line with a 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) gauge track.Revenue stamps of Nyasaland and Malawi
Nyasaland, now known as Malawi, first issued revenue stamps as British Central Africa in 1891 and continued to do so until the late 1980s.Revenue stamps of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland
The Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was a short lived semi-independent state in southern Africa that existed from 1953 to the end of 1963. The state comprised the former self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia and the British protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. It issued its own revenue stamps from around 1953 to 1955, and these were withdrawn after the federation ceased to exist.
In 1953 or 1954 a numeral design simply inscribed RHODESIA AND NYASALAND REVENUE and the value was issued. Nine values were issued in all, ranging from 6d to £5. None of these are common, and the high values are particularly scarce. In 1955, the Federation issued three excise stamps for use on cigarette packets. These are quite rare as they were usually torn when used.Tobacco industry in Malawi
Tobacco production in Malawi is one of the nation's largest sources of income. As of 2005, Malawi was the 12th largest producer of tobacco leaves and the 7th largest global supporter of tobacco leaves. As of 2010, Malawi was the world's leading producer of burley leaf tobacco. With the decline of tobacco farms in the West, interest in Malawi's low-grade, high-nicotine tobacco has increased. Today, Malawian tobacco is found in blends of nearly every cigarette smoked in industrialized nations including the popular and ubiquitous Camel and Marlboro brands. It is the world's most tobacco dependent economy.
States with limited