You may not have heard of Malawi as it is one of the lesser-known countries of the 54 in the African continent. It is, however, among the world’s least-developed. The country is bordered between Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique. Its capital is Lilongwe which is its largest city. Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name for the Chewa people who inhabit the area. The country’s nickname is ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ because of the friendliness of its people.
Despite making significant structural and economic reforms over the years, the country remains vulnerable, with the majority of the population living on less than $1.90 per day. Most of the population lives in rural areas and relies on agricultural income to support themselves. There is a range of factors that contribute to the economic difficulties of this country, and this article will hope to clarify them to understand what we can do to help.
Climate issues are a significant roadblock to the economic potential of Malawi. The country’s reliance on agriculture means that natural disasters such as flooding, hot spells and extended dry periods make harvesting difficult. This reliance affects the majority of the population as up to 80% work within the agricultural industry. Climate change also contributes to the challenges of declining fisheries and constrained water resources.
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted its economies. It has, however, devastated poorer countries such as Malawi to an even higher degree. The government had already faced economic and public health struggles before the pandemic, but now in the post-covid landscape, the pressure has increased. With over 85,000 cases of the disease in the country and 2,628 deaths, this is undoubtedly an unwelcome challenge for the nation.
Although improvements in quality of care and advancements in the medical field have improved health outcomes within the population, issues remain. Things like chronic malnutrition are still devastating the younger generation, with 37% suffering from this preventable ailment. Additionally, under five million malaria cases are reported annually, and with a shortage of qualified professionals and economic constraints, the burden on the healthcare system remains.
Like most countries in the Sub-Saharan African region, Malawi has been severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The first case was identified in 1985. Since then, the country has experienced a harshly accelerating epidemic; in Blantyre, HIV seroprevalence rose from 2.6% in 1986 to over 30% in 1998, with similar trends observed in other urban areas. With the burdens of the healthcare system, these numbers haven’t changed significantly over the years; it remains one of the most persistent issues in the region.
Due to the heavy reliance on the agricultural industry, up to 51% of the population lives in poverty. This remains to be the most pertinent issue in the country. Unpredictable climates predominately cause these numbers, increasing population and poor economic growth. The southern rural people suffer the most as most of these communities are agriculturally based. In 2019 the Global FInance Magazine identified the nation as the fourth poorest globally. With increased poverty, hunger in Malawi is one of the most prevalent and preventable issues faced by its citizens.
Despite free public schooling being operational in the country since 1994, the transition of students progressing from primary to secondary education remains low. The primary school completion rate in 2016/2017 was sitting at only 53%, a deficient number compared to more developed nations. The main contributing factors are childhood pregnancy and marriage, where almost four in ten girls marry by 18 years. This means lower wages for women, higher population growth and higher poverty for the nation.
The energy infrastructure in the country is among the least developed in the world, with only 11% of the population having access to electricity. Only 1% of the residents in rural areas have access to this resource. This is one of the more pertinent issues of the country as, without adequate access to something as simple as electricity, most modern technology cannot be utilised, halting any further development for the nation.
The Future for Malawi
The future may seem bleak for Malawi but the nation renowned as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ has so much to offer the world. The rich and beautiful natural landscapes, extensive wildlife, and eye-catching mountain ranges prove that this nation is a gem despite the issues currently faced. Even though these issues are problematic, we must realise that they can be solved with simple solutions and sound investment and development. These are all problems now developed nations have solved at some point, so it’s just a matter of time before Malawi catches up and grows into the country it is destined to become.