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Malawi is among the poorest countries in the world; about half of its population lives below the poverty line (United Nations Development Programme, 2019; National Statistical Office, 2017). Heavily dependent on agriculture, its economy is susceptible to climate and other shocks (World Bank, 2019). Although annual economic growth averaged 4% between 1971 and 2017, this growth fluctuated between a high of 14% in 1971 and a low of -11% in 1994 (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2019).

Findings from Afrobarometer’s most recent national survey, in late 2019, show that Malawians’ perceptions of their country’s economic life continue to be bleak. Regardless of gender, location, age, education, socioeconomic status, and political party affiliation, citizens see the country as headed in the wrong direction. Most describe the national economy and their personal living conditions as bad, and even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a majority expected things to get worse. The government earns uniformly poor marks on its management of economic issues, suggesting it must look for new strategies to end the country’s economic malaise.