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Key findings
  • More than eight out of 10 Malawians (84%) say the country is going “in the wrong direction.” This is the majority view regardless of respondents’ gender, urban or rural residency, and political party affiliation.
  • The same majority (84%) say the country’s economic condition is bad, including almost half (48%) who describe it as “very bad.”
  • Six out of 10 respondents (61%) say they expect economic conditions to be worse in 12 months’ time, including 41% who think they will get “much worse.”
  • Eight out of 10 Malawians (80%) describe their personal living conditions as “fairly bad” or “very bad.”
  • Most Malawians say the government is doing a poor job on economic issues, including managing the economy (74%), creating jobs (75%), keeping prices stable (77%), and narrowing gaps between rich and poor (79%).

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.

Jacob Mazalale Mazalale

Jacob Mazalale is an economist at the University of Malawi

Claudia Fiskani Ngoma

Claudia Fiskani Ngoma is a junior research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research