Situation and cooperation

In Malawi, Daniel Yakobu is manufacturing energy efficient stoves that produce less noxious smoke.

Malawi is an agricultural nation, with almost two thirds of the entire labour force working in the agricultural sector. Although agriculture accounts for 80 per cent of export earnings, it accounts for only around 33 per cent of the national domestic product. Because the economy is heavily geared towards self-sufficiency, the "actual" economic output of the agricultural sector is considerably higher. However, the value creation in the sector is in great need of improvement. Foreign currency is mainly generated through the export of tobacco and, to a lesser extent, tea, coffee, sugar and cotton.

The economy’s heavy dependence on a few unprocessed goods as exports makes it very vulnerable to external influences such as drought or price fluctuations on the world market. In addition, Malawi lacks access to the sea, making it reliant for its foreign trade on transit routes through neighbouring countries.


The Malawian government is using water kiosks to provide its poor population with safe drinking water.

Since 2011, the average annual per capita income has gone down by about a third. It now stands at around 250 US dollars, making Malawi one of the poorest countries in the world. On the Human Development Index (HDI 2015) it ranked 170th out of 188 states. Poverty in Malawi predominantly affects people living in rural areas. Many of them are undernourished. Periodic droughts have in the past led to repeated food shortages.

In 2012, the Malawian government adopted the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy for the period from 2012 to 2016. This most recent strategy focuses primarily on sustainable economic growth and infrastructure development. The fields of social protection, health care, education and good governance have also been given high priority.

Corruption remains a serious problem in the country. It can be found at all levels of society and is seen by many people as something they cannot change. So far, the 'Cashgate' scandal mentioned above has not been adequately addressed, either at the political level or by the courts.

Huge deficits in health and education

Pamaso Sydney Kamoje (on the left) teaches music at the Teacher Training College in Lilongwe, Malawi. One of his students is the teacher Leah Jere (on the right).

Life expectancy is just 55 years, and given the prevalence of HIV it is unlikely to rise in the next few years. Around 10 per cent of people between the ages of 15 and 49 are infected with HIV. Many people in Malawi also die of malaria, respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases. Owing to the shortage of financial resources and the lack of staff with the necessary qualifications and skills, the national health system is not equipped to deal with these problems.

Although the country has made great progress in the education sector in recent years, it still faces some huge challenges in this respect. Around a quarter of all children in Malawi do not even manage to complete primary school. The quality of teaching is poor.

One of the key challenges for the country – a challenge that cuts across all sectors – is the rapid growth of the very young population. If population growth continues at its current rate of about three per cent a year, 25 years from now the country's population will have doubled – from the current 16.7 million to approximately 33 million people. As a result of such growth, not only Malawi's health services but also its education system and other areas will be faced with enormous challenges.

Malawi has been endeavouring to improve the situation in the health and education sectors for some time, with far-reaching reforms and rising government spending in these sectors. Germany is supporting the Malawian government with regard to these reforms.

Development potential

Many people in Malawi show great interest in educational opportunities and demonstrate a considerable capacity for self-help. This is especially true of women working in the informal sector and of civil society organisations. Consequently, they could become important partners for development.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees potential for favourable economic development in agriculture, tourism and mining. The government is endeavouring to install irrigation systems in order to make agriculture less dependent on rainfall and therefore more plannable.

A further boost to the economy comes from the expanding telecommunications sector, where money transfers via mobile phone are becoming a particular growth business.

Priority areas of German cooperation with Malawi

In the past, Germany has worked with Malawi on a large number of different measures, at both the intergovernmental and the international level. Germany's current activities are focused on supporting the Malawian government's growth and development strategy MGDS II.

The primary goal of development cooperation with Malawi is poverty reduction. That is why development cooperation activities concentrate in particular on social sectors that directly benefit the people of Malawi. At government negotiations in October 2015, the German government pledged to make available to Malawi 82 million euros for development cooperation. Over and above that, Malawi will also receive funding worth up to 16 million euros through the special "ONE WORLD – No Hunger" initiative. These funds will be used to support innovations in agriculture and improve food security.

The two sides agreed on the following priority areas of cooperation:

  • Basic education
  • Health
  • Rural development

In addition, Germany is supporting the efforts of the Malawian government to improve public financial management. One of the measures is designed to support the work of the country's national Audit Office. The aim of this support is to improve the accountability transparency of the Audit Office, to fight corruption and to ensure that financial resources are used efficiently.

Basic education

Malawian pupils engaged in group work at the Lilongwe Demonstration School

The government of Malawi abolished school fees for primary education in 1994. Since then the number of children attending school has undergone a marked increase – 97 per cent of children are now being enrolled in school. However, the quality of teaching has dropped as a result. There is a shortage of schoolrooms, teaching aids, learning aids and qualified teachers. As a result, the academic performance of schoolchildren from Malawi is well below the regional average and hovers at the lower end of the scale. It is not unusual for 100 schoolchildren or more to be taught in a single classroom at the same time.

At the end of 2008, Malawi’s government adopted a long-term National Education Sector Plan (NESP 2008–2017). Development cooperation between the two countries is aimed at building a decentralised system of education management. As part of this effort, curricula are being overhauled and the training of primary school teachers improved. Another project is designed to improve the food on offer at schools so that there is a greater incentive to take part in lessons. It is hoped that this will boost the attendance of girls in particular.


The medical expert Dr. Kai-Deter Yung (in the middle) was posted to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre in order to give advanced training to the medical staff there.

Although there have been some positive developments of late, Malawi is still finding it difficult to tackle some of the huge challenges and problems it is facing in the health sector. One particularly serious problem is the persistently high death rate among women in conjunction with pregnancy and childbirth.

In rural areas, in particular, people have very little access to basic health care services. This is not just due to a lack of money, but also to the inappropriate distribution of funds as well as poor management and a lack of personnel at all levels. Low wages and poor working conditions cause many trained staff to move abroad.

Through its development cooperation work, Germany wants to help improve the general health of Malawi's population by ensuring access to basic health care. To this end, Germany is supporting efforts to decentralise services in the health sector and give a greater role to non-governmental actors, such as church-based health care providers.

Rural development

Juli Jesadi and Richard Chimkango (from left to right) are loading cotton onto a conveyor belt at the Great Lakes Ginnery in Mgabu (Chikwawa, Malawi) for further processing. The cotton comes from a smallholding which is receiving support from the Competitive African Cotton Initiative (COMPACI).

Rural development has been a new priority area of development cooperation between Germany and Malawi since 2014. The aim is to create income and employment in rural areas, and to improve people's nutrition. Rural development measures are to be designed so that they support young women and young adults in particular.

Efforts will focus on optimising agricultural value chains, for example, by improving the cultivation and processing of local produce to make it more saleable both at home and abroad.

Furthermore, funding from the ONE WORLD – No Hunger initiative is being used to fund an "innovation centre for the agriculture and food sector" in Malawi. The services offered by the centre include agricultural education and training as well as extension services. In addition, more will be done to promote school feeding programmes intended to benefit schoolchildren and their families. The distribution of micronutrients, the prevention of parasitic diseases caused by worms, as well as courses in breastfeeding, the introduction of solids and infant hygiene are intended to help reduce undernutrition and malnutrition in pregnant women and children under two years of age.

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