Ranked as 160 out of the 182 countries on the Human Development Index, Malawi is rated to be one of the world’s poorest countries. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report, about 90 percent of the population still lives off of less than $2 per day and 74 percent of the population lives below the poverty line of $1.25 per day.

This means that their progress in Malawi for reaching the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty has been narrow. The most poor in the entire country are those that are living in the most southern and most northern parts of the countries, which are generally very rural areas.

The access to many economic opportunities, general social services and other basic assets are extremely limited throughout the population, and there is a large inequality between the small population of rich and the large population of poor. Larger households, more specifically those with many children, are more likely to be poor in Malawi. Primary school is free in Malawi, but because the access to education is highly unbalanced between social classes, almost 30 percent of children do not even start school.

Due to the required enrollment fees of higher education (past primary school), secondary schools mostly just have children from wealthier families attending them. The economic opportunities of the rural poor are often limited because they live in remote areas without many means of transportation, so the markets and services are harder to access. Only 12 percent of households in Malawi even have access to credit because the access to financial services is highly restricted to the upper class.

Employing about 80 percent of the workforce, agriculture is the most important sectors of the economy. There are both smallholders and estates in the agricultural system, but more than 90 percent of the rural population is smallholder farmers with customary land occupation. Over 80 percent of this land is used to grow corn, whereas the estate land is mainly under leasehold or freehold occupation with the main crops being sugar, tea, coffee and tobacco. Tobacco has become Malawi’s main export cash crop, accounting for more than 50 percent of the export earnings. With all this in mind, during the poor seasons there are food shortages all over the country with numerous households suffering from chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.

Malawians still struggle with food insecurity, even though their recent corn growth has been very high. Because of declining soil fertility, the productivity of most other crops has not improved since the 1970s, though better technologies are becoming more and more available. The chronic food crisis has greatly increased the risk of diseases and is the main cause of malnutrition in Malawi. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), nearly half of the children under the age of five suffer from chronic undernourishment.

Thanks to the support of organizations like World Vision and the WFP, better irrigation systems are being constructed, which enables farmers to grow crops during the entire year by reducing their dependence on seasonal rainfall. These organizations have also helped to provide smallholder farm families with things like potato tubers and livestock in order to increase their access to nutritious food.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: World Vision, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Africa Renewal

As the world’s leading countries and corporations search for new frontiers, all eyes are focused on Africa.  The continent offers many opportunities for economic activity and prosperity.  African nations are seeking to take advantage of their position but face tough obstacles due to an undereducated population.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 176 million adults are unable to read and write.  47 million youths ages 15-24 are illiterate and 32 million primary aged children are not in school.  In nations like Malawi, one of the world’s poorest nations, where 45 percent of the population is under 14 years old, it is imperative to produce future generations of educated citizens capable of lifting the nation out of poverty.

Malawi is a land locked nation and is home to approximately 17 million people.  The country does not have many natural resources such as oil like its neighboring countries.  The economy is based on agriculture, mainly, the export of tobacco and is supported through financial aid by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

In order to turn the tide and help the people of Malawi, Xanthe Ackerman founded Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa, or AGE Africa.

AGE Africa seeks to transform the lives of millions of young girls by providing them with opportunities to become educated leaders.  Beginning with Malawi, the organization’s vision is to ensure all girls in Africa have equal access to secondary education and that they be able to leverage their education into economic opportunities.

Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa seeks to create informed citizens capable of making their own life choices.

The Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa organization has a multidimensional approach to achieving their stated goals.  The first begins with comprehensive scholarships that allow girls to not only attend schools but also complete their education.  Scholarships go towards providing for tuition and school related expenses.

The second approach deals with extracurricular programs that promote life skills, leadership development, self-advocacy and career guidance.  The final piece of the program, post-secondary transitions, ensures that the girls have the necessary information, resources, and support to apply for educational and economic opportunities beyond high school.

AGE Africa’s impact on the girls of Malawi is extraordinary.

By age 20, just 17 percent of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa participants are mothers compared to 65 percent of 20-year old women in Malawi.  About 88 percent of AGE Africa students finish all four years of secondary school, compared to just 8 percent nationwide.

Among these students, 74 percent are now pursuing higher education, have wage-based employment or engage in economic activity that provides income above the poverty threshold.

The tremendous success of Advancing Girls’ Education in Africa within the country of Malawi is beacon of hope for the nation and a promising sign of the future for other girls throughout the continent.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: AGE Africa, AGE Africa, AGE Africa, FAO
Photo: Development Diaries

In the wake of the recent corruption scandal known as “Cashgate,” the British Department for International Development (DfID) has frozen aid to Malawi. Experts on foreign aid are concerned the freeze might prove catastrophic for both the health and education sectors in the small country.

In November 2013, it was discovered that governmental officials in Malawi had taken aid dollars for themselves to the tune of $250 million. After the failed assassination, Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo—who was thought to be a whistle blower—and the region’s police force found money stashed in the homes of several members of the government.

Nations responsible for supplying Malawi with foreign aid promptly suspended all funds that had gone to support the Malawian government directly. Additionally, The Guardian reports “the DfID went a step further” by freezing funds that affect healthcare and education.

Malawi receives nearly half of its budget from foreign sources, meaning that its people will soon be without essential services, experts warn. To make matters worse, the United Kingdom is the largest donor to Malawi.

The breakdown, however, illustrates a difficult challenge for all donor nations, not just the U.K. For example, amid rampant and violent corruption it is difficult to rationalize making contributions to a developing nation. Likewise, pulling the plug on necessary programs creates internal instability and hardship for the people who rely on those donations.

Most Malawians survive through subsistence farming, and nearly three-quarters live on $1.25 per day or less.

Malawi is now making attempts to be more transparent with donor money, and is trying, yet again, to inspire donor confidence. However, this latest breach of trust was, for the DflD, a point of no return.

The head of the Malawi branch of the DflD, Sarah Sanyahumbi, was quoted as saying, “This is not business as usual. As far as we are concerned, the line has been crossed, so once the line has been crossed you cannot go back to what you had before.”

For many of Malawi’s most vulnerable, this is unfortunate news. The future for the young and ill in Malawi remains unclear as of yet. However, it seems unlikely it will be good without a new agreement between nations.

Chase Colton

Sources: The Guardian, International Business Times, The Borgen Project
Photo: Mideast Posts

Cashgate, coined after the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, refers to the theft of $250 million by civil servants of the Malawi government. The president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, has responded to the corruption by firing her cabinet; however, this has not solved the problem.

Since the scandal erupted more than a month ago, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has arrested numerous public officers for defrauding the Malawi government. Most recently, the ACB has arrested employees from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, and more.

International aid donor organizations are responding to the scandal by withholding aid to Malawi. The European Union, Department for International Development (DIFD,) Norway, and the Common Approach to Budget Support (CABS) have all suspended or withheld aid to Malawi. These actions are likely to cause problems in Malawi, as 40 percent of the nation’s budget stems from donor aid. Sarah Sanyahumbi, co-chair of the CABS group and head of the DFID in Malawi, assures that all development support will not be stopped.

“It’s budget support and sector budget support (that has been affected.) So all other programs or projects, like in health, education, food security, etc. etc., are still ongoing,” she stated. However, Finance Minister Maxwell Mwezalamba is convinced that the suspension of aid will lead to the downfall of the country. The International Monetary Fund is currently investigating the Cashgate scandal. Once Malawi has made a significant commitment to eliminate corruption within its financial system, the country may earn back foreign aid, but in the meantime, Sanyahumbi states there is “no turning back.”

– Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: The Irish Times, AllAfrica
Photo: Think Africa Press

In Malawi, the road out of poverty is currently paved with state appropriations of land with a robust focus on commercial subsistence farming functioning as both the economic development and trigger of agribusiness and its profits and as a means to feed and provide for the millions of poor and vulnerable. For the government of President Joyce Banda, reclaiming idle farms is an effective measure to combat poverty in Malawi.

The President says the government is committed to modernizing and commercializing subsistence farming so it can develop into agribusiness and benefit from a post-globalization food market. Banda says her government will do everything possible to reclaim all farms that are idle and turn them over to farmers for commercial farming purposes.

Malawi is an impoverished nation with a largely agricultural based culture and society. It ranks 160th out of 182 nations on the Human Development Index. In the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report for 2009, nearly 74 percent of the population exists below the income poverty line of U.S.$1.25 a day and 90 per cent below the U.S.$2 per day threshold. There is a high proportion of poor and ultra poor in the rural areas of the country. More than a third of rural households earn their livelihood solely from farming or fishing and would bear the weight of the success or failure of a development program focused on taking idle farms for commercial development purposes.

If the program succeeds, it could provide security and resources for investment and development purposes. Due to the extreme poverty in Malawi and the limited economic resources and institutions, access to assets, services and economic opportunities is profoundly unequal across the population. Only 12 percent of households actually have access to credit.

Access to education is highly inequitable and the disenfranchisement of citizen’s educational rights means extremely limited economic prospects. Nearly 30 percent of poor children in Malawi do not even start primary school, which is free. Secondary and higher education is largely confined to wealthier households, largely due to the required enrollment fees which create exclusive accessibility to receiving an education to those who can afford it.  Poor rural individuals and families tend to live in remote areas with few roads and means of transport, which limits access to markets and services.

Poverty in Malawi may now have an answer, at least according to the government.

While discussing the situation of poverty in Malawi and the approach of the government, the President touted the potential and the rewards of the idle farm measure. The President mentioned the recently taken and handed over Anchor Estate formally Nantipwili Estate in Thyolo, which has been idle for five years.

“This farm has two big dams which will help in irrigation and fish farming, which will help to improve the lives of people from Thyolo especially if we take agriculture as business,” said Banda.

The President was pleased to be associated with the initiative as it aims at transforming lives of people through economic growth and has the potential to help boost the economy and help overcome poverty through successfully competing in the global market. For poverty in Malawi to be successfully fought, there needs to be economic security for the poor and a measure that provides long term benefits and profit for the country to stabilize and achieve growth.

Other government officials like Dr. James Munthali, made similar statements. Munthali, who is the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, in recent remarks, assured the nation that the government will do everything possible to acquire all lands and farms that are idle to give people to cultivate. As for now the government is firmly behind the program and is counting on its success as well as its potential profits.

– Nina Verfaillie
Feature Writer

Sources: All Africa, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Adrian K. Mitchell

Poverty is an issue that affects the entire world, and some areas are impacted by poverty more than others. The following is a list of the 10 poorest countries across the globe based on their national GDP (gross domestic product) per capita. Investopedia defines the GDP per capita as a “primary indicator of a country’s economic performance.”

10. Afghanistan
Afghanistan, whose national currency is the Afghan afghani, saw $1,072.19 GDP per capita in 2013. Much of Afghanistan’s economic distress stems from their lengthy history of warfare that spans the last three decades, including the ten-year Soviet war. Despite the nation’s efforts in rebuilding itself, they still suffer the long-term effects — especially the economic effects — of these wars.

9. Madagascar
Madagascar (Malagasy ariary) saw $972.07 GDP per capita in 2013. Although on the list, Madagascar is on the rise; they have seen improvements in their economy from providing increased emphasis on education and better accessibility to health care.

8. Malawi
Malawi (Kwacha) saw $893.84 GDP per capita in 2013. Around 85 percent of the population live in rural areas. Malawi is a still-developing nation that is dealing with the stress of an HIV/AIDS problem. Much of their economy is agriculturally oriented.

7. Niger
Niger, who also uses the CFA Franc, saw $853.43 GDP per capita in 2013. Niger has several detriments of a thriving economic system, including a lack of education and poor health care. Because of its high fertility rate, almost half of the population of Niger are 15 years old or younger. The literacy rate in Niger, 28.7 percent in 2005, is one of the lowest in the entire world.

6. Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CFA Franc) saw $827.93 GDP per capita in 2013. The CAR has been experiencing the strife of war for the past several years, especially in recent years under the government of General François Bozizé, the Central African Republic Bush War, and the very recent Central African Republic conflict. Government has almost dissolved completely. The Prime Minister has even gone as far as calling the country an anarchy. With no government and an abundance of war, it is easy to see how economic and living conditions could plummet.

5. Eritrea
Eritrea (Nakfa) saw $792.13 GDP per capita in 2013. Eritrea has had a difficult political history, including extended militaristic conflicts with neighboring nations, which has impacted its economy.

4. Liberia
Liberia (Liberian Dollar) saw $716.04 GDP per capita in 2013. A large portion of the population of Liberia live below the poverty threshold. Liberia has also faced political instability and a civil war of its own.

3. Burundi
Burundi (Burundi Franc) saw $648.58 GDP per capita in 2013. Burundi has suffered economically not only from the corruption of their government, but also war, HIV/AIDS, and a lack of accessible education. Only 13 percent of the population of Burundi live in urban cities; the vast majority live in rural areas.

2. Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe (Zimbabwean Dollar) saw  $589.46 GDP per capita in 2013. In the last 10-15 years, Zimbabwe has been experiencing a sharp economic decline, in part due to their involvement in the civil wars occuring in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

1. The Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Congo (Congolese Franc) saw $394.25 GDP per capita in 2013. The capital city, Kinshasa, is home to over 9 million citizens and sits along the Congo River. Plagued with crime, corrupt government, and a lengthy recovery from civil war, it becomes easy to see how poverty can run rampant in an area such as this.

Ryan Miller

Sources: Maps of World, Investopedia
Photo: Action Aid


The traditionally conflict-ridden state, Mali, recently elected former Mali Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president. Keita won in a landslide presidential run-off with 78 percent of the national vote. This election was designed to bring stability back to Mali after a recent coup and Islamist rebel takeover of northern Mali. This election also marks a transition back to democracy after 18 months of crisis.

46 percent of 6.8 million registered voters casted their ballots on August 11, 2013. Soumaila Cisse was one of Keita’s competitors and received only roughly 22 percent of the vote, coming second in the run-off election. With this victory, Keita has been awarded a strong mandate bringing peace to Mali. But in addition to trying to secure a lasting peace with the Tuareg separatist rebels in northern Mali, Keita also needs to address military reforms, widespread corruption, and the economic crisis.

This election holds major implications because it is designed to unlock billions in international aid that have been offered to Mali in good faith. Aid to this country by international donors had been blocked after both the 2012 coup and insurgency by radical Islamist forces sent Mali into turmoil. With this election and revival of democracy in Mali, Keita will have access to over 4 billion dollars in reconstruction aid. Additionally, the United Nations will be deploying 12,600 troops in peacekeeping missions as France withdraws their 3,000 troops. In January, France helped the Mali government fight and repel the Islamist insurgents in Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal.

Although Keita and the return of democracy are welcomed by many, a significant number of Mali southerners are opposed to funding the northerners as they try to recover from Islamist rebel occupation because they blame the north for the country’s current crisis.

Another divisive problem that exists is the promotion of coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo to the rank of lieutenant general. Sanogo and his forces have been linked to serious crimes such as attacks and torture of civilians. This promotion has been highly scrutinized by groups such as the Human Rights Watch. This scrutinization is the first step to investigations of Sanogo and his departure from the military.

Regardless of the problems and obstacles ahead, Keita is known to be tough and a blunt speaker, but he has affirmed his commitment to bring peace and security reunite the people of Mali. The hope is now that Keita remains true to the people and does not appoint his political backers as a way to repay favors and fill cabinet position with his cronies.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: Reuters, Zee News, BBC
Photo: la Croix

New Food Security Alliance Helps Malawi
Last month Malawi attended the nutrition for growth summit and became a member of the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The government of Malawi will work with businesses and international investors to expand agriculture funding with the goal of increasing funds to combat poverty and hunger.

The government is responsible for instituting pro-agriculture policy as well as building effective infrastructure and trading mechanisms. In turn, businesses and investors will commit to a larger increase in funding. Over $3.8 billion will be given to Malawi along with Benin and Nigeria countries by 70 different businesses and donors. This will be a significant gift for Malawi, an extremely poor country that has been struggling to stabilize after years of economic crisis.

The president of Malawi, Joyce Banda, made the decision that major reforms were necessary to pull Malawi out of its economic crisis. The first priority of the government is to encourage investment by restoring confidence in the quality of governance and stability of the economy. The food security alliance is a key element in the plan for Malawi’s improvement

The Country Cooperation Framework for Malawi “sets out how G8 countries, the Malawian government, and the private sector will work together to invest in agriculture and help end hunger.” The Framework lays out the policy commitments of the government, the funding commitments for the G8 and other involved countries, and the plan for private sector involvement.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening says of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition conference, “We have made huge progress today getting agreement to help end under-nutrition in our lifetimes, backed by governments, business, science and NGOs…Strong agricultural growth in Africa will raise more people out of poverty than growth in other sectors because so many people, including many women, depend on it for their livelihood.” The Alliance focuses on agriculture as a critical aspect of wellbeing from the basic human level to the country’s economic level and offers hope for the future to Malawians.

– Zoë Meroney
Source: The Guardian, United Kingdon