Population (Millions)



GDP (Billion)



GDP Growth

0.8 %





country brief


Country Context &

Malawi is a landlocked country in South-Eastern Africa, bordering Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania. The country is home to Lake Malawi which occupies a fifth of the country’s surface area. Malawi is classified by the IMF as the third poorest country in the world with a per capita income of $342 per annum (2018). Nearly 60% of Malawians live below the international poverty line. It is densely populated, with a population of 19 million, nearly three quarters of whom are below 30 years old, the median age was 17 years in 2015. Economically, Malawi depends primarily on rain-fed agriculture, which employs nearly two-thirds of citizens, and contributes to around 30% of GDP.

Although Malawi has been and still is largely free of political conflict, stability has not translated into development outcomes. The country ranks 171 out of 189 countries in the Human Development Index (2018) and 111 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business (2019) index. This is much lower than most East African countries.

The Malawian economy has been through a period of significant vulnerability in this decade. GDP growth from 2012 to 2018 averaged just above 4%, with high variability (low of 2.1% in 2012 and a high of 6.2% in 2014).  Persistent droughts significantly reduced agricultural production and affected revenue collection by the state. From 2013 onwards foreign aid programmes were suspended for a period following the “cashgate” scandal. This caused further losses of state revenue. The impact was double-digit inflation which peaked at 35%, causing significant food shortages and the imposition of emergency measures. Since then a series of reforms implemented by the government and a rebound in agricultural production have brought down inflation to single digits (7.1% in 2017).

Despite the improvements, the Malawian economy continues to face challenges. Persistent and expanding trade deficits demand a focus on exports. However, there are challenges. 90% of Malawian exports comprise a few primary agricultural commodities (tobacco, sugar, tea and coffee). Tobacco forms nearly half of agricultural exports by value. There is an urgent need to diversify exports and export markets, although high trade costs for agricultural inputs and outputs hamper diversification. Other challenges including vulnerability to weather events and punitively high cost of credit, with interest rates above 20%.

Innovation in TMA Strategy 2

The TMA Malawi Country Programme aims at reducing persistent barriers and significantly improving trade outcomes. This programme focuses on two dominant themes:

  1. Improving trade along the key trade corridors for Malawi. This will involve developing one-stop border posts; improving trade automation; supporting regional dialogue between key trade institutions; and improving infrastructure at key inland customs stations.
  2. Supporting priority export value chains. This will involve focused work on standards and SPS; trade policy; simplification and automation of trade-related regulatory processes; creation or improvement of warehousing and cold chain infrastructure for better first- & last mile connectivity; and capacity building of logistics industry and exporters.


Improved efficiency and capacity of transport and logistics networks


Complementary work at Malawi OSBPs including Dedza, Mwansa, Songwe and Mchinji to increase border traffic and customs efficiencyImproved efficiency of cross-border infrastructure at Dedza, Mwansa, Songwe and Mchinji OSBPs
Improving efficiency of inland container depots at Lilongwe and Blantyre Upgrades for enhanced multi-modal integration at the Internal Container Depots ( ICDs)Upgrades for enhanced multi-modal integration at the Internal Container Depots ( ICDs)
Increase logistics efficiencyDevelopment of logistics hubs to enhance efficient cargo distribution in Malawi.
Develop a Malawi National Logistics PlatformDevelop a Malawi National Logistics Platform Efficient trade logistics services

Reduced non-tariff barriers


Elimination of NTBsEstablishment of public-private dialogue mechanisms on key trade corridors of Malawi to encourage harmonisation of procedures and removal of NTBs.
Compliance with WTO TFATraining National Trade Facilitation Committee (NTFC) on TFA measures; Implementation customs-related trade facilitation initiatives under the WTO TFA; Implementation of the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) scheme;

Developing standards

Aligning/harmonising Malawi Standards with those in the EAC and or SADC/ARSO (African Organisation for Standardisation)Harmonisation of standards with those of the EAC/ African Organisation for Standardisation (ARSO)
Strengthening standards/equipment and testing laboratories;Enhanced testing capacity
Raising awareness of product standards with Malawi Chamber of Commerce and at borders with neighbouring countries – Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique.Enhanced understanding of importance of standards

Improved and more transparent trade processes and systems

Upgrade of customs management systemOptimisation of Asycuda system modules for efficient customs processes
Automation of Trade ProcessesImproved and efficient processes through single window systems


Better private sector-led advocacy for trade


Public-Private Dialogue advocacy framework on tradeEnhanced quality of Private Sector/ Civil society- led policy formulation for trade
Jovin Mwemezi

Jovin Mwemezi

Country Director