Malawi is still one of the poorest countries in the world, but is making headway in some areas.

Facts about Malawi

The flag for Malawi
Life expectancy
The flag for Malawi
GNI pr capita
The flag for Malawi
Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
The flag for Malawi
The flag for Malawi

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Malawi is a generally peaceful, safe and relatively politically stable country. Development is advancing slowly, but Malawi is still dependent on development aid.

Population growth is among the highest in the world, and the population is expected to increase from the present 18 million to somewhere between 40 and 50 million by 2050. As much as 46 per cent of the population is under 15 years old.

Malawi’s challenges also include

  • vulnerability to climate change
  • poor infrastructure, including an inadequate power supply
  • limited ability and willingness to implement the necessary reforms

In recent years, the Malawian parliament has adopted a number of reforms and legislative amendments, but implementation is often not good enough.

The currency – the kwacha – was deregulated in 2012. Inflation has been high since then, typically well over 20 per cent. Stricter budgetary discipline and a fairly good agricultural season brought it down to 9.3 per cent in September 2017.

Historical introduction: Malawi and Norwegian development aid

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, but has seen significant progress in areas such as health and education. The country has held multi-party elections since 1994.

The scope of Norway’s aid increased sharply from the start of the new millennium. In the period 2010–2015, Norway was the third largest donor country to Malawi after the USA and the UK. There were periods when Norway and the other donors gave funding directly to the Malawi state treasury.

However, the donor countries have also stopped this practice several times in reaction to negative tendencies in Malawi. This happened most recently in 2013, in the wake of the “Cashgate” scandal, with accusations of extensive corruption at a high level, and the inability of the government to deal with it.

Agriculture is the largest economic sector in Malawi, and support for climate-smart agriculture has been a key Norwegian priority. Women, good governance and health have been other important areas for Norwegian aid. Since 2014, funding for education has also been substantial.

Power and politics

In recent decades, political developments in Malawi have moved towards a more even balance of power and a more functional democracy. Parliament has appeared more independent in recent years and has taken several initiatives of its own.

Two large daily newspapers, several independent radio channels and social media contribute to a lively public discourse. However, a relatively limited segment of the population takes part in this discourse. The middle class, which is influential in shaping public opinion, is small.

At times there are sharp exchanges between the government and the private media. Efforts were made to close down one of the dailies early in 2017 for tax reasons after the newspaper had looked into a corruption case. The closure was quashed by a court after only one day. The case illustrated the importance of both the media and the courts in Malawi’s power structure.


Corruption at various levels continues to permeate the economy. Investigations suggest irregularities in many major public procurements in recent years.

However, the picture is not entirely black. Corruption is discussed frequently and open-heartedly in media and in the public discourse generally.

Prior to July 2016, the media succeeded in uncovering a case of questionable procurement of maize from Zambia – also known as Maizegate. The minister of agriculture was claimed to be heavily involved.

The president, Parliament and the anti-corruption agency all conducted independent investigations. There was fairly unanimous agreement that the minister’s conduct in the case had been reprehensible. The result was that he, a close friend and political ally of the president, was dismissed. The court case against him is in progress.


In August 2016, Malawi climbed eight places on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, from 141st to 133rd place.

Few Norwegian companies are involved in Malawi, but the level of activity has increased in the last couple of years. ara sells fertiliser in Malawi through the wholly-owned subsidiary Greenbelt.

In July 2017, Norfund made its first investment in Malawi: A cattle company with established distribution in Malawi and plans for export of halal meat to the Middle East received a loan of USD 2.5 million.
The first imports of fresh salmon from Norway to Malawi arrived by air in April 2017.

Norplan is the construction supervisor for a major infrastructure project. Norconsult has conducted a study of the energy sector in the country. Partly Norwegian-owned Norsad Finance has several investments in Malawi, and other investors have projects under consideration.

Norwegian development cooperation with Malawi

Development aid has led to positive developments in several areas in Malawi.

Agriculture, health and education are prioritised areas in Norwegian-Malawian development cooperation. 


Norwegian aid to Malawi has yielded positive results.

Most children start school, but the education sector faces major challenges when it comes to delivering good, high quality teaching. Many pupils therefore drop out and repeat classes.

Only half of those who start school complete primary school, and a far larger proportion of those who do are boys. Tradition, culture and poverty are among the reasons for the considerably lower educational level for girls.

In the period 2013–2016, educational aid to Malawi led to:

  • education reaching 290 000 children each year
  • teaching material reaching around 22 000 pupils
  • over 4300 members of school staff getting training

Read more in the education report Rising to the challenge

Cooperation with the education authorities in Malawi

Norway supports the authorities’ education plan. Together with several partners (the World Bank, UNICEF, DflD and KfW in particular), Norway backed a joint effort on the project Malawi Education Improvement Plan.

The Norwegian Embassy led the work of establishing joint donor funding for the education sector, and the agreement was signed in March 2017. Norway will be the first to channel funds through the agreement.

Education for girls

The UN project Girls’ Education Initiative has made a difference in the 81 schools in which the first phase was implemented.

The project targets barriers that lead to low school attendance by girls. It has brought about changes as a result of increased awareness among pupils, community leaders, parents and teachers about correct nutrition, prevention of teenage pregnancies, better teaching and returning to school and continuing one's education.

Technology in reading and numeracy teaching

Norway is funding a pilot project that promotes the use of technology in the teaching of reading and numeracy.

The project Unlocking Talent: Learning through Technology is behind the numeracy and reading teaching app Onebillion. The app is available in English and Chichewa and has had a positive effect on the learning of children of early primary school age, including pupils and children with learning disabilities.

The project schools score a positive 33 per cent compared with 24 per cent in the control schools for the first two years of primary school. Not only is the learning effect in the project schools higher; it is also on the same level for girls and boys. The project also reports that dropping out of school occurs less frequently in the project schools.

Pupils with disabilities and learning challenges benefit the most.


Health in Malawi has shown positive developments in recent years.

Eighty per cent of health sector funding comes from aid. The good health results can therefore be attributed largely to international aid, from Norway among others. However, this dependence on aid makes the sector vulnerable.

Mother and child mortality has been substantially reduced, mainly because 90 per cent of Malawian women now give birth at institutions with qualified health personnel.
Improved access to contraception increasingly enables women to decide how many children they want to have. Malawi now has one of the lowest fertility rates in the region, with 4.4 children per woman.

In the age group 15 to 49 years, 8.8 per cent of Malawian men and women are now infected by HIV. This is lower than in 2010, when the HIV figure for this age group was 10.6 per cent. HIV/AIDS is still the most frequent cause of death in Malawi.

Teenage pregnancies are on the rise. As many as 29 per cent of Malawian girls aged between 15 and 19 have started having children. Apart from the negative consequences for their health, this means that many girls have to discontinue their schooling.

Building an infrastructure for better health

There is a severe shortage of health personnel in Malawi; as many as 45 per cent of the positions in the sector are unoccupied.

Since 2013, Norway has supported a project through the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) that facilitates access to qualified health personnel for reproductive health and family planning.

The project recruits and pays new teachers in health subjects. In 2016, over a thousand students were enrolled at colleges that are involved in the project. Three new teachers were recruited.

CHAI collaborates with the Ministry of Health on training volunteers in regions where there are no health clinics. They increase access to family planning and contraception.

Over 500 volunteers completed training in 2016. The project has also built infrastructure for nursing schools and health clinics. It ends in 2018.

Solar panels in health clinics

The last half of 2016 and 2017 saw frequent power cuts in Malawi. Many health clinics in the districts have been without power for extended periods.

The Norwegian Embassy contributed funding through Norwegian Church Aid for the installation of solar panels at four health clinics to provide a stable supply of electricity.

New intensive care departments completed

Acting through Norwegian Church Aid, Norway has also funded the building of intensive care departments at Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital, Lilongwe.

The departments were completed and opened in 2016, thereby improving facilities for seriously ill and injured patients at the hospital.

Prior to the project, the treatment available to these patients was limited and of poor quality, and mortality was high.

In 2017, Norwegian Church Aid completed six new operating theatres at Kamuzu Central Hospital with funds from the Embassy.


Malawi is very vulnerable to climate change. According to the Global Climate Risk Index 2017, it was one of the three countries that were hardest hit in 2015 by weather phenomena such as drought and flooding.
Deforestation and monoculture have severely depleted the nutrients in the soil.

In autumn 2016, a new agricultural report was launched. This is the first time Malawi has had a holistic agricultural policy. Ten per cent of the national budget goes to agricultural programmes.

Norwegian investment in Malawi has boosted food security and resistance to climate change in some areas. However, the country is still vulnerable.

Malawi experienced irregular and inadequate rains in 2014/15 and 2015/16. The result was a disastrously poor harvest combined with lack of agricultural sector reform.

In the 2016/2017 season, a third of the country’s population lived without secure access to food.

The 2017/2018 harvest was better, but it is still estimated that 700.00 people lack secure access to food.

Attacks by the invasive insect fall armyworm have resulted in crop losses, but of uncertain extent.

Climate-smart agriculture

Norway supports climate-smart agriculture through the project Malawi Agricultural Partnership II. Of a target group of 105.00 farmers, 88.00 have received support and guidance, with the focus on access to better seed corn, financial services and access to markets.

No less than 81.5 per cent of the 105.00 small farmers report higher income attributable to increased productivity due to training in climate-smart agricultural methods.

The Development Fund and local partners have given training in climate-smart agriculture to 38.00 male and 42.00 female small farmers.

Norway also supports Malawi’s sector-wide programme for agriculture. Among other things, 190.00 farmers have switched to more climate-robust farming since the start of this programme.

Agricultural research

Support for the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) builds expertise and capacity in climate-related matters. UANAR cooperates actively with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. he project has added to knowledge, including that of the Malawian authorities, through the publication of articles and various training programmes.

The Norwegian funding has also helped many more female students to complete their studies. A new student hostel was completed in the spring of 2017. It offers female students better, safer living conditions than before.

Cash in food crises

Norway has supported the international organisation Cash Based Response, the purpose of which has been to save lives in selected regions that were hit by flood followed by drought, resulting in ruined crops.
During the project period, 445.00 people received aid in the form of cash for buying food. A total of 27.00 pregnant and nursing mothers and 23.00 children were checked for malnutrition.

Read more about development cooperation through


Two Norwegian NGOs are permanently in place in Malawi: the Development Fund and Norwegian Church Aid.

The Development Fund is the only Norwegian NGO in the agricultural sector. It is involved in climate-smart agriculture, and works closely with the Norwegian Embassy. The Development Fund began phasing out Norwegian personnel in 2017. Local forces are to take over completely. The Development Fund’s representative in Ethiopia has regional responsibility that covers Malawi.

Norwegian Church Aid has had a Norwegian-led presence since 2002. Much of Norwegian support for health in Malawi has been channelled through Norwegian Church Aid.

The Norwegian Association of Disabled, the Norwegian Nurses' Association and the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions also have development projects in Malawi.

The following are involved in alliances and operate with Norwegian support, but without a Norwegian presence:

  • Plan Norway
  • SOS Children's Villages
  • Caritas
  • Sex and Politics
  • Save the Children
Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 20.02.2019