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Malawi Country Report

Country Risk Level

High

Overview

Executive Summary

Since being sworn in as president of Malawi following an election rerun on 23 June 2020, Lazarus Chakwera has vowed to fight government corruption, and this has resulted in several high-profile arrests. There is an elevated risk of contract cancellations and revocation of licences for exploration in the nascent oil and gas sector, particularly where these have been awarded improperly. This is most likely to occur beyond the 12-month outlook, when legislation governing the sector has been finalised. Gaining the support of the Malawi Defence Force is vital to President Chakwera cementing his position and establishing peace throughout the country. This is particularly important in the south of the country, where former president Mutharika enjoys the most support and where there have been confortations between the two leaders’ supporters. Small-scale attacks using petrol bombs and other acts of sabotage on government property are still likely in the south.During his presidency, Mutharika gave assent to a new Mines and Minerals Act in February 2019. This is intended to regulate illegal artisanal and small-scale mining and promote the local supply of equipment and investment to the sector. The outdated Petroleum Act 1983 is under review, and changes are likely to facilitate further commercial interest in Malawi's nascent oil and gas sector.Real GDP estimates for 2020 and 2021 have been revised down to a 0.3% decline and 1.5% growth, respectively, to reflect the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and spillovers from the global slowdown.

Operational Outlook

Malawi has made recent advances in regulations easing starting a business, but investors face other obstacles. Corruption, including requests for bribes, is a notable risk. Strikes and labour-related protests, particularly among civil servants and truck drivers, will likely continue in 2020. Operational obstacles for businesses also lie in Malawi's poor basic infrastructure: the country is landlocked and high transport costs are exacerbated by poor roads. The labour market is poorly developed, with skilled labour being limited. The legal system is often subject to delay through budgetary shortfalls.

Terrorism

No major non-state armed groups are active in Malawi, with the terrorism threat being minimal. A de-escalation in fighting between government forces and Mozambican National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana: RENAMO) militants in neighbouring Mozambique has led most Mozambican refugees to leave Malawi and return home. In March 2016, UN refugee agency UNHCR indicated that refugee numbers in Malawi had climbed to around 11,500, with most arriving in Kapise, some 5 km from the joint border.

Crime

Crime levels are moderate and increasing in urban areas, but low in rural areas. This includes petty theft, as well as burglary, in urban areas, including in Lilongwe and Blantyre. Armed vehicle theft and carjacking is becoming more frequent. Businesses, especially Asian owned, have been targeted by armed robbers and other criminals. In July 2013, the Chinese embassy called on the Malawian government to address rising crime. A number of police officers have been accused of involvement in crimes such as armed robbery, including at banks. Malawi has also experienced increased incidents of mob justice; poor police work has reportedly contributed to declining public confidence in the security forces.

War Risks

War risk is low despite an ongoing border dispute with Tanzania. A previously dormant border row between Malawi and Tanzania over Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa) was reignited in 2011 when Malawi began issuing licences for oil and gas exploration in a disputed portion of the lake. Military conflict is unlikely, with diplomatic avenues and regional mediation being pursued. Malawi is likely to seek a ruling from the International Court of Justice if Tanzania challenges the jurisdiction of oil blocks 35N and 35S issued by Malawi.

Social Stability

High

On 3 February, Malawi’s High Court ordered a rerun of the May 2019 presidential election on 3 February 2020, to be held within 150 days. This makes violent protests from those disgruntled at President Mutharika’s election victory unlikely during the 150-day period preceding elections. However, the risk of violent protests amassing tens of thousands of attendees with damage to public and private property in the event of Mutharika successfully appealing the High Court ruling to annul the election, or winning in the rerun, is high. Protests caused by power blackouts are also likely. Civil society and religious movements have significant leverage in mobilising for mass protests.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over one year of age arriving from or having passed through countries with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission and for travelers who have been in transit >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

There is a risk of earthquakes in Malawi; in 2009, a series of quakes hit the areas around Karonga, northern Malawi, with some registering 6.2-magnitude, resulting in a number of fatalities and damage to infrastructure.

The country also experiences severe flooding during the rainy season (November to April). In January 2015, deadly flooding killed 200 and directly impacted 100,000 others. It is imperative to research road and weather conditions before traveling by car during the rainy season.

Transportation

Roads tend to be in poor condition, which, in combination with other factors (e.g. the presence of animals and people on the sides of roads, vehicles traveling after dark without lights), makes for dangerous driving conditions. Road conditions are particularly poor during the country's rainy season, resulting in washouts and potholes. Malawi has one of the highest rates of road accidents on the African continent. Avoid driving after dark.

Travel by public transport is not recommended. Public transport is extremely limited and consists primarily of unregulated private mini-buses and pick-up trucks used to travel between towns, which are overburdened and dangerous. Larger coach services between major towns are safer and more reliable. Bicycle taxis and small motorized tricycles used as public transport in urban areas are also unsafe. Emergency services are limited.

Practical Information

Climate

Malawi's climate is tropical and the country experiences two seasons: the dry season (May to October) and the rainy season (November to April).

Heavy rains are common throughout the country, particularly in plateau regions and the northwest. Temperatures are often high in valleys and cooler at higher elevations.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +265
Police: 997
Fire Dept.: 999
Ambulance: 998

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal