from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
LILONGWE – FOR a country that is still reeling from a devastating combination of one of the deadliest tropical cyclones to hit the Southern Hemisphere and drought, the projected growth of the Malawian economy is nothing short of a miracle.
The country of more than 18 million people, synonymous with poverty, is on a positive economic trajectory and the odd one out in a region afflicted by economic decline.
Malawi’s economy is estimated to grow by 5 percent in 2019.
According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IFSPC) this will be primarily driven by growth in the agricultural sector. Other factors include stable macroeconomic fundamentals, recovery in global commodity prices and continued foreign direct investment inflows.
In the same vein, annual inflation is expected to continue to decline, averaging 8 percent, owing to continued macro-economic stability under the administration of President Peter Mutharika, re-elected into office in May.
Such is the potential of Malawi that the growth is anticipated despite floods, dry spells, infestations of the Fall Armyworm and high prices for staple foods compared to last year and the five-year average.
IFSPC explained how the country had defied such challenges, most prominently the Cyclone Idai, which killed some 60 people after making landfall in March.
Vast tracts of farmland were destroyed.
On a positive note, the country received early and more rains this year compared to the previous year.
All districts in central region and southern Malawi registered an increase in maize production over the last year. In the north, all districts reported an increase in production. Malawi’s economy is agriculture-based.
The World Bank earlier stated that coming out of general elections, Malawi’s new administration had a selection of priority policy areas which, if implemented, could help the country chart a new course to prosperity.
Policy areas include building strong economic and institutional foundations, unlocking the potential of the private sector, building human capital and investing in resilience.
Greg Toulmin, Country Manager for Malawi, said the policies provided the framework for a successful economy but the challenge was implementing them.
“Despite its immense problems, Malawi can join the group of countries that have transformed their economies through strong political commitment, the right investments, focus and policy coordination,” Toulmin said.
The World Bank stated inflation remained in single digits, largely aided by a steady decline in non-food inflation.
Fellow Bretton Wood institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is also upbeat at Malawi’s economic prospects, following an earlier mission of the organisation.
“Malawi’s economic outlook is favorable,” said Pritha Mitra, IMF Mission Chief for the country.
IMF projected that over the medium-term, growth could rise further to 6-7 percent, driven by infrastructure projects—including electricity generation—crop diversification, greater access to finance and an improved business climate.
Inflation is projected to eventually ease to 5 percent over the medium term.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) lauded a number of government initiatives aimed at more resilient growth.
This includes a feasibility study completed in 2017 for the Kholombidzo hydropower generation project, which is anticipated to increase the country’s electricity generation capacity.
Mutharikha’s government has also launched the National Agricultural Policy to support irrigation, agricultural diversification and value addition.
– CAJ News