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Malawi Economy Profile 2018

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Economy - overviewLandlocked Malawi ranks among the world's most densely populated and least developed countries. The country’s economic performance has historically been constrained by policy inconsistency, macroeconomic instability, poor infrastructure, rampant corruption, high population growth, and poor health and education outcomes that limit labor productivity. The economy is predominately agricultural with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for about one-third of GDP and 80% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports, although Malawi is looking to diversify away from tobacco to other cash crops.

The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. Donors halted aid from 2013 to 2016 because of concerns about corruption and fiscal carelessness, but the World Bank resumed budget support in May 2017. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program but recent increases in domestic borrowing mean that debt servicing in 2016 exceeded the levels prior to HIPC debt relief.

Heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture, with corn being the staple crop, Malawi’s economy was hit hard by the El Nino-driven drought in 2015 and 2016, and now faces threat from the fall armyworm. The drought also slowed economic activity, led to two consecutive years of declining economic growth, and contributed to high inflation rates. Because of concerns about subsequent droughts, the government banned maize exports from 2016 to late 2017, causing a market glut and depressing local prices.
GDP (purchasing power parity)$22.47 billion (2017 est.)
$21.5 billion (2016 est.)
$21.02 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
GDP (official exchange rate)$6.261 billion (2016 est.)
GDP - real growth rate4.5% (2017 est.)
2.3% (2016 est.)
3% (2015 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP)$1,200 (2017 est.)
$1,200 (2016 est.)
$1,200 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
Gross national saving2.5% of GDP (2017 est.)
-3.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
2.7% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP - composition, by end usehousehold consumption: 82.8%
government consumption: 16%
investment in fixed capital: 11.6%
investment in inventories: 2.7%
exports of goods and services: 33.8%
imports of goods and services: -46.8% (2017 est.)
GDP - composition by sectoragriculture: 28.6%
industry: 15.6%
services: 55.9% (2017 est.)
Population below poverty line50.7% (2010 est.)
Labor force7 million (2013 est.)
Labor force - by occupationagriculture: 64.1%
industry: 6.7%
services: 29.2% (2013 est.)
Unemployment rate20.4% (2013 est.)
Unemployment, youth ages 15-24total: 8.6%
male: 9.1%
female: 8.2% (2013 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage sharelowest 10%: 2.2%
highest 10%: 37.5% (2010 est.)
Distribution of family income - Gini index46.1 (2010)
39.9 (2004)
Budgetrevenues: $1.298 billion
expenditures: $1.612 billion (2017 est.)
Taxes and other revenues20.7% of GDP (2017 est.)
Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)-5% of GDP (2017 est.)
Public debt54.6% of GDP (2017 est.)
56.1% of GDP (2016 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices)13% (2017 est.)
21.7% (2016 est.)
Central bank discount rate24% (25 November 2016)
27% (July 2016)
Commercial bank prime lending rate42.3% (31 December 2017 est.)
44.1% (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of narrow money$638.1 million (31 December 2017 est.)
$536.6 million (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of broad money$1.367 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.238 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of domestic credit$1.181 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.054 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares$796.2 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$936.3 million (31 December 2015 est.)
$1.341 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
Agriculture - productstobacco, sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava (manioc, tapioca), sorghum, pulses, cotton, groundnuts, macadamia nuts, coffee; cattle, goats
Industriestobacco, tea, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods
Industrial production growth rate1.2% (2017 est.)
Current Account Balance-$568 million (2017 est.)
-$739 million (2016 est.)
Exports$1.443 billion (2017 est.)
$1.361 billion (2016 est.)
Exports - commoditiestobacco 55%, dried legumes (8.8%), sugar (6.7%), tea (5.7%), cotton (2%), peanuts, coffee, soy (2015 est.)
Exports - partnersZimbabwe 12.9%, Mozambique 11%, Belgium 8.2%, South Africa 7.2%, US 6%, China 4.6%, Germany 4.3%, UK 4.2% (2016)
Imports$2.388 billion (2017 est.)
$2.318 billion (2016 est.)
Imports - commoditiesfood, petroleum products, semi-manufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment
Imports - partnersSouth Africa 20.2%, China 13.8%, India 10.8%, UAE 9.7%, Zambia 5.7% (2016)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold$613.5 million (31 December 2017 est.)
$563.1 million (31 December 2016 est.)
Debt - external$2.184 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.985 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home$800 million (2015)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad$NA
Exchange ratesMalawian kwachas (MWK) per US dollar -
729.1 (2017 est.)
713.85 (2016 est.)
713.85 (2015 est.)
499.6 (2014 est.)
424.9 (2013 est.)
Fiscal year1 July - 30 June

Source: CIA World Factbook
This page was last updated on January 20, 2018

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