Africa stands as a whole continent, but its economy, agricultural products, minerals and environment differs from country to country. Ghana and Ivory Coast boast of Cocoa and Gold exports, whilst Nigeria’s pride lies in oil, groundnut, palm oil, Iron-ore, Manganese, despite its severe economic crisis. Unlike these afore-mentioned countries Malawi has diverse natural resources, ranging from land, water, forestry and minerals.
Malawi’s economy revolves around agriculture, which brings in more than 80% of the country’s export earnings and supports well over 80% of the population. The country depends on maize as the staple food for local consumption, but the economy of the country heavily depends on export of tobacco, tea, cotton, coffee and sugar, with tea as the country’s second largest export crop, mostly grown in the southern districts of Thyolo and Mulanje, while most industry is based in or around the commercial city of Blantyre in the south.
The country is one of the top ten producers of tobacco, which accounts for around 80% of Malawi’s earnings from its agricultural exports. The economy and harvest is highly influenced by the weather. However, there is criticism over the working force in the tobacco plantation, as farmers rely on the exploitation of children, on the use of child labour. Instead of school, children work on tobacco farms.
It is estimated that 80,000 children harvest tobacco crop in Malawi, without any safety measures, as a result they are exposed to the inhalation of the nicotine of the tobacco leaves. The aftermath of this health hazard causes green tobacco sickness which results in headaches, stomach pain, coughing and difficult breathing. Even though Malawi exports about 90 percent of its tobacco crop to many countries, with United States of America as the biggest buyer, Malawians are not heavily smokers. Other activities playing significant role in Malawi’s growing economy is the mining sector. The country has fine deposits of uranium, coal and bauxite.
Malawi’s economy has grown by an average of 7% over the last five years, yet the country is ranked as one of the world’s poorest countries in the world, on the Human Development. The progress towards reaching the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty is far from achievement. According to the United Nations Development Program Human Development Report for 2009, about 74 per cent of the population still lives below the income poverty line of US$1.25 a day and 90 per cent below the US$2 a day threshold.
Two big trading partners of Malawi are Zimbabwe and South Africa but with little economic effect. The government looks on the part of the international donor community, particularly the IMF/World Bank resources for budgetary support and stabilization of the exchange rate. Like every country, the masses look upon the leader for the progress of the country. Malawians only hope is the president to achieve economic success to the benefit of the nation.
To facilitate the recovery of Malawi’s economy a luxury presidential jet, bought by late leader Bingu wa Mutharika, has been sold for $15 million by the present head of state, Joyce Banda to raise cash for the impoverished African country.