Citizens give bleak outlook on Mw's economy in Afrobarometer report

People at Lilongwe Central Market
  • Negative assessment of country’s overall direction shared by people from all political parties
  • Only development & implementation of policies to improve people’s economic welfare will convince them things are getting better.

A recent Afrobarometer national survey conducted in the late 2019 has indicated that Malawians’ perceptions of their country’s economic life regardless of respondents’ gender, urban or rural residency, and political party affiliation continue to be bleak.

The Afrobarometer team in Malawi, led by the Centre for Social Research at the University of Malawi, interviewed 1,200 adult Malawians in November and December 2019.

It showed that the majority view of more than eight out of 10 Malawians translating to  84 percent, say the country is going “in the wrong direction.”

The same majority 84 percent disclosed that the country’s economic condition is bad, including almost half as 48 percent described it as “very bad.”

Six of 10 respondents translating to 61 percent said they expect economic conditions to be worse in 12 months’ time, including 41 percent who think they will get “much worse.”

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, most people interviewed branded the national economy and their personal living conditions as bad, and a majority expected things to get worse.

People have to walk long distances in search for basics such as water like the women in this photo 

Respondents in the study gave government uniformly poor marks on its management of economic issues, and suggested it must look for new strategies to end the country’s economic malaise.

Nearly eight out of 10 Malawians (79 percent) indicated the government is doing a poor job of reducing the gap between rich and poor.

About three in four Malawians described its performance as “fairly” or “very” bad when it came to keeping prices stable, creating jobs and managing the economy

“Most Malawians say the government is doing a poor job on economic issues, including managing the economy (74%), creating jobs (75%), keeping prices stable (77%), and narrowing gaps between rich and poor (79%)” read the report.

Respondents were asked: Would you say that the country is going in the wrong direction or going in the right direction? 

According to the report, this negative assessment of the country’s overall direction is also shared by people belonging to all political parties even among respondents who were close to the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at the time of the survey.

Seven out of 10 translating to 71 percent saw the country as moving in the wrong direction, this proportion reaches nine out of 10 among supporters of the former opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) (93%) and the United Transformation Movement (UTM) 90 percent.

The report noted that popular assessments of the economy were typically overwhelmingly negative since Afrobarometer surveys began in 1999 with 2008 being the only exception when views were almost evenly divided (47 percent bad, 42 percent good.

The narrowing gap between the rich and poor made respondents to rate government poorly on economic issues

This was attributed to the government’s successful agricultural program which resulted in economic growth of more than 99 percent but negative evaluations climbed sharply after that, peaking at 86 percent in 2017.

About 77 percent of UTM supporters and 80 percent of the DPP during the time of the study were somewhat less likely to see the country’s economic condition as bad than 86 percent of the MCP and respondents who feel close to other parties at 86 percent.

It recommended that it is not enough for the government to inform the population that economic conditions are improving.

The report further stressed that only development and implementation of effective policies to improve people’s economic welfare will convince Malawians that things are getting better.