Malawi Country Report
Malawi depends on foreign donors for about 40% of its budget but has suffered fresh aid suspensions since the 2013 "cashgate" corruption scandal until 2017. Socioeconomic pressures and government service delivery challenges, including demands for electoral reforms, increase localised protest risks. Further incidents of violent food-related unrest are likely around access to maize at state-run depots. Malawi faces significant food crisis linked to drought and floods amid the El Niño weather phenomenon. Tobacco is Malawi's major export commodity, with sectors such as mining pursued as growth areas. Oil exploration has been the subject of a contract review, and a boundary dispute with Tanzania over Lake Malawi has yet to be resolved.
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 will most certainly escalate among civil servants. 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.
No major non-state armed groups are active in Malawi, with the terrorism threat being minimal. Renewed fighting between government forces and Mozambican National Resistance (Resistência Nacional Moçambicana: RENAMO) militants in neighbouring Mozambique has led to an influx of refugees into Malawi. In March 2016, UN refugee agency UNHCR indicated that refugee numbers in Malawi had climbed to nearly 10,000, with most arriving in Kapise, some 5 km from the joint border. The influx of refugees has led to the reopening of a camp at Luwani in 2016. Malawi and Mozambique have reached an agreement to repatriate the remaining 3,000 Mozambican refugees back to their home country.
A previously mostly 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. Malawi points to an 1890 colonial agreement as evidence of its claim, but Tanzania believes the boundary should lie in the middle of the portion of territory between them. Military conflict is unlikely, with diplomatic avenues and regional mediation being pursued. Seeking a ruling from the International Court of Justice has been raised as an option if the dispute drags on.
An economic rebound and improved crop production have reduced the risk of mass protests over food shortages and rising living costs. However, the persistence of corruption cases and demands for pay rises by civil servants amid power blackouts pose a risk of intermittent protests, resulting in the blocking of major roads and damage to vehicles, including from stone throwing. Civil society and religious movements are increasingly yielding leverage to mobilise for mass protests. However, the risk of widespread damage to property because of protests is limited because mass demonstrations are well-controlled to ensure that they operate within the law.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
It should also be noted that there is very limited tourist infrastructure outside of large urban centers. Even main urban areas may face shortages in power and electricity.
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.
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz