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Malawi is a small, landlocked country in south eastern Africa, bordered by Tanzania, Zambia and Mozambique. A former British protectorate, this country, approximately one and a half times the size of Ireland, is home to just over thirteen million people. Twenty per cent of Malawi is covered by Lake Malawi (formerly known as Lake Nyasa). The people of Malawi are dependent on Lake Malawi for economic and social networks, and much of the country’s life is dominated by the lake. The economy is still heavily dependent on a small group of crops; notably maize, tea, tobacco and sugar. The majority of the population’s food is based on maize. This can lead to malnourishment as well as other economic problems for Malawi.

Irish Aid’s cooperation with Malawi began in 2002, after a spell of food shortages led Irish Aid to begin an emergency aid programme. However, the underdeveloped nature of the economy means that Irish Aid now have a constant bilateral agreement with Malawi. Malawi is one of the poorest nations in the world, and is particularly plagued by famine owing to food shortages, flooding and drought, as well as HIV/AIDS. To facilitate the needs of Irish Aid, Ireland established an embassy in the capital city, Lilongwe, in 2007. 


Population 13.2 Million
Area 118,848 km2
Human Development Rank 164/177 (0.549)
Life Expectancy 46.3 Years
Infant Mortality Rate 79 (per 1000)
Literacy Rate 64.1%
Adult AIDS Prevalence 14.1%

(Statistics Source: UNDP 2007/2008 Human Development Report)

Political Background

The first interaction Malawi had with Europe came in 1859, when David Livingstone, the famous explorer, pioneer and missionary discovered Lake Nyasa. Britain established a Central African Protectorate in 1891, renamed the Nyasaland Protectorate in 1907. Together with Northern and Southern Rhodesia (modern-day Zambia and Zimbabwe respectively), Nyasaland formed the Central African Federation and pushed for independence from Britain, which Nyasaland won in July 1964. Within two years, Dr. Hastings Banda, the leader of the independence movement in Nyasaland, had transformed the country into a one-party republic. In 1970 he declared himself President for Life. However, in 1993, four years before Banda’s death, reform was pushed through. Banda was forced to step down after the people of Malawi voted for parliamentary elections in favour of the one party state. The first elections were held in 1994, and since then free and fair elections have taken place. A new, more egalitarian and democratic constitution was introduced in 1995.

Current Irish Aid Projects

As Malawi is one of the poorest and under-developed countries in Africa, Irish Aid has targeted certain aspects of Malawi’s infrastructure and strategic issues in order to raise levels of economic and social development. These issues include, but are not limited to, combating a high reliance on agriculture, poor infrastructure, a high HIV/AIDS prevalence, huge population growth and susceptibility to floods and droughts. Nearly fifty per cent of Malawi’s budget is made up of financial aid form multilateral and bilateral donors, this is another issue that raises concern from the international community. In 2007, this five hundred million dollar package came from a plethora of countries and organisations including the UK, Ireland, Germany, Norway, Canada and Japan, who worked in association with the World Bank and United Nations Organisations. This can make budgeting difficult for the government as these flows of aid are often unpredictable, and the size of the aid packet varies from year to year.

Irish Aid in Malawi concerns itself mainly with the distribution of funding to NGOs (both local and international) and Malawian Civil Society Organisations that support the development of food security throughout the country. Nearly three million euro was spent on this in 2007; however this three million euro also included funding towards the process of strengthening democracy in Malawi.

Most of the funding works so as to compliment the work done by Irish NGO’s such as Trócaire, Self Help, Goal and Concern in achieving projects that are already in place in Malawi. The opening of an Irish embassy in the Malawian capital, Lilongwe, cemented the commitment of Irish Aid to the development of Malawi.


Web Resources

Irish Aid, Malawi