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Malawi Remains the World’s Poorest Peaceful Country

The first two years of Mr Lazarus Chakwera’s term offer discouraging insights into just how difficult it is for even a well-intentioned leader to root out entrenched graft and invigorate a sclerotic farming economy in the face of a changing climate. Part of Malawi’s problem is that it is small, landlocked, resource-poor and dependent on neighbours that have often fallen into conflict. Paul Collier, a development economist, has argued that Malawi would struggle to grow rich even if it had the best governance and policies. Mr Chakwera admits he has made no progress on his three main priorities of providing jobs, creating wealth or improving food security. The main reason, he says, has been a “consortium of crises”. First the covid-19 pandemic slammed the economy, driving growth down from 5.4% in 2019 to 0.9% the following year. Then came Ana, one of the increasingly frequent tropical storms that washed away crops, harming food production, as well as hydropower stations that provided 30% of Malawi’s electricity, leading to blackouts. Third was the war in Ukraine, which pushed up the price of fertiliser and fuel, two of Malawi’s biggest imports, straining its foreign-currency reserves. Now fuel and fertiliser are running out. “My dream has not really happened as it should have,” Mr Chakwera says ruefully.