Malawi - Economy and Education
Malawi's economy is dominated by agriculture. 90% of families are subsistence farmers, most growing maize as their main crop. Although there is fertile land, the high population density, the small size of farms, inadequate access to credit and high dependence on rainfall constrain production. The country's GDP per capita is about $600 (ie £1 per day per person).
90% of the country's export income is derived from agriculture. The main exports are tobacco (60%) tea, sugar, cotton and coffee. Diversification into other cash crops has been limited. Industrial growth is held back by inadequate raw materials, poor transport infrastructure, lack of engineering and marketing capabilities and problems of access to capital. A recently opened uranium mine will increase the value of exports by 60%.
International loans and aid contribute about 30-40% of the national budget. The previous government borrowed heavily, creating both a high international debt burden and also high local interest rates that prevent private investment in the economy. The economic and anti-corruption reforms of the present government have qualified Malawi for the debt relief program agreed at the 2005 G8 summit. There has been a 7% growth in the economy in each of the last three years and inflation has come down to under 9%.
Economic development is dependent on improved education and training for the population. Free universal primary education (8 years) was introduced in 1994 and enrolment has reached 82%. But facilities are poor and there is a lack of teachers. Many children do not complete primary schooling. The literacy rate among young people has reached 76%. For adults, it is 64% - 75% for men and 54% for women.
Pupils have to pass the Primary School Leaving Certificate to be selected for a government secondary school (4 years). They also have to pay fees for this stage of their education. Only 25% get into secondary schooling. There are a limited number of places available in various vocational colleges and the two universities.