Malawi is one of the world's least developed countries, ranked 171st out of 187 countries according to theUNDP Human Development Index 2011 and is among the countries with the highest population density in Africa with a population estimated to be 15 million inhabitants. In 2011, about half of the population was estimated to live under the poverty line. In the last two years, Malawi's economic environment has continued to weaken. Growth has been slowing down from a peak of 8.9% in 2009 to an estimated 4.3% in 2011. Joyce Banda made history becoming in April 2012 Malawi's first female president and only the second woman to lead a country in Africa. The new administration has moved swiftly to restore macroeconomic stability and released this year, in addition of the Malawi Growth and development Strategy (MGDS) II that runs from 2011/12 to 2015/16, the Malawi Economic Recovery Plan which focuses on a number of prioritised economic sectors with high impact on the resumption of growth.
Agriculture is the backbone of Malawi’s economy, accounting for about 36% of the gross domestic product. Therefore, the Country Strategy Paper for Malawi (2008-2013) , which presents the strategic framework for cooperation between the Government of Malawi and the European Commission (EC) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), will focus on agriculture and food security in addition to regional interconnection, in particular road infrastructure, as main priorities. The EC is committed to continue the use of general budget support in Malawi to consolidate and improve the country's macro-economic situation, to strengthen its public finance management systems and to carry out policy reforms in the areas of education and health. Other activities will focus on good governance, institutional capacity-building, the fight against HIV/AIDS as well as investment and trade.
The multi-annual indicative programme for Malawi under the 10th EDF (following the End-Term Review that took place in 2011-2012) amounts to €605.49 million to address these priorities.
Cross-cutting issues such as children's rights and gender equality, environmental concerns and institutional development have also been integrated in the majority of EC-funded programmes in Malawi.
The Country Strategy Paper for Malawi (2001-2007) focused on agriculture, food security and natural resources as well as transport and infrastructure under 9th EDF funding. General budget support has also been provided to stabilise and turn around the macro-economic situation and to foster reforms in public finance management as well as in social sectors (namely: health and education).
General budget support has been instrumental for Malawi to meet the criteria required within the framework of the HIPC Initiative for heavily indebted poor countries in August 2006, making the country eligible for full debt relief. It has also contributed to redressing the macro-economic situation and to creating fiscal space for pro-poor and pro-growth expenditure.
Against the background of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the EC gave its contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and supplemented it via the EC-funded Malawi National Blood Transfusion Service (MBTS) project. This project was designed to provide adequate supplies of safe blood in order to meet the needs of the country's central and district hospitals. Since the beginning of 2005, all four central hospitals and 80% of the district hospitals receive their entire blood supplies from MBTS. For that, five mobile teams collect more than 2,500 units of blood per month from voluntary low risk blood donors. Moreover, three new Blood Transfusion Centres are about to be completed in the in Malawi's major cities.
With up to 85% of the population living in rural areas, Malawi is one of the least urbanised countries on the African continent and one with a very high population density. Approximately, 90% of households depend on income derived from farming and demand firewood for cooking. This has exerted pressure on the environment leading to deforestation resulting in soil erosion and declining soil fertility and consequently an adverse impact on water supplies in terms of quantity and quality as well as a loss of biodiversity. The Improved Forest Management for Sustainable Livelihoods programme (€9 million) addresses poverty and forest degradation by promoting greater community involvement in the management of forest resources. The Farmers Income Diversification Project and the Income Generating Public Works Activities are two flagship projects aimed at boosting income of rural population via the diversification of agriculture and the cash for work respectively.
Of great relevance is another flagship project, National Initiative for Civic Education, which is quite unique, aimed at empowering citizens through a series of civic education activities covering a wide range of subjects, including voter education.
For further details on projects and programmes in Malawi funded from the European Development Fund and the general budget of the EU, please visit the project's section of the website of the Delegation of the European Union to Malawi.
Other sources of information
More information on EU relations with Malawi is available on the pages of the Delegation of the European Union to Malawi, which is also responsible for co-operation activities in the country.