New York — With the world focused on fighting the pandemic, a remarkable achievement went largely unnoticed in Africa. A court in Malawi annulled a rigged election and a peaceful rerun ushered into power a popular opposition.
In June, the country’s 19 million citizens went back to the polls and chose Lazarus Chakwera, a 65-year-old theologian and politician, over the incumbent president, Peter Mutharika, who was elected in 2014.
In his first engagement with the global investment community since taking office, Chakwera spoke last month to webinar hosts Rob Hersov and Paul Hinks of Invest Africa, the world’s largest membership organization promoting investment into Africa.
Chakwera delivered a bold and confident message that demonstrated a determination to bring his country out of poverty and his receptivity to foreign direct investment to benefit the economy and the people of Malawi. He emphasized the importance of the long-term trading relationship with South Africa, which he described as “Malawi’s most important regional partner”.
Malawi, a country dependent on agriculture, has in the past two decades experienced a decline in productivity. During the same period, brutal attacks and senseless murders at farms in South Africa have caused many farmers to search for new pastures. By contrast, Malawi, dubbed ‘the warm heart of Africa’ because of the kindness of its people, has been recognized by the Global Peace Index as one of Africa’s most peaceful countries.
“South Africans are welcome to Malawi to invest in our soil.” Chakwera said in answer to questions during the webinar. “They will work with us to help us get up from the bottom, a place where we have stayed too long,” he said.
Addressing prospective investors more broadly, he said Malawi offers many opportunities to earn foreign exchange “Please get your financing and spend it here.”
He cited mining as a compelling proposition for international investors, pointing to a recent geological mapping project by an international consortium which concluded that Malawi is rich in mineral resources, including uranium, bauxite, iron ore, alluvial gold, coal, graphite, gemstones and various rare earth metals.
The mining sector has been overlooked and underdeveloped, the president said. The establishment of a new Ministry of Mines signals to investors that they are welcome and that licenses for hitherto unexploited resources can be issued to qualified and experienced extractive industry investors.
Like many Africans, Malawians have been deprived of reliable electricity. Without real development on this front, the gap between generation capacity and the demand for electricity will continue to exacerbate an already overburdened system. Chakwera recognizes that his predictions of an economic resurgence can only realized if there is sufficient electricity available to drive growth.
Between 2013 and 2018, the U.S. government through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, funded a $350 million Power Reform Project to support sector reforms and large-scale infrastructure investments. “The Millennium Challenge Account helped us a lot,” Chakwera said, and – as a result - “investors are welcome to visit and explore possibilities for clean energy using wind, solar and hydropower and we want to create public private partnerships.”
Malawi is rightfully considered one of the continent’s most beautiful and magnificent countries, accommodating a broad range of flora and fauna. The showcase is the colossal Lake Malawi (29,000 square kilometers) – an aquatic paradise bordering three countries that plays host to over 1,000 species of vibrant and dazzling cichlid fish, many of which are found in aquarium’s all over the world.
The national parks of Malawi provide a menu of wild animals including elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, cheetahs, buffalos, hippopotamuses, crocodiles and 280 species of birds, including the majestic fish eagle.
“All along our lake there are places to develop tourism destinations,” Chakwera told webinar participants. “We need investors for new hotels and lodges and between these sites we need lake transportation services and game viewing. I invite you to come and see the beauty of the lake, which stretches almost across the entire length of the country.”
Paul Hinks is the Chairman of Invest Africa US in New York City.
For Invest Africa membership inquiries and to view the full webinar interview with President Lazarus M. Chakwera contact:
Karen Taylor in London ( for Europe, Africa & the rest of the world) firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandrine Nzeukou in New York (for the US) Sandrine.Nzeukou@investafrica.com