What’s wrong with Malawi?


I grew up knowing Ethiopia as one of the poorest and most miserable countries on earth. In the 1980s, Ethiopia was a hunger stricken country which needed world-wide fundraising campaigns, involving even big names like Michael Jackson, to save its people from hunger.

Until today, Ethiopians are still found at refugee camps around Africa, including at Dzaleka in Dowa, and cases of Ethiopians being caught trying to cross borders illegally into Malawi are still common.

Reading Ethiopian history today, I learn that up to 1 million people died of starvation in the country during the famine of the 80s.


From 1974 when Haile Selassie was deposed by Mengistu Haile Mariam, up to 1995, Ethiopia has persistently been plagued with civil war, political conflicts and droughts.

Since 2005, however, the country has embarked on a serious rebuilding programme that has turned it into one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.

Despite being landlocked and dependent on agriculture like Malawi, Ethiopia has defied the odds and has grown tremendously over the past 10 years to become the largest economy in eastern and central Africa.


According to the International Monetary Fund, Ethiopia has been one of the fastest-growing non-oil-dependent African economies since 2007. Following a visit to Ethiopia in September this year, an IMF team stated that Ethiopia’s state-led development model has delivered rapid and broad-based growth over the years.

The team also noted that the model has reduced poverty significantly, while keeping inequality low and that the outlook for Ethiopia remains highly favourable, reflecting its significant economic potential and productivity-enhancing investments and reforms.

The unique thing about the development in Ethiopia is that it is fully driven by Ethiopians themselves and largely funded using local resources.

In energy for example, Ethiopia has successfully mobilised local resources and financing from Ethiopians in the Diaspora to completely end its power problems through implementation of massive electricity generation projects.

From a total power generation capacity of just 501 megawatts in 2005, Ethiopia is set to become one of Africa’s largest producers with the construction of the Gilgel Gibe III Dam which when completed in 2016 will add 1,870 megawatts to the country’s power production.

In the past three years, Ethiopia has completed the construction of three windmill farms which are producing 360 mw of electricity and has also just announced plans to construct four new farms to produce 540 mw of power.

Ethiopian Airlines, which is 100 percent owned by the Ethiopian government, is now the largest, most profitable and best run airline in Africa with a network of 82 passenger destinations.

The airline has traditionally been free from government interference, even during times of turmoil. Whereas many African state owned airlines are poorly run, Ethiopian has remained professionally managed, leading the Christian Science Monitor to term it in 1988 a “capitalist success in Marxist Ethiopia”.

In July this year during his historical visit to Ethiopia, United States President Barack Obama visited Ethiopian Airlines and toured its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which the airline is calling “Africa First.”

Ethiopian now has 13 Dreamliners in operation, the largest in Africa, and has an additional eight on order. Obama expressed his admiration for Ethiopian Airlines and appreciated the business relationship between Ethiopian Airlines and Boeing.

Under the Ethiopian government’s Growth and Transformation Plan, a University Capacity Building Programme was initiated in 2005 under which 13 new public universities have been constructed and opened for enrolment around the country, with a capacity of 150,000 students.

The Ethiopian government has since announced a new plan to construct a further 11 new universities beginning 2016.

Construction of the universities is expected to be completed within two years and priority will be given to science fields. Upon completion, university enrolment capacity in Ethiopia will increase to 600,000 in regular programmes alone and will raise the number of higher learning institutions to 42.

Commuters in Addis Ababa have already started using the Awash Woldia/ Hara Gebeya Railway line which has been constructed at a cost of US$1.7 billion by the Ethiopian government, connecting the towns of Awash and Woldia through Addis Ababa.

The new railway line will connect northern Ethiopia with central areas. It will also link the northern and eastern transportation network of Ethiopia.

Visiting Addis Ababa, the boom in development is visible and clear as it has also extended to new high rise buildings and highways in the capital city.

With 51 years of independence without war or civil conflict, Malawi remains one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.

Coming from a generation that once looked at Ethiopia as a backward and miserable country, it really pains to see the country now miles ahead of Malawi in development. What is really wrong with Malawi? #ThumbsDown to myself and my fellow Malawians!

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