Future Generator: News covering Malawi to turn negative over the next month

Future Generator: News covering Malawi to turn negative over the next month

The ‘Future Generator’ is a highly unique and cutting-edge approach to political risk forecasting, developed by a partnership between Global Risk Insights (GRI) and Ethnographic Edge (EE). It combines local human intelligence with sophisticated data analytics to produce pinpoint accurate forecasting. By staying ahead of the curve, our readers will have more time to adapt to political events and maximize on opportunities.

The following is an analysis of Malawi.

To view the complete Ethnographic Edge graph for Malawi, click here.

The EE signal suggests a negative media sentiment towards Malawi’s political climate

On the 13th of April, EE’s sophisticated data analytics produced a signal, which stated that media sentiment over Malawi’s political environment will deteriorate over the next month. Considering the strong correlation between media sentiment and political events, EE draws the conclusion that Malawi’s political environment will take a negative turn by mid-May.

GRI Assessment of the EE Signal

GRI’s team of directors and our Malawi expert have assessed this signal provided by EE. Based on local expertise and political risk training, we agree with the data analytics produced that Malawi will begin experiencing overall negative political developments and media coverage by mid-May. This is likely due to the following reasons:

  1. A long recovery process from the El Niño-induced drought

A year after President Mutharika’s declaration of a state of national disaster caused by prolonged dry spells during the 2015/2016 season, Malawi is struggling to get agricultural production back on its feet. The El Niño-induced drought – the worst in 35 years for much of Southern Africa – drove an estimated 16.1 million people into food insecurity in the region. Despite humanitarian assistance, approximately 6.7 million people, about half of Malawi’s rural population, are still experiencing “moderate” or “severe” hunger according to a Reliefweb outlook for food security in Malawi during the period of February to September 2017.

Malawi’s agricultural sector, predominantly rain-fed and operating within the framework of a short growing season, has not only been affected by the drought itself but is under stress because of the fall in average maize price, which declined by about 11% since December 2016. In addition to the losses incurred by two consecutive years of drought, lower incomes from cash crops are to be expected this season due to the reduced area planted for tobacco and cotton. An outbreak of armyworm infestations that affected cereal crops countrywide is also pressuring agricultural production, despite an overall positive outlook of food security outcomes for the 2017/2018 consumption year according to FEWS NET.

  1. A positive economic outlook tarnished by concerns over impingements on democracy

At the conclusion of his visit to Malawi in March 2017, IMF Deputy Division Chief Oral Williams declared, “Malawi effectively addressed the worst humanitarian crisis in history”. GDP growth, which fell below 3% during the past two years, is expected to pick up in the range of 4% to 5% in 2017. Also expected to stabilize the economy is the nomination of Dalitso Katambe as Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) Governor. Yet, despite his experience as Director of Economic Planning and his reputation as a man of integrity, the nomination of Katambe at the head of the RBM has raised concerns over presidential powers to appoint all high-ranking officials, from Supreme Court judges to governor of the Reserve Bank. President Mutharika’s decision not to renew the contract of RBM Governor Charles Chuka in order to hire Katambe indeed lacked transparency.

In addition to this nomination, deemed rather arbitrary by social commentators, Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) has indefinitely postponed the highly contentious June 6 Lilongwe South East by-elections and by-elections in other constituencies throughout the country. The main reason given by the electoral commission was the government’s refusal to allocate more funds to the elections, the funds having been allocated to essential services when last year’s budget was passed. The MEC has been accused of “thwarting democracy”.


Malawi’s recovery, after a two-year long drought that severely curbed economic growth and caused a severe humanitarian crisis, is under way with positive economic outlook for 2017-2018. However, the agricultural sector is very sensitive to external shocks in the aftermath of the drought. Moreover, President Mutharika and the government have been criticised by the opposition and the press under allegations of power abuse, criticism that should only die out when funds are found to organize by-elections. By mid-May, these developments will encourage a negative turn in media coverage towards Malawi.

About Author

Constance Hubert

Constance Hubert is a research assistant for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. Her areas of interest include international political economy, the security-development nexus in sub-Saharan Africa and investment on emerging markets. She holds a M.A. from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in International Affairs and Economics and a masters degree from Sciences Po in Strategy and Risk Management.