Exploring the Past to Extract Better Development Outcomes from Malawi’s Mineral Sector

Rachel Etter-Phoya, Grain Malunga

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In comparison to its neighbours, especially Zambia, Malawi’s geological potential remained largely untapped during the Federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. In Kamuzu’s thirty-year rule, he was famed for saying that “We have no minerals. The soil is our gold mine”. In the 1990s, small-scale mining was targeted for “pro-poor growth” and later, during the upturn in commodity prices, Malawi’s growth and development strategies introduced mining as a key priority area for economic growth. The 2000s saw a global move to invest in minerals; exploration in Malawi increased and the first large-scale mine began production, making significant contributions to GDP at the time. This article examines the positioning and repositioning of Malawi’s potential, explored and produced minerals in the country’s socio-economic development narrative. The more recent touted potential by some investors, government officials, politicians, and civil society and contestations between these and other stakeholders are also explored with a view to suggest possible trajectories and tensions in Malawi’s extractives sector in the future. A discussion of how Malawi’s mineral wealth might contribute to socio-economic development and sustainable growth is framed by the African Union’s Africa Mining Vision (2009) that has been informed by regional efforts, such as the Southern African Development Community Protocol on Mining (1997), both of which Malawi has endorsed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-28
JournalThe Society of Malaŵi journal. Society of Malawi (Historical and Scientific)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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