What is the impact of corruption on Malawi?

By Burnett Munthali

In 2019, President Reverend Lazarus Chakwera promised the people of Malawi that he would end corruption. He sold this idea through his Hi-5 agenda which was highly supported by millions of citizens of this country.

How did Chakwera say he would do this? He emphasized that he would expose corrupt activities and risks. Keep the public sector honest, transparent and accountable. Stop dishonest practices. Ensure public sector employees acted in the public interest.

The twist

In a move that contradicts President Lazarus Chakwera’s stance on corruption, the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) has made a substantial payment to a firm associated with businessman Zuneth Sattar, who is currently under scrutiny for alleged corrupt practices. This transaction, involving a $4.98 million (K8.4Bn) payment, forms part of a larger deal amounting to $19.93 million (K33.6Bn) for the procurement of 32 Armoured Personal Carriers (APCs).

This information was confirmed through a document seen by the Platform for Investigative Journalism (PIJ), dated November 14. The communication, originating from the Directorate of Logistics of the MDF, bears the reference DOL/A/125/2 and is titled “Part Payment for the Supply and Delivery of Thirty-Two (32) APCs.” Colonel Lovemore Govenor Gowa, the acting Chief Logistics Officer for the MDF, signed off on this payment.

This development raises questions about the Malawian government’s commitment to combating corruption, especially in light of the ongoing investigations surrounding Sattar. The direct involvement of the MDF in this transaction, despite the broader context of corruption allegations, underscores a complex scenario in Malawi’s efforts to uphold integrity in public procurement and defence dealings.

Chakwera promised to end corruption among his Hi-5 campaign agenda

The challenge

Corruption erodes the trust we have in the public sector to act in our best interests. It wastes taxes and rates meant for important community projects. This results in poor quality services or infrastructure, or projects never getting off the ground.

It also has an indirect effect on a country’s economic performance by affecting many factors fuelling economic growth such as investment, taxation, level, composition and effectiveness of public expenditure. forces, leading to misallocation of resources.

Corruption increases income inequality and poverty through lower economic growth; biased tax systems favouring the rich and well-connected; poor targeting of social programs; use of wealth by the well-to-do to lobby government for favourable policies that perpetuate inequality in asset ownership; lower social spending; unequal access to education; and a higher risk in investment decisions of the poor. Cross-country regression analysis for 1980-97 shows that high and rising corruption increases income inequality and poverty through the above channels.

Undetected and unchecked corruption in the public sector can cause serious damage including: undermining public trust in government. Wasting public resources and money. Causing injustice through advantaging some at the expense of others.

Yes, economic growth often does have undesirable effects, such as the disruption of traditional cultures and damage to the environment, and yes, some of these are a proper moral concerns that we are right to take into account.

Malawi’s Corruption Perceptions Index

Level Of Corruption Perception (2022)

Governments sometimes manipulate GDP data. For example GDP data can be manipulated through the calculation of price indexes. They can stop publishing important data prior to elections. They try to abolish independent statistics bureaus. They try to add questions that will bias responses to Census data. They leave in place price indexes known to be unreliable and impacting heavily and negatively on crucial pensions systems and so on.

The Transparency International Corruptions Perception rankings are used as a proxy for assessing the level of government corruption for each economy.

World Economics has converted the ranking data into an index on the scale from 0-100 where 0 is absolute corruption and 100 is no perception of government corruption.

Malawi’s level of Corruption Perception is 37.8 against a global average of 48.4.


To effectively exercise power while avoiding its pitfalls, leaders must cultivate humility as an antidote to hubris and empathy as an antidote to self-focus. Those qualities increase openness to learning and altruism—the keys to using power toward a collective purpose that transcends self-interest.

Corruption impedes investment, with consequent effects on growth and jobs. Countries capable of confronting corruption use their human and financial resources more efficiently, attract more investment, and grow more rapidly.