In its latest World Economic Report, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says: “Sub-Saharan Africa has recorded another year of strong growth and was one of the regions least affected by recent financial turmoil and deterioration in the global outlook.”
The report says high commodity prices will buoy much of sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, but warns that South Africa will continue to stumble due to its deep ties to crisis-ridden Europe.
Like Malawi, growth in the region as a whole will pick up to 5.4 percent this year, thanks to new mineral and oil production ventures and the growth of export markets outside Europe, says the IMF.
Malawi is one of the countries on the continent that has been enjoying phenomenal growth due to positive activity in the agriculture, telecommunications and the mining sectorsâ€”with the commissioning of the Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga.
But this growth came to a halt last year after a dispute with Britain led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a freezing of millions of dollars in budgetary support which normally accounts for 40 percent of the national financial plan.
This worsened an already acute dollar shortage, hampering imports of fuel, food and medicines, and leading to a depreciation of the kwacha.
The late president Bingu wa Mutharikaâ€™s diplomatic isolation and economic plight worsened in July 2011 when police killed 20 people in a crackdown on a wave of protests against government.
Finance and Development Cooperation Minister Ken Lipenga told Parliament in January this year that the economy slowed more than the expected to 6.0 percent, partly due to high fuel prices and reduced income from tobacco prices.
The growth rate was lower than governmentâ€™s initial forecast of 6.9 percent after a 7.1 percent rise in 2010.
But a peaceful transition from late Mutharika to Joyce Banda is expected to restore donor confidence and push the IMF to put Malawi back on its aid programme suspended last year.
President Banda has already been in discussions with the IMF, the United Statesâ€”on a suspended energy grantâ€”and has met several envoys of powerful Western donors.
Today, the World Bank has organised a round-table meeting on Malawi in Washington to discuss Lilongweâ€™s economic challenges. Lipenga and Reserve Bank of Malawi Governor Perks Ligoya are expected to be on the panel.