Bringing Prosperity to Life


Ranked 110th of 149

At a glance


110 th on the Legatum
Prosperity Index™



In the Prosperity Sub-Index rankings, Malawi performs best on Natural Environment and Governance and scores lowest on the Business Environment sub-index.

Visit our Rankings table to see how Malawi compares to other countries.

Prosperity Gap

The ‘Prosperity Gap’ takes a country's GDP and uses it as the yardstick to measure a nation's expected Prosperity Index ranking.

Malawi is a low-income country that significantly over-delivers given its wealth. It has the 6th lowest GDP per capita in the world, but delivers prosperity with the 13th biggest gap –the second biggest surplus in Africa.

In the chart above, each dot represents a country. The curve shows the general tendency with which prosperity increases as GDP per capita increases. If a country falls below the curve, then we can say that compared to all other countries, it is under-delivering prosperity for its citizens. Likewise, if a country rises above the curve, then we can say that it is over-delivering prosperity for its citizens. Learn more about the Prosperity Gap here.

Alternatively, have a look at the Prosperity Gap view on our Rankings table for a full list of countries and to see how each of them are performing on the various sub-indices.


The 2016 Prosperity Index captures Malawi as a country whose prosperity has slightly decreased over the past decade, but has nonetheless managed to keep the second biggest prosperity surplus in all Africa given its wealth.

Malawi’s performance in the Natural Environment sub-index reflects the importance that natural resources and thus tourism have for the country.
Malawi’s performance in the Natural Environment sub-index reflects the importance that natural resources and thus tourism have for the country.

The country’s best performance comes in the Natural Environment sub-index whose score far exceeds the average of its regional peers. On the other hand, the Economic Quality and Business Environment sub-indices are Malawi’s weakest areas. The economy is far too dependent on agriculture (not a good thing given the weather-related shocks that the country is frequently subjected to), while poor access to both credit and electricity makes it difficult to promote a competitive business climate.

Yet, encouraging signs come from recent policies specifically addressing such weaknesses. For example, Malawi is now part of the Accelerated Programme for Economic Integration (APEI), together with Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, and Zambia. The aim of this programme is to foster businesses within and across borders, through the elimination of trade barriers. The country also needs to decrease poverty and inequality, both persistent in the region, one of the reasons behind the falling level of satisfaction with the living standards expressed by Malawians: since 2007, the percentage of those responding positively when polled has decreased from 61% to 39%.

Another sub-index that has suffered from a stagnating economy and last year’s poor harvest is Safety & Security, where Malawi has posted a 32 rank decline over the past decade and ranks now 113th. In particular, many more people in the country have difficulty in meeting adequate basic needs than they did ten years ago: since 2007, the percentage of those having problems getting access to adequate shelter and food has increased from 23 to 53% and from 51 to 72%, respectively.

Like many of its peers in the region, Malawi still has to cope with one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates, symptoms of a health sector that remains under-developed and in urgent need of improvement. Yet, the Index has recorded some improvements in this area: for example, life expectancy at birth has increased from 51 to 64 years, and the percentage of Malawians with access to improved sanitation facilities is now at 41%: still a low level if compared to the world average of 73.3%, but not so low if considered that the regional average in Sub-Saharan Africa is a mere 32.9%.

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How to read this graph:
When comparing multiple countries on a spider chart, data points that appear
further away from the center represent a better performance to the points that are closer to the center.