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Honorable Dr A.G. Nga Mtafu, Minister of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife

Interview with Honorable Dr A.G. Nga Mtafu,
Minister of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife
Read our exclusive interview


Honorable Dr A.G. Nga Mtafu,
Minister of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife

Off Convention Drive
P.O. Box 326
Lilongwe, Malawi
Tel: +(265) 782 702 / 782 332
       +(265) 781 073 / 781 295
Fax: +(265) 780 650
E-mail :
Web site :


The Republic of Malawi is a land locked country in Africa, situated South of the equator sharing borders with Tanzania to the North, Zambia to the West and Mozambique surrounding its Southern region. Malawi, with a population of 12 million has a total surface area of 118,428 sq. km, one fifth of which is covered by rivers and lakes. Lake Malawi stands out with its 570 km of length and width varying between 16 and 80 km. Out of the total area, 25% is arable, 20% suitable for meadows and pastures and 50% covered by forest and woodland. The climate is subtropical, with a dry season between May and October and most of the rainfall occurring between December and March. Average maximum temperatures in the Southern lakeshore vary between 21 degrees Celsius during June/July to 27 degrees Celsius in October/March. In plateaux and mountain areas, these averages can be significantly lower.

Since Malawi changed its system of Government from one party rule to democratic multiparty system in 1994, government has shown commitment to develop the tourism industry by creating the Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife and is taking steps to exploit the tourism potential in the country. The Ministry will embark on an integrated approach to ensure development of high quality tourist facilities and upgrading the existing ones.

Role of Tourism in the Economy

The tourism industry is still in its infancy in Malawi but it offers a great potential for the development of the country both as a foreign exchange earner and for provision of employment. Tourism offers an alternative source of income and as one avenue towards diversifying economic activities from agriculture. Development of tourism also assists in the development of the rural areas by distributing wealth from the major urban centres to rural areas. In cognisance of these factors, Government has made a decision to develop and promote tourism as one of the major economic activities.

The Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife as the line functionary responsible for policy formulation and co-ordination aims to develop and promote the tourism sector in Malawi. The ministry intends to develop the industry as a national priority in a sustainable and acceptable manner so that it will significantly contribute to the quality of life of every Malawian. Community tourism and involvement of local communities will be promoted to ensure direct benefits to rural communities. The Ministry aims for a globally competitive tourism industry, which will be a major force in the development efforts of Government.

Tourism Performance

Over the past years, the number of visitors to Malawi has been increasing from 149,834 in 1992 to 193,628 in 1996, representing an increase of 29%. Visitor expenditure also increased from MK58,900,000 (MK4=1USD) in 1992 to MK129,058,896 (MK15=1USD) in 1996, representing an increase of 119% in Kwacha value. The average length of stay of each visitor in 1996 was 6.99 days and the average expenditure was MK667. The highest number of arrivals was registered on visitors from Zambia followed byZimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa and then United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada outside Africa. Provisional figures for 1997 indicate that 250,000 visitors came to Malawi but the tourism industry has potential to receive more than 500,000 visitors and earn in excess of MK 1 billion by the year 2005.

The visitor figures recorded are quite low but there is potential for growth. This will be realised by product diversification, quality control and adoption of a new and updated strategic approach to marketing and promotion. Expenditure figures also reflect low expenditure by tourists. These figures are influenced by many factors including:

  • Low yield type of tourism that dominates the industry at present

  • Data collection methods that exist at present only capture a small percentage of the real tourist expenditure in the country

  • Visitors from neighbouring countries who do not spend much but visit relatives and friends dominate visitor numbers.

  • Most of the expenditure incurred is not recorded because they stay in informal establishments.

  • High economic leakage of income abroad especially for organised tours

  • Product diversification, establishment of a database centre, and updating of data collection instruments for the industry will assist to realise the potential of tourism in the country and facilitate availability of information that gives the true reflection of the industry in future.

    The future of the industry will depend on a number of factors. These include a continued good image of political stability and friendly atmosphere, strategic marketing influenced by quantitative factors and positive developments in accommodation and related infrastructure. It is also expected that appropriate incentive schemes will be provided to prospective investors in the sector including financial support services.

    Unlocking the true potential of tourism in Malawi is conditional to receiving substantial support and partnership from the government, private sector and community. Only if such support is visibly demonstrated will tourism in Malawi be in a position to significantly contribute to the balance of payments, create large numbers of sustainable jobs, stimulate entrepreneurship, and catalyse investment and trade.

    The implementation of these policy objectives will require funds expected to be sourced from both the public and private sectors and donor funds. The policy is designed to ensure that the role players share a common mission agree on strategies to achieve a sustainable tourism industry in Malawi.


    Major Tourist Attractions

    The country’s tourism attractiveness lies in its diversity. Malawi is endowed with a variety of natural features which provide a great potential for development of tourism. Some of the features which make Malawi incredibly attractive include:
    The Lakeshore

    Lake Malawi takes up 23,000 square kilometres of the total 118,000 square kilometres of Malawi. The lake is about 570 kilometres long and between 16 and 80 kilometres wide. It is a very large inland sea with magnificent mountain surroundings harbouring over 800 species of fish. Its crystal clear waters and fine sandy beaches are a major attraction to tourists.

    National Parks and Wildlife Reserves

    Malawi has five national parks and four wildlife reserves which offer a variety of fauna and flora. The national parks and wildlife reserves include Nyika, Kasungu, Lake Malawi, Liwonde, and Lengwe national parks, Vwaza, Nkhotakota, Majete and Mwabvi Wildlife reserves.

    Cultural and Historical attractions

    Malawians are a very friendly colourful people who stem from a number of ethnic groups and whose culture is marked by a wide range of dance forms, music, handicrafts and carvings. There are also several historical sites throughout the country.

    Natural Features and Sporting activities

    Malawi is endowed with a diversity of natural features and offer potential for the development of tourism. Tourism sporting activities include mountaineering, horse riding, angling and aquatic sports such as scuba diving, skiing and yatching.

    Urban Centre Attractions

    Surrounded by impressive mountain terrain, Blantyre city is the country’s main commercial, industrial and communications centre. Business travellers usually visit the city. Lilongwe is the capital of Malawi. It is well planned and beautifully laid out with a fine new style of architecture and potential for growth. Other urban centres include Mzuzu, the commercial city of the Northern region and Zomba, the former capital of Malawi.

    Opportunities for Tourism Development

    The successful development and promotion of the future of the industry will depend on a number of factors. These include:

    The Formation of Malawi Tourism Authority

    The formation of the Malawi Tourism authority by Act of Parliament will provide great opportunities for development and promotion of the industry. The authority will be an independent body directly responsible for development, regulation and promotion of the industry.

    Government policy on Privatisation of Tourism Services & Facilities

    Government has instituted a policy on privatisation of commercial public enterprises. The decision of Government to divest its interest in commercial tourist facilities and establishments will encourage and promote private sector investment in the industry.

    Review of Temporary Employment Permits

    Foreign investors need motivation to invest in the country. Temporary employment permits that are conducive to foreigners will attract potential investors and therefore contribute to the development of the industry.

    Formation of National Roads Authority

    The Government has formed a National Roads Authority which will ensure development of new roads and maintenance of existing roads in good condition. Inaccessibility of some areas in the country has been a major problem especially for tourism as often the inaccessible areas hold a tourist attraction of some sort.

    Rezone and enforce zoning for Tourism Development

    The whole country was originally zoned and areas were set aside for tourism. However, over the past years, haphazard developments have taken place disregarding the zoning that was done. There is an urgent need therefore to rezone the country for tourism development to ensure planned and systematic development of the industry.

    Challenges to Tourism development

    Some of the major challenges to tourism development in Malawi include:

    Opening up of new markets in the region that offer similar and better products like Zimbabwe and South Africa

    Growing concerns over lack of security and health safety among tourists

    Reduction of Wildlife populations and Environmental degradation.The reduction of wildlife populations has resulted in a rapid decline in game viewing quality in some National Parks. These problems call for tourism specific management measures.

    Unplanned lakeshore development has taken place over the past years in the form of cottages for individuals and companies. This has had a very negative impact on the overall amenity value of Lake Malawi beaches.


    Tourism is important to Malawi and to all the individuals connected with this industry; it is essential to recognise that this is a global industry, influenced by both local and international trends. The strategies and actions outlined in this policy can only be achieved through the establishment of partnerships between key parties. In establishing such partnerships, the following principles pertain:

    Government should actively promote tourism. The government at all levels must demonstrate the priority it places on tourism as a growth sector by effecting efficient policies and allocating appropriate funding to the sector in order to create an environment conducive to private sector investment.

    Tourism should be private sector driven. Tourism growth and development should be primarily directed by the principles of demand and supply, which make the private sector a major partner in the development of the industry.

    Tourism should be supportive to community involvement. Without the support and participation in tourism by the widest spectrum of citizens, the foundations of hospitality, service and facility standards will remain weak and this could be counter productive to sustainable development of tourism.

    Tourism should be conscious of the important role it plays in employment and the need for labour in tourism to be organised into associations to ensure a culture of excellence. The importance of a motivated, skilled and productive labour force should be acknowledged and supported by all stakeholders.

    Tourism should be environmentally responsible and sustainable. Sustainable tourism development should be promoted and encouraged to demonstrate in tangible ways the benefits that ecologically sensitive tourism schemes can have.

    Tourism should be Gender responsive in recognition of the important roles that both men and women play in the tourism industry


    Recognising that tourism is a global industry, the Government of Malawi will, in partnership with the private sector and local communities strive to develop the tourism sector as a national priority, in a sustainable manner, so that it will be one of the major driving forces in the development of the country and improvement of the quality of life of every Malawian.


    Overall Objective

    The overall objective of the National Tourism Policy is to optimise the contribution of the tourism industry to national income, employment and foreign exchange earnings. The policy condones creation of a favourable environment for private sector involvement in the industry, community participation and enhancing the role of the public sector in facilitating sustainable tourism development.

    Specific Objectives

    Product Development
    - Ensure systematic and planned development of the product.

    - Establish a tourism statistics database to facilitate tourism product development, marketing and business management for stakeholders.

    - Identify infrastructure requirements and direct public sector investment programmes towards addressing these needs.

    - Encourage both local and foreign investment in tourism facilities of international standards

    - Diversify the product base

    - Support conservation of wildlife to promote more nature based tourism

    Marketing, Promotion and Communication
    - Highlight the quality and variety of Malawi's natural, historic, cultural and environmental attractions in order to attract more tourists.

    - Increase awareness among local communities on the value of tourism as an economic resource.

    - Ensure production of promotional materials

    - Promote domestic tourism.

    - Explore new markets and maintain existing markets.

    - Increase the number of up market foreign visitors to Malawi in order to increase foreign exchange earnings, employment, opportunities and other socio-economic benefits.

    - Increase the length of stay and repeat visits of tourists in order to increase the economic benefits from existing tourists.

    International Co-operation
    - Co-operate with other countries and institutions at regional and international levels in jointly developing and promoting tourism in the region.

    - Ratify all international Conventions beneficial to Malawi's participation in the world tourism industry

    Ensure availability of finance to develop and promote the tourism industry for the industry’s further growth and development.

    Establish monitoring mechanisms to ensure systematic implementation of the national tourism policy.

    International Co-operation Strategies

    - Promote the sharing of tourism information, knowledge, skills and experience through regional workshops, study tours, and staff exchange programmes

    - Co-operate with other countries and institutions at regional and international levels to jointly develop and promote tourism.

    - Develop organised and co-ordinated tourism research projects

    - Co-operate with neighbouring countries in order to minimise cross border encroachment on tourism facilities especially national parks and wildlife reserves.

    - Collect international conventions and protocols to ensure effective participation of Malawi in the world tourism industry.

    - Encourage Government to allocate more resources to tourism as a potential economic growth sector.

    - Encourage private sector to allocate more financial resources to the industry

    - Boost the tourism industry by creating a financial institution to support private investment in tourism projects

    Develop monitoring channels among all stakeholders

    Specific targets

    - To increase the contribution of tourism to GDP to over 2% by 2003

    - To sustain an annual increase of 10% in visitor arrivals over the next five years

    - To increase employment in the tourism industry by 5% annually

    - To increase foreign exchange earnings of tourism from about K140 million to K500 million per annum in 2003

    - To establish tourism as a subject in school curriculum by 2000


    The Malawi national tourism policy and strategies will achieve its objectives if it is effectively institutionalised. The Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife will oversee the implementation of this policy in co-ordination with the private sector and other stakeholders.

    It is important to ensure that all role players share a common mission and agree on the outlined strategies to achieve the mission of the tourism industry. This partnership with the private sector and other role players should be nurtured to grow.

    The Ministry of Tourism, Parks and Wildlife should continue to concentrate on creating an overall environment that is conducive to tourism development and integrate tourism development with other Government and societal development programmes.

    The Ministry will further be responsible for formulating an agreed upon framework of roles, functions and responsibilities for tourism development and promotion among key role players and various tiers of Government.


    Resource requirements

    The strategy will be financed through funds derived from the public and private sector. However, funding of the Tourism sector programme of action is a major challenge in view of the current financial difficulties faced by the whole country. It would be unrealistic therefore to assume that Government would totally finance its programme of action from its own resources. Despite this, the Government has put tourism development on its Public Sector Investment programme indicating total commitment by Government to develop the industry. The major part of the programme of action will depend on support from the private sector and other co-operating partners.

    Effort will be made to solicit funding from commercial financiers through conventional financial mechanisms and institutions. Some significant categories of funding include private sector investments and grant aid. These may be concessionaire-funding arrangements provided by institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and others. The tourism sector will continue to seek assistance from co-operating partners to ensure maximum development of the industry in Malawi.


    It is proposed that annual work plans for different sections of the Department of Tourism Services should be reviewed and updated in line with this policy and strategy document. There must be specific, measurable goals. The activities of the private sector and other stakeholders should be synchronised with the national strategy. The strategy should be subjected to an annual performance audit and should be accordingly adapted. 


    Performance and prospects of Tourism Sector

  • Malawi Tourism Policy objective
    To develop sustainable tourism with a view of alleviating poverty

  • Total number of Hotel rooms (registered Accommodation facilities only) = 1,417 rooms

  • Number of Resorts = 29

    Average Occupancy rate (1998)

  • a) Bed = 37%
    b) Room = 61%

    see table


    Lack of internally recognized accommodation facilities in towns, along the Lakeshore and in major cities in the country

    Lack of adequate infrastructure, such as roads, airports, telecommunication and power, which limit the access to most of the touristic attractions throughout the year

    Lack of incentives for private investment in industry

    Shortage of adequately trained manpower to efficiently and effectively manage the tourism industry and,

    Limited direct flights to Europe and America


    Lake Malawi and Beach

  • Cape Maclear and Nankumba peninsula

  • Bird islands

  • Clean, golden long stretches of sandy beaches

  • Vast lake (570Km long and 60Km wide) almost inland sea

  • Bright coloured cichlids (over 500 species most of which are unique to Malawi)

  • Fresh water lake ideal for swimming, snorkelling, wind surfing, yatching, angling, scuba diving and other aqua sport

    Scenic landscape

  • Vast Tea Estate of Thyolo and Mulanje

  • Forest plateaux of Zomba, Vipya and Nyika

  • Mulanje Massif – 3,000m (highest in Central Africa)

  • More than 400 species of wild orchirds

  • Abundant birdlife – about 650 species

    Cultural Heritage

  • Unique culture in Africa (the most friendly and welcoming people)

  • Tribal links with Southern Africa (Ngoni in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and Lesotho, the Yao of Mozambique and Tanzania, Sena and Lomwe of Mozambique and the Nyanja also found in Zambia.)

  •  Wildlife

  • Wide variety of wildlife (though small in numbers)

  • Scenic Game Parks i.e. Nyika National Park with Unique landscape (short grass) and Liwonde national Park (boat safaris)

  • NB: Numbers of people visiting the attractions are not available.

    Lake Malawi Yatching Marathon

    This is a 500Km Yatching marathon, the world’s longest fresh water yatching marathon. Attracts competitors from Israel, UK, South Africa and other European countries. Slowly becoming a big event.


    Private Sector Involvement

    Some hotels have been involved in building ablution block, cattle water troughs and providing tap water to communities living near Lake Resorts


    Trade Fairs

  • World travel market, London

  • International Tourism Borse (ITB), Berlin

  • BIT Milan, Italy

  • Indaba Fair, Durban

  • Sydney/Melbourne Show, Australia

    Consumer Fairs

  • Reisen Hamburg

  • CBR Munich

  • Vakantie, Utretch (Holland)

  • CMT Stuttgart

  • Destination, London

  • Getaway, Johannesburg

  • Attend tourism workshop and seminars and conduct joint promotions with some SADC countries who are member of such organisations as ASA.


    General contacts

    Ministry of Tourism Parks and Wildlife
    Ex French Embassy Building
    Private Bag 326
    Tel: (265) 782
    Fax: (265) 780 650

    Department of Tourism
    Kapeni (Downs) House
    P O Box 402
    Tel: (265) 620 300
    Fax: (265) 620 947


    Queen Elizabeth Central hospital
    P O Box 95
    Tel: (265) 630 333
    Fax: (265) 631 353

    Lilongwe Central Hospital
    P O Box 149
    Tel: (265) 721 555

    Zomba Central Hospital
    P O Box 21
    Tel: (265) 523 266

    Ground operators

    Soche Tours and Travel
    P O Box 2225
    Tel: (265) 620 777
    Fax: (265) 620 440

    Central African Wilderness Safari
    P O Box 489
    Tel: (265) 781 393
    Fax: (265) 781 397

    Ulendo safari
    P O Box
    Tel: (265) 743 501
    Fax: (265) 743 492

    Makomo safari
    Private Bag 108
    Tel/Fax: (265) 721 536

    Diplomatic missions

    United Kingdom
    Malawi High Commission
    33 Grosvenor Street
    Tel: (44) 0171 491 4172/7
    Fax: (44) 0171 499 9916

    Malawi Embassy
    15 Rue de la Loi
    3rd Floor
    8-1040 Brussels
    Tel: (32) 231 0980
    Fax: (32) 231 1066

    United States of America
    Malawi Embassy
    22408 Massachusetts Avenue NW
    Washington DC 20008
    Tel: (202) 797 1007
    Fax: (202) 0976

    Malawi Embassy
    Clemow Avenue, Ottawa
    Ontario, KIS 2A9
    Tel: (613) 236 8931/2
    Fax: (613) 236 1054

    Malawi Embassy
    3-12-9 Kami-Osaka
    Kita Shinagawa
    6-Chome, Shinagawa-KV
    Tokyo 1141
    Tel: (81) 3 3449 3010
    Fax: (81) 3 3449 3220

    Major tourism training institutions

    Malawi Institute of Tourism
    P O Box 2673
    Fax: (265) 621 923

    The Malawi Institute of Tourism, formerly known as Government Hotel training School, is the only recognised tourism training institution in the country. Currently it offers 18 months Certificate courses in Front Office management, Food Production, House Keeping and Food and Beverage Management. During training students are attached to various Hotels for Practicals.

    Plans are under way to start Diploma Courses in Tourism.


    Agro-Tourism The activities of persons travelling to and staying in agricultural related places for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business or other purposes.

    Community Based Tourism The activities of persons travelling to and staying in local communities offering a unique experience to the persons for the economic benefit of the communities

    Conference Tourism Tourism for the business related travellers who make use of holiday tourist attractions and facilities and generate substantial economic benefits to that area

    Conservation Agencies Public, Private and other organisations involved in the conservation of natural resources

    Cultural Tourism The activities of persons travelling to and staying in places of cultural attraction including customs and traditions of people, their heritage, history and way of life.

    Eco-Tourism A form of specialised nature tourism that emphasises small scale operations of tours to natural areas and may include visits to places of traditional or cultural interest. Interest is placed on environmentally sensitive development and visitor use.

    Environmental Impact Assessment Study, which precedes or accompanies projects or works, the realisation of which could affect the environment and the aim of which, is to show the repercussions that they may have on the environment

    Infrastructure Permanent installations that facilitate the activities of the tourism industry e.g. road networks, airports

    Role Players Departments and organisations in the public and private sector that play important roles in carrying out tourism related activities

    Sustainable Tourism Type of tourism that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs

    Stakeholder Individuals or organisations whose interest or activities could impact on the development and promotion of the tourism industry

    Tourism The activities of persons travelling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business or other purposes

    Tourism Amenities facilities used by a tourist

    Tourism Attractions A product that is of interest to a tourist

    Tourism Industry The various business firms and establishments that wholly or in part provide goods and services to visitors, either directly or indirectly

    Tourism Product Any good or service purchased by or consumed by any person defined as a visitor

    Tourist A temporary visitor staying at least 24 hours in the country/place visited and the purpose of whose journey can be leisure or business

    Upmarket visitors Visitors characterised by high expenditure

    Visitor Any person travelling to a place other than that of his/her usual environment for less than twelve months and whose main purpose of the trip is other than the exercise of an activity remunerated from within the place visited

    Visitor expenditure Total consumption expenditure incurred by a visitor

    Zoning Division of an area into sections for a particular purpose

    Projects Description STATUS Expected benefits
    ZOA FALLS DEVELOPMENT PROJECT - Zoa Falls is on Ruo River in Thyolo District

    - The project involves construction of access steps with rails for holding on to when moving up and down the falls, the resting-place with a shade and sitting areas, toilet facilities, water tank, bridge and other facilities.
    on-going project - Improved access to the Zoa Fall

    - Increased foreign exchange

    - Increase in the length of stay at Zoa

    - Increased income for the surrounding communities through the sale of agricultural produce and handicrafts

    - Other developments such as curio making and selling

    - Provision of employment to the locals
    INTEGRATED ECO-TOURISM: LIKOMA & CHIZUMULU ISLANDS Malawi Development Corporation and Chamba Bay

    - Feasibility study that is being funded by Africa Development Bank is underway

    - The project will comprise of cultural village, golf course, casino, camping site, shops and restaurants, conference centre, water sports, micro light aeroplanes, …
    New national project - Increase in foreign exchange

    - An improvement in the attractiveness of Malawi as a tourism destination

    - Will have an impact on the diversification the tourism product
    ESTABLISHEMENT OF CULTURAL VILLAGES - Will be visited by both local and international visitors

    - Cultural villages will be developed for the purpose of depicting and preserving authentic cultural heritage of Malawi traditionally through architecture, music, folklore, rituals, arts and crafts and others.

    - Three villages depicting Yao culture, Chewa and Tumbuka culture have been earnmarked for the initial phase of the project

    - Accomodation and other hospitality services shall be provided
    New project - Active participation in the promotion

    - Active participation in the preservation and presentation of the cultural heritage by the indigenous people themselves.

    - High tourist attraction potential which will earn foreign exchange
    MWANZA TOURIST KIOSK - An infrastructure development

    - Built at an entry point in Mwanza boarder district as Tourism information service
    On-going project - Assists in tourism promotion

    - Provides employment to the locals around the area.
    CAPE MACLEAR HOTEL - Will be within Lake Malawi National Park

    - Malawi Development Corporation is the majority shareholder
    New national project - Sales revenue

    - Indirect costs from housing, pharmacy, re-starting of school and healthy centre and access road improvement.

      Read on  

    © World INvestment NEws, 2000.
    This is the electronic edition of the special country report on Malawi published in Forbes Global Magazine.
    October 30th 2000 Issue.
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