Malawi, a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, is defined by its topography of highlands split by the Great Rift Valley and enormous Lake Malawi. The lake’s southern end falls within Lake Malawi National Park – sheltering diverse wildlife from colourful fish to baboons – and its clear waters are popular for diving and boating.
Malawi by 2063 aims to be an inclusively wealthy and self-reliant industrialized upper-middle-income country, vibrant knowledge-based economy with world-class urban centres and tourism hubs, a united peaceful and patriotic people with effective governing systems and institution and an environmentally stable economy.
While these may be the expectations for a futuristic Malawi, these are the current realities on the ground that you should know if you are planning a move to Malawi as an expat.
LIVING IN MALAWI
What do you enjoy most about Malawi, how’s the quality of life, are there any negatives?
Malawi is peaceful and nice, and the people are warm. The country is very green both the city the villages. This is because the place has not been fully developed so you drive around and see trees and its lovely love the lakeside and the parks. I enjoy travelling to the lakeside to enjoy the environment as well as visiting the parks to see the animals. Like any country it has its own issues like lack of good roads, stable water and electricity are some the issues to expect here. However, unlike most African countries, Malawi is a very organized country with strong governance institutions. This is a country in Africa where the opposition wins the elections after appealing the results in court, which must tell you a lot about the country. They are very Democratic. The judiciary is independent of the president. The court’s army and police are independent unlike in many African countries. It is amazing
One of the major cons of living in Malawi is the tardiness of the people. If a Malawian says tomorrow, Just be rest assured it will take about two weeks. I remember one time, we gave a tailor here materials to do uniforms for my son and he said it was going to be ready the following day, it took him three weeks. We also got a carpenter to do nets and build the wood around the bed to hold the nets. He gave us a 1week time frame. It took him five weeks to complete the task. And this sluggishness cuts across almost everything in the country. If you are moving to Malawi from a fast-paced environment, you will have to brace yourself.
How do you communicate with the locals? Is English the official language?
Most educated Malawians if not all speak English but the national language that you must also learn is Chichewa as it is widely spoken in Malawi by everyone. The uneducated ones speak mostly in Chichewa.
Is the city safe for foreigners? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
The city is relatively safe for visitors and expatriates can go anywhere but you have to adhere to security measures both at home and when travelling as well.
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How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options to commute? Do you need to own a car?
As an expatriate, having a car is a MUST the public transport system is not the best. You have buses that take people from one part of the town to the other and then you have the unmarked taxis. As an expat only take taxis recommended by a friend without which you could easily fall into the hands of thieves or robbers. The good thing about the location of Malawi is that you can plan road trips to Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, South Africa if you have a 4X4.
What’s your opinion on healthcare?
The health care system is not up to standard as well, if you have pre-existing conditions make sure you come with your medication. There are however some good hospitals to go to but most serious cases are referred to Kenya or South Africa as they are neighbouring countries to Malawi.
Which are the best neighbourhoods for expats to live in the city in your opinion and how would you rate accommodation in the City?
In Malawi as an expatriate, I would advise you to live in area, 3, 10, 12, 43, new 43. These are UN vetted so they’re really safe.
What’s the cost of living compared to your home country? What are the things you find really affordable here?
The cost of living here is affordable, housing is a bit expensive for good housing in expat areas. But you can get it cheap in other areas, food is relatively cheap here when you go to the markets. But buying from the supermarket here is very expensive as EVERYTHING is IMPORTED and also you don’t get to see some things you need; you have to really bring in your stuff as locally buying household furniture is very expensive.
What’s the minimum salary to accept to guarantee a decent standard of living in Malawi?
USD 4000 a month for entry-level jobs will help you live in decent accommodation and save some money. Note this is the same rate that most international UNVS get so you could live on this as a beginner.
Are you part of any associations or do you associate solely with expats?
We have a Cameroonian association here we meet monthly and have fun, talk about Cameroon and catch up. Apart from that, I have mostly expat friends and few nationals who have studied abroad as that also makes a difference.
LIVING WITH FAMILY
How did your spouse and kids adjust to their new home?
They adjusted quickly as the kids are in international schools adjusting is not that difficult. But you know the change from Tanzania to Malawi was huge, so it took time for them to settle. we know that we are a mobile family so mentally we know after three or four years we have to move its part of the fun as well.
My kids have already made new friends and are enjoying the place; they miss Daresalam though as our house was on the beach and had a pool. They always say we want to go back to Tanzania; we miss the beach.
What’s the education system like? Would you recommend local schools?
Local schools are a NO, as standards are very low. If your kids come here, you have to get them to the international schools which are not cheap ranges from 17 to 21 thousand USD a year. This is one thing to pay attention to in your contract if the office will pay for the kids or not.
How are you as a family impacted by the pandemic?
We didn’t really feel it, as we are still here and am still working from home. However, the kids are bored, they miss their friends and school. we also miss our social life as we like organizing or hosting parties. we also miss church as we don’t go anymore due to COVID apart from that we are fine. The main thing was that we couldn’t go on holiday as planned, we had planned a trip to Europe, but it had to be cancelled.
As an African/Cameroonian expat, how do you (in the future) plan to impact your home country considering the African diaspora is vital in the development of Africa?
whenever I am in Cameroon, I try to either go on radio or TV and educate young Cameroonians about careers. I do review Cameroonian’s CVs and coach them for interviews. I have helped and supported many Cameroonians pick up their dream jobs I do this as passion. when there are any workshops that need experts to talk about career development, I readily make myself available. I feel Africans should not think they can change their country only by changing governments, yes participating in governance issues is relevant but we need to start by doing small things like supporting the young ones to grow as well as investing back home and not only wait and say the government is bad or there are no jobs.