Malawi is at a turning point in its young democratic history, with a chance to make major development progress.

Malawi’s trajectory towards self-reliance is at a critical juncture. The confluence of weak government and economic capacity is coming to a head at a time when Malawi’s population, with one of the lowest UNDP Human Development scores globally, is set to double in less than 20 years. Malawi’s young and growing population, therefore, presents either a risk for instability or potential for a demographic dividend. If Malawi does not adequately address the needs of its youth - further compounding the proportion of undereducated, unskilled, unemployed, and disillusioned young men and women - then Malawi will miss its opportunity to harness the demographic dividend critical for increasing self-reliance. If, however, Malawi can provide opportunities for youth to develop their skills, voice, and agency, while contributing civically and engaging economically, then the trajectory of the country appears positive. This latter hypothesis can only come to fruition if the Government of Malawi: 1) builds its capacity to finance and deliver social services; 2) demonstrates its commitment to accountable governance; and 3) creates an enabling environment that can partner with the private sector to drive inclusive economic growth.

The complex, overlapping, and intertwined nature of Malawi’s development challenges requires an integrated approach. The 2020 - 2025 CDCS will move away from identifying sector-specific challenges and take a more holistic approach to development that focuses on building long-term capacity and commitment for self-reliance. For example, Malawi’s critical issues around youth, gender, governance, and resource mobilization impact all sectors and activities. Like many development problems in Malawi, there is no single place to "hang" these on a results framework. Each of these themes can negatively or positively affect all other sectors and must, therefore, be addressed by all. In order to work, this integrated approach requires joint program development, shared metrics, and cross-sectoral funding.

Given this context, USAID/Malawi has made strategic choices to implement an integrated, gender sensitive, five-year CDCS. The overarching goal is: "A More Self-Reliant Malawi that is Gender-Equitable and Democratically Accountable." To help move Malawi towards greater ownership of its development challenges, USAID/Malawi has prioritized three Development Objectives: 1) Public sector is more accountable and effective at national and decentralized levels; 2) Youth lead healthy, informed, and productive lives; and 3) Private sector increases inclusive and sustainable wealth generation.

To implement the new CDCS in Malawi, USAID will partner with the interagency to leverage the full range of U.S. government development, diplomatic, and defense resources available to achieve outcomes. There are no illusions among those working in Malawi that this five-year strategy will resolve the country’s long-standing development challenges. It is expected, however, that this five-year vision can improve service delivery for all citizens, reduce some of the governance obstacles impeding development, and increase positive contributions towards sustainable economic growth. Collectively, these outcomes can put Malawi on a more positive trajectory for the future.

As the largest bi-lateral donor, the United States works in partnership with the people and government of Malawi to advance common development priorities. The 2020 - 2025 CDCS will build on successful partnerships and programs, while also making significant adjustments in its development approach. Ten strategic principles - grouped into three broad themes - will underpin the new strategy. These themes are: 1) broader partnerships - to diversify the partner base and ways in which awards are made and managed, 2) bolder selectivity - to prioritize investments where there is greater commitment and ownership, and 3) better approaches - to bring innovative interventions to complex development problems. Through this approach, USAID/Malawi will focus energies on aligning itself with new local partners (including the private sector), invest where there is demonstrated commitment and political will for change, and use an integrated approach across sectors to untangle some of Malawi’s most intractable development challenges.

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This CDCS was developed and finalized in 2020 as COVID-19 became a global pandemic. USAID/Malawi will continue to monitor its potential impact and if needed, the Mission will re-evaluate the strategic approach.