Economic governance in Malawi has never been without problems. Yet, for significant periods, the country’s development performance has been better than might be expected given its geographical location and natural resource endowments and the global context of the time. This paper argues that underlying the episodes of better performance are institutional configurations which include: centralized, long-horizon rent utilization, a disciplined economic technocracy, and an inclusive form of ethno-regional politics.
In particular, the 1964-79 phase of the presidency of Kamuzu Banda conforms closely to the concept of ‘developmental patrimonialism’, defined in this way. It tends also to support the proposition that regimes of this type are associated with relatively good development outcomes. Furthermore, the characteristics and performance of subsequent regimes (Banda II, Muluzi and Mutharika) are consistent with the emerging theory.