Malawi - Country Commercial Guide
Wholesale and Retail Trade
Last published date: 2022-08-15

Overview and Opportunities

Wholesale and retail Trade in Malawi is the second largest sector with highest sectoral contribution of about 12 percent of the country’s GDP, second to the agriculture sector.  Wholesale and retail trade is expected to grow by three percent in 2022 and 2023 after the 2020 slump due to COVID-19.  The sector relies heavily on imports from major trade partners, South Africa, and China.  This sector is expanding and presents an opportunity for investors.  Sectoral credit data shows that the sector is the second largest destination for private sector credit.  The growing population, emerging middle class, and increase in urbanization in Malawi present a readily available workforce and consumer base.  More opportunities exist for businesses, such as supermarkets and chain stores in the country for a range of goods and services. 

Travel and Tourism


The government identified the tourism sector as a key driver for sustainable economic growth and development.  Malawi Vision 2063, the country’s long term development plan, places tourism as a priority economic sector under the Urbanization pillar towards achieving inclusive growth and self-reliance.  Tourism investments are eligible for exemption of various import duty and excise taxes.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism sector contributed more than 525,000 jobs, representing close to seven percent of overall employment and serves more than 980,000 international visitors annually.  According to the National Statistics Office regional travelers make up the majority of tourist visitors, and the predominant long-haul international travelers are from India, the United States of America, and Australia.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, international tourist arrivals (overnight visitors) to Malawi plunged by 80 percent due to widespread travel restrictions and a massive drop in demand, but the situation is expected to improve in 2022.  

Potential investors in the tourism sector face significant challenges regarding land tenure and reliable data on tourism trends.  The government implemented the National Tourism Policy of 2019, to address these challenges and create an enabling environment for development and promotion of the sector.  In the medium term, the government intends to establish a semi-autonomous tourism authority aimed at improving efficiency in the tourism and travel sector.  With support from development partners, Malawi embarked on a tourism data gathering effort to help investors and government make informed decisions.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Malawi hosts nature-based and cultural heritage tourism.  The prime attractions are Lake Malawi, the third largest freshwater lake in Africa; wildlife in numerous national parks and wildlife reserves, and forest reserves; mountains and scenery; and cultural and historical attractions.  


The tourism and travel sector in Malawi are growing.  Investment opportunities in eco-tourism, hospitality, water and lake sports, wilderness safari, and tours that showcase Malawi’s natural treasures.  Malawi hosts the annual Takulandirani Malawi International Tourism Expo (MITE), to provide local and international tourism enterprises an opportunity to exhibit their products and services.  Successful enterprises will need to differentiate between tourism opportunities in Malawi and that of its neighboring countries.

Web Resources

Malawi Government Department of Tourism Site (VISIT Malawi)
Malawi Government Department of Tourism site 2
Malawi Tourism Site
Malawi Investment and Trade Centre (MITC)
Ministry of Finance (MOF)