Enabling Environment for Sustainable Entreprises in Malawi

What has been done:

The enabling environment for sustainable enterprises in Malawi was assessed through a careful review of secondary data, findings from a national perception survey of workers and employers (including owners, CEOs and managers of companies), in-depth interviews and focus group discussions with relevant stakeholders in the country, and supplementary information from published and unpublished materials. The perception survey was conducted in June and July 2012 by a local consultancy firm (Dr. Richard Mussa and a team of recent graduate students) with the aim of identifying policy and advocacy strategies, and to inform the development of the EESE report. The survey focused on 8 of the 17 conditions.

The Survey and its sample:

The survey was conducted in two parts, first reviewing business owners’ needs and challenges, and second, reviewing the attitudes of workers (including professionals) with the aim of informing policy development of employers.

A total of 150 enterprises were sampled, 58 per cent of which were formal. There were 303 respondents, 68 per cent of whom were men. For 58 per cent of the sampled enterprises, workers, managers and owners were available to be interviewed. Of all respondents, 120 were workers, 81 managers and 102 company owners. Unionized respondents were in total only 18 per cent, 6.7 per cent of whom could be found in informal firms and 26.2 per cent in formal enterprises. About 57 per cent of female respondents were found in informal enterprises, whereas the corresponding proportion of male interviewees was only about 35 per cent. Data were also disaggregated by age and size of the surveyed businesses.

The majority of surveyed enterprises, 52.6 per cent, have been operational for 6 years or more, while 15.2 per cent were start-ups with 0-2 years of operations. The remainder falls under the third category grouping of enterprises that have been operational for 3-5 years. As far as the size of surveyed firms is concerned, the majority of them, 41.7 per cent, were micro enterprises employing 0-4 persons, and 34 per cent were small enterprises with 5-20 employees. Large enterprises with over 100 employees were 5.8 per cent and the remainder was medium-sized companies with 21-100 employees. About 74 per cent of informal firms were micro businesses, and the share of informal enterprises was higher in the category of start-ups. To allow for identifying possible regional differences, the survey was conducted in 4 cities/areas: Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, and Zomba.


The preliminary findings of the overall evaluation were presented, discussed and validated at a tripartite workshop held in Lilongwe in December 2012. There it was agreed that efforts should be concentrated on areas which are key for the ILO and its constituents, and which are not the focus of actions already being undertaken by national stakeholders and international donors. Emphasis for future action toward improvement was hence placed on three priority conditions:

• entrepreneurial culture
• enabling legal and regulatory environment;
• education, training and lifelong learning.

An action plan (2013-2016) with specific outputs stemming from outcomes linked to priority areas and key players for action has been drafted by tripartite participants at a December 2012 workshop. The action plan was finalized and adopted at a dissemination workshop held in March 2013 in the presence of high-level policy makers. The implementation of the action plan will address some of the main issues emerging from this assessment and will contribute to the improvement of the enabling environment for sustainable enterprises in Malawi.