Malawi President Heads to the UK for a Virtual Summit Citing Poor Network at Home

Malawi’s President, Lazarus Chakwera stunned his countrymen when he chose to travel to the United Kingdom for a virtual conference, citing an unreliable network connection in the country he’s leading as reason for his decision.

Chakwera is expected to attend the Education Summit hosted by the British government, as Malawi is one of the beneficiaries of the programme. He said staying back home may deny him access to the summit.

The President also raised more eyebrows when he chose his wife and daughter as part of a 10-man delegation to the United Kingdom, but reportedly dropped his Minister of Foreign Affairs.

In his explanation, he said his wife is ill and his daughter is expected to provide company and physical support for her in the UK.

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Internet Connection: Malawians’ Struggle

Less than 20% of Malawians have access to the internet, with the network access declared as stable in the country, despite the very low number of people on it.

The landlocked Southern African country, which has a population of about 18m people has just 13.8% of its population with an access to the internet as of 2018, according to figures of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). This is said to have grown to 15% as at January 2020. Internet speed is also slow in the country, with Inclusive Internet Index 2020 report placing the average fixed broadband upload speed in Malawi at 7.4 Mbps, while download speed is 7.7 Mbps.

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Mobile upload speed is placed at 8.7 Mbps, with download speed of 5.4 Mbps. Malawi is ranked very poor on all four of its indicators: internet availability, affordability, relevance, and readiness.

In addition to the deplorable state of its internet, access to electricity is also poor, with less than 15% of the country having access to power supply. The cost of data subscription is also high with a February 2020 figure placing it 10GB for $22 with both Airtel Malawi and Telekom Networks Malawi (TNM).

Chakwera, a former opposition leader, emerged President in June 2020 after a keenly contested election against former President, Peter Mutharika.

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