The East African Federation is a proposed political/economic union of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Sudan. These countries form a physically contiguous block, speak similar/overlapping languages, and have similar climates and terrain. They seem like a match made in heaven for a federation and economic/currency union. But South Sudan seems the odd man out, being by far the poorest members and still rather dangerous and unstable because of ongoing conflicts with Sudan. Meanwhile Malawi appears to be an excellent match for the EAF in all the ways listed above, while being far more stable and less poor than South Sudan. So why isn't Malawi in the EAF?

This same question has already been asked and answered about Somalia, but Somalia doesn't seem like a fit for the EAF at all, even if it weren't in chaos.

1 Answer 1


Malawi had and has stronger political, economic, historical, and geographical connections with Southern Africa than with East Africa. Being less connected to the states of East Africa means there is less incentive to join a federation, in which they would likely be a marginal player.

For instance, Malawi had close connections with Apartheid South Africa, which soured its relationship with several East African States until at least the 90s. There are also unresolved border conflicts with Tanzania on Lake Malawi, which exacerbated with the discovery of fossile fuel deposits on the Tanzanian side in 2012. The main trade routes of the landlocked country run towards Mozambique to the coast or towards Zambia and Zimbabwe (eventually also connecting it with Katanga). The tri-state area of Tanzania, Zambia and Malawi, Malawis only connection to the states of the East African federation, are also less economically developed (and in parts more unstable) than other parts of their respective countries. Malawis population is concentrated in the south of the country. Malawis overall GDP per capita is also lower than Kenyas or Tanzanias, but more in line with South Sudan.

Historically, the country was less connected to the Arab trade networks of the Indian ocean. Linguistically and ethnically, there is some connection to Tanzania, but there are, to my knowledge, stronger ties with Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and even the DRC.

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