Is There Anything Like Refugees Taking Away Business From Malawians?

Refugees in Malawi

Business refers to an enterprising entity or organization that carries out professional activities. They can be commercial, industrial, or others. For-profit business entities do business to earn a profit, while non-profit ones do it for a charitable mission.

The success of your business often depends on how well you connect with customers and meet their expectations. Positive customer experiences will boost your sales and raise your profile in the marketplace as a trustworthy, high-quality business worth buying from.

Refugees back to their camp

The nationwide relocation of refugees followed a directive issued by the Government of Malawi on 27 March 2023 to enforce its encampment policy. The directive required all refugees and asylum-seekers residing in urban and rural areas to return to the Dzaleka refugee camp by 15 April 2023 or face enforced relocation.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that as of May 2023, Malawi hosted over 50,600 refugees and asylum seekers, with over 32,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, nearly 11,000 from Burundi, and over 6,000 from Rwanda.


Some Malawians supported the government’s directive to relocate the refugees back to Dzaleka refugee camp. They claimed that refugees were taking over businesses from Malawians.

Others defended the refugees by pointing out that their rights are written down in the 1951 Refugee Convention and in human rights treaties. These rights deal with the possibility of staying in the host country and not being returned to the country of origin (e.g. non-refoulement), education, health care, housing, employment, and family among other issues.


After the refugees left for Dzaleka refugee camp, many shops remained closed and vacant in various locations. However, according to my observations, I am surprised that Malawians who claimed that foreigners had taken over their small businesses cannot occupy those spaces.

On the other hand, those who have taken a bold step to venture into shop businesses abandoned by the Burundian and Rwandan nationals can only manage a handful of groceries or in one corner, thereby attracting few or no customers at all. Many people enjoyed making loud noise but they do not have the financial muscle to do business. Those who have finances have very little capital to reclaim the businesses they said were being taken over by foreigners.


The people of Malawi must learn to take a bold step and enter into the business world and contribute to the economy of this country. We have to remove the mindset of jealousy and fear and move forward with speed.

There is a need for Malawians to be creative and innovative in business other than relying on someone else to do it for them. We can learn from the people of Burundi, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, India, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Tanzania. There is money in Malawi but many people are sitting on great opportunities of doing business because we are dormant.


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) works to protect refugees, displaced, and stateless people by advocating for their rights. We work with governments and partners to advise on and strengthen laws and national systems and help provide services. Through this, we help ensure displaced people can access documentation, education, work, and health care.