Elyvin Nkhonjera – Transforming Malawi’s low value stones into a million dollars


Mining has in recent years become increasingly salient in Malawi due to its potential to significantly contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), with a growing number of small, medium to large scale mineral exploitation and explorations. Existing national data indicates that Malawi has significant potential reserves of various minerals including gemstones such as such as Rose Quarts, Clear Quartz, Blue Aquamarine, Rubies and Sapphire. The extractive/mining sector’s contribution to the country’s GDP grew from as low as 1% in 2001: to about 3% in 2004 and to 10.8 % in 2010 and now it went down to 0.9 % due to the suspension of mine operations at the Kareyerekera project. The projections indicate that a well-managed extractive/mining sector could contribute between 20 and 30 % to Malawi’s GDP in the next five years with the potential to overtake agriculture as a major source of foreign exchange in the country.[1] This has potential to unlock both economic and social benefits for the people of Malawi. The extractive industry presents a catalytic opportunity for women’s economic empowerment through enterprise development in and around the sector.

For the past 20 years, Malawi Women in Mining (MAWIMA) have been mining these gemstones at a small scale. However, these rocks are usually sold to middle men in their raw state at a price of one USD per Kg. These gemstones are further exported to China where after processing they are used to make necklaces, ear rings and other ornamental products. The gemstones that are considered low value are left at the mine site as waste materials or sometimes sold at 50 Cents per Kg. If these gemstones were to be cut and polished in Malawi would be sold at a minimum of 50USD per Kg for the low value ones, and the higher value ones could go as higher as 100 USD per Kg. Therefore, this paper aims at identifying the opportunities that these stones can be mined and processed in Malawi and further create local, regional and overseas market hence maximizing revenue collection from the sector while on the other hand economically empowering women.

[1] Tilitonse (2013); Political Economy Analysis of mining in Malawi; Project Thematic Report