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Republic of Malaŵi
Chalo cha Malawi, Dziko la Malaŵi
Flag Coat of arms
MottoUnity and Freedom[1]
AnthemMulungu dalitsa Malaŵi  (Chichewa)
"Oh God Bless Our Land of Malawi"
Capital Lilongwe
13°57′S 33°42′E / 13.95°S 33.7°E / -13.95; 33.7
Largest city Blantyre[3]
Official language(s) English[4]
Recognised regional languages Chichewa[4]
Demonym Malawian
Government Multi-party democracy
 -  President Bingu wa Mutharika
 -  Vice President Joyce Banda
Independence from the UK 
 -  Independence declared July 6, 1964 
 -  Total 118,484 km2 (99th)
45,747 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 20.6%
 -  2009 estimate 15,028,757 (64)
 -  1998 census 9,933,868[5] 
 -  Density 128.8/km2 (94th)
333.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 estimate
 -  Total $12.81 billion (139)
 -  Per capita $900 (218)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $4.268 billion[6] 
 -  Per capita $312[6] 
Gini (2008) 38 (low[7]
HDI (2008) 0.457[8] (low) (162nd)
Currency Kwacha (D) (MWK)
Time zone CAT (UTC+2)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+2)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .mw[4]
Calling code +265[4]
1 Population estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected.
2Information is drawn from the CIA Factbook unless otherwise noted.

The Republic of Malawi (pronounced /məˈlɑːwi/; Chichewa [malaβi]) is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Its size is over 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of more than 13,900,000. Its capital is Lilongwe, the biggest city is Blantyre. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area.

Malawi was first settled during the 10th century and remained under native rule until 1891 when it was colonized by the British, who ruled the country until 1964. Upon gaining independence it became a single-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until 1994, when he was ousted from power. Bingu Mutharika, elected in 2004, is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government. Malawi has a small military force that includes an army, a navy and an air wing. Malawi's foreign policy is pro-Western and includes positive diplomatic relations with most countries and participation in several international organizations.

Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in growing the economy, improving education, health care and the environmental protection and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.

Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labor force and government expenditures, and is expected to have a significant impact on gross domestic product (GDP) by 2010. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was tribal conflict in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had begun to form. Malawi has a culture combining native and colonial aspects, including sports, art, dance and music.



The area of Africa now known as Malawi had a very small population of hunter gatherers before waves of Bantus began emigrating from the north around the 10th century. Although most of the Bantus continued south, some remained permanently and founded tribes based on common ancestry.[3] By 1500 AD, the tribes had established a kingdom that reached from north of what is now Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River and from Lake Malawi to the Luangwa River in what is now Zambia.[9] Soon after 1600, with the area mostly united under one native ruler, native tribesmen began encountering, trading with and making alliances with Portuguese traders and members of the military. By 1700, however, the empire had broken up into areas controlled by many individual tribes, which was noted by the Portuguese in their information gathering.[10]

David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi (then Lake Nyasa) in 1859,[11] and Malawi was originally known as Nyasaland under the rule of the British.[12] In a prime example of what is sometimes called the "Thin White Line" of colonial authority in Africa, the colonial government of Nyasaland was formed in 1891. The administrators were given a budget of £10,000 per year, which was enough to employ ten European civilians, two military officers, seventy Punjab Sikhs, and eighty-five Zanzibar porters. These few employees were then expected to administer and police a territory of around 94,000 square kilometers with between one and two million people.[13]

In 1944, the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was formed by the Africans of Nyasaland to promote local interests to the British government.[14] In 1953, Britain linked Nyasaland with Northern and Southern Rhodesia in what was known as the Central African Federation (CAF),[12] for mainly political reasons.[15] The linking provoked opposition from African nationalists, and the NAC gained popular support. An influential opponent of the CAF was Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, a European-trained doctor working in Ghana who was persuaded to return to Nyasaland in 1958 to assist the nationalist cause. Banda was elected president of the NAC and worked to mobilize nationalist sentiment before being jailed by colonial authorities in 1959. He was released in 1960 and asked to help draft a new constitution for Nyasaland, with a clause granting Africans the majority in the colony's Legislative Counsel.[3]

In 1961, Banda's Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gained the majority in the Legislative Counsel and Banda was elected prime minister in 1963. The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and on July 6, 1964, Nyasaland became independent from British rule and renamed itself Malawi. Under a new constitution, Malawi became a single-party state under MCP rule and Banda declared himself president-for-life in 1970. For almost 30 years, Banda ruled firmly, suppressing opposition to his party and ensuring that he had no personal opposition.[16] Despite his political severity, however, Malawi's economy while Banda was president was often cited as an example of how a poor, landlocked, heavily populated, mineral-poor country could achieve progress in both agriculture and industrial development.[17] While in office, and using his control of the country, Banda constructed a business empire that eventually produced one-third of the country's GDP and employed 10% of the wage-earning workforce.[18]

Under pressure for increased political freedom, Banda agreed to a referendum in 1993, where the populace voted for a multiparty democracy. Following the elections, in late 1993, a presidential council was formed, the life presidency was abolished and a new constitution was put into place, effectively ending the MCP's rule.[16] In 1994 the first multi-party elections were held in Malawi, and Bakili Muluzi became president. Muluzi remained president until 2004, when Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika was elected. Although the political environment is described as "challenging", as of 2009, the multi-party system still exists in Malawi.[7] Multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections were held for the fourth time in Malawi in May 2009, and President Bingu wa Mutharika was successfully re-elected, despite charges of election fraud from his rival.[19]


Malawi is a democratic, multi-party government, currently under the leadership of President Bingu wa Mutharika.[16] The current constitution was put into place on May 18, 1995. The branches of the government consist of executive, legislative and judicial. The executive includes a president who is both chief of state and head of government, first and second vice presidents and a cabinet. The president is elected every five years, and the vice president is elected with the president. A second vice president may be appointed by the president if he so chooses, although he must be from a different party. The members of the cabinet are appointed by the president and can be from either inside or outside of the legislature.[9]

The legislative branch consists of a unicameral National Assembly of 193 members who are elected every five years, and although the Malawian constitution provides for a Senate of 80 seats, one does not exist in practice. If created, the Senate would provide representation for traditional leaders and a variety of geographic districts, as well as special interest groups including the disabled, youth and women. The independent judicial branch is based upon the English model and consists of a constitutional court, a High Court, a Supreme Court of Appeal and subordinate Magistrate Courts. There are currently nine political parties, with the Democratic Progressive Party acting as the ruling party and the Malawi Congress Party and the United Democratic Front acting as the main opposition parties in the National Assembly. Suffrage is universal at 18 years of age, and the central government budget for 2007/2008 is $1.24 billion dollars.[9]

Malawi is composed of three regions (the Northern, Central and Southern regions),[5] which are divided into 28 districts,[20] and further into approximately 250 traditional authorities and 110 administrative wards.[5] Local government is administered by central government-appointed regional administrators and district commissioners. For the first time in the multi-party era, local elections took place on November 21, 2000, with the UDF party winning 70% of the available seats. There was scheduled to be a second round of constitutionally mandated local elections in May 2005, but these were canceled by the government.[9] In February 2005, President Mutharika split with the United Democratic Front and began his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party, which has attracted reform-minded officials from other parties and is winning elections across the country as of 2006. As of 2008, President Mutharika has implemented reforms to address the country's major corruption problem, with at least five senior UDF party members facing criminal charges.[21] In 2008, Malawi was ranked 11th of all countries in sub-Saharan Africa in the 2008 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, an index that measures several variables to provide a comprehensive view of the governance of African countries.[22]

The military of Malawi consists of an army, a navy and an air wing, all considered to form different sections of the Malawian Army. Between the three forces there are approximately 5,500 military personnel, 1,500 paramilitary police and 80 aircraft, none of which are combat aircraft. The navy division is based out of Monkey Bay on Lake Malawi.[23]


Administrative divisions

The districts of Malawi, with Lilongwe (the capital) marked in red

Malawi is divided into 28 districts within three regions:

Central Region

Northern Region

Southern Region

Foreign relations

Former President Banda established a pro-Western foreign policy that is continued into 2008 and includes good diplomatic relationships with many Western countries. The transition from a one-party state to a multi-party democracy strengthened Malawian ties with the United States. Significant numbers of students from Malawi travel to the US for schooling, and the US has active branches of the Peace Corps, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Agency for International Development in Malawi. Malawi maintained close relations with South Africa throughout the apartheid era, which strained Malawi's relationships with other African countries, but following the collapse of apartheid in 1994, strong diplomatic relationships were made and maintained into 2008 between Malawi and all other African countries.[9]

President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Malawi has been seen as a haven for refugees from other African countries, including Mozambique and Rwanda, since 1985. These influxes of refugees have placed a strain on the Malawian economy but have also drawn significant inflows of aid from other countries. Donors to Malawi include the United States, Canada, Germany, Iceland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and the UK, as well as international institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, the European Union, the African Development Bank and UN organizations. Malawi is a member of several international organizations including the UN and some of its child agencies, the IMF, the World Bank, the African Union and the World Health Organization. Malawi tends to view economic and political stability in southern Africa as a necessity, and advocates peaceful solutions through negotiation. The country was the first in southern Africa to receive peacekeeping training under the African Crisis Response Initiative.[9]


The Golomoti escarpment

Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique to the south, southwest and southeast. The Great Rift Valley runs through the country from north to south, and to the east of the valley lies Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa), making up over three-quarters of Malawi's eastern boundary.[3] Lake Malawi is sometimes called the Calendar Lake as it is about 365 miles (587 km) long and 52 miles (84 km) wide.[24] The Shire River flows from the south end of the lake and joins the Zambezi River 250 miles (400 km) farther south in Mozambique. The surface of Lake Malawi is located at 1,500 feet (457 m) above sea level, with a maximum depth of 2,300 feet (701 m), which means the lake floor is over 700 feet (213 m) below sea level at some points. In the mountainous sections of Malawi surrounding the Rift Valley, plateaus rise generally 3,000 to 4,000 feet (914 to 1,219 m) above sea level, although some rise as high as 8,000 feet (2,438 m) in the north. To the south of Lake Malawi lie the Shire Highlands, gently rolling land at approximately 3,000 feet (914 m) above sea level. In this area, the Zomba and Mlanje mountain peaks rise to respective heights of 7,000 feet (2,134 m) and 10,000 feet (3,048 m).[3]

Malawi's climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south of the country and temperate in the northern highlands. The altitude moderates what would be an otherwise equatorial climate. Between November and April the temperature is warm with equatorial rains and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their peak severity in late March. After March, the rainfall rapidly diminishes and from May to September wet mists float from the highlands into the plateaus, with almost no rainfall during these months.[3]

Malawi's capital is Lilongwe, and its commercial center and largest city is Blantyre with a population of over 500,000 people.[3] Malawi has two sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lake Malawi National Park was first listed in 1984 and the Chongoni Rock Art Area was listed in 2006.[25]


Crafts market in Lilongwe

Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. The economy is heavily agriculture-based, with around 85% of the population living in rural areas. More than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from agriculture. The economy of Malawi has in the past been dependent on substantial economic aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and individual nations.[20] In December 2000, the IMF stopped aid disbursements due to corruption concerns, and many individual donors followed suit, resulting in an almost 80% drop in Malawi's development budget.[21] However, in 2005, Malawi was the recipient of over US$575 million in aid. The Malawian government faces challenges in developing a market economy, improving environmental protection, dealing with the rapidly growing HIV/AIDS problem, improving the education system and satisfying its foreign donors that it is working to become financially independent. Improved financial discipline has been seen since 2005 under the leadership of President Mutharika and Financial Minister Gondwe. However, some setbacks have been experienced, and has lost some of its ability to pay for imports due to a general shortage of foreign exchange, as investment fell 23% in 2009. There are many investment barriers in Malawi, which the government has failed to address, including high service costs and poor infrastructure for power, water and telecommunications. As of 2009, it was estimated that Malawi had a GDP (purchasing power parity) of $12.81 billion, with a per capita GDP of $900, and inflation estimated at around 8.5% in 2009.[20] Agriculture accounts for 35% of GDP, industry for 19% and services for the remaining 46%.[7] Malawi has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world,[21] although economic growth was estimated at 9.7% in 2008 and strong growth is predicted by the International Monetary Fund for 2009.[26] The poverty rate in Malawi is decreasing through the work of the government and supporting organizations, with people living under the poverty line decreasing from 54% in 1990 to 40% in 2006, and the percentage of "ultra-poor" decreasing from 24% in 1990 to 15% in 2007.[27]

A typical road in Malawi

The main agricultural products of Malawi include tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats. The main industries are tobacco, tea and sugar processing, sawmill products, cement and consumer goods. The industrial production growth rate is estimated at 10% (2009). The country makes no significant use of natural gas. As of 2008, Malawi does not import or export any electricity, but does import all its petroleum, with no production in country.[20] Beginning in 2006, the country began mixing unleaded petrol with 10% ethanol, produced in-country at two plants, to reduce dependence on imported fuel. In 2008, Malawi began testing cars that ran solely on ethanol, and initial results are promising, and the country is continuing to increase its use of ethanol.[28]

As of 2009, Malawi exports an estimated US$945 million in goods per year. The country's heavy reliance on tobacco (it accounts for about 70% of export revenues) places a heavy burden on the economy as world prices decline and the international community increases pressure to limit tobacco production. The country also relies heavily on tea, sugar and coffee, with these three plus tobacco making up more than 90% of Malawi's export revenue. Malawi's dependence on tobacco is growing, with the product jumping from 53% to 70% of export revenues between 2007 and 2008.[20][21] Other exported goods are cotton, peanuts, wood products and apparel. The main destination locations for the country's exports are South Africa, Germany, Egypt, Zimbabwe, the United States, Russia and the Netherlands. Malawi currently imports an estimated US$1.625 billion in goods per year, with the main commodities being food, petroleum products, consumer goods and transportation equipment. The main countries that Malawi imports from are South Africa, India, Zambia, Tanzania, the US and China.[20]

In 2006, in response to disastrously low agricultural harvests, Malawi began a program of fertilizer subsidies that were designed to re-energize the land and boost crop production. It has been reported that this program, championed by the country's president, is radically improving Malawi's agriculture, and causing Malawi to become a net exporter of food to nearby countries.[29] Also in 2006, international superstar Madonna started a foundation, known as Raising Malawi, that focuses on raising money and building infrastructure to help AIDS orphans in Malawi. The organization built an orphan-care center, and Madonna financed a documentary about the hardships experienced by Malawian orphans.[30] Raising Malawi also works with the Millennium Villages Project to improve education, health care, infrastructure and agriculture in Malawi.[31]


As of 2009, Malawi has 32 airports, 6 with paved runways and 26 with unpaved runways. The country has 495 miles (797 km) of railways, all narrow-gauge, and 9,601 miles (15,451 km) of roadways, 4,322 miles (6,956 km) paved and 5,279 miles (8,496 km) unpaved. Malawi also has 435 miles (700 km) of waterways on Lake Malawi and along the Shire River.[20]

As of 2008, there were 236,000 land line telephones in Malawi, and 1.781 million cell phones, which is almost 15 cell phones per 100 people. There were 316,100 Internet users as of 2008, and 741 Internet hosts as of 2009. As of 2001 there were 14 radio stations and 1 TV station.[20] In the past, Malawi's telecommunications system has been named as some of the poorest in Africa, but conditions are improving, with 130,000 land line telephones being connected between 2000 and 2007. Telephones are much more accessible in urban areas, with less than a quarter of land lines being in rural areas.[32]


Population of Malawi from 1961 to 2003 (in thousands)

Malawi has a population of over 15 million, with a growth rate of 2.75%, according to 2009 estimates.[20]

Malawi's population is made up of the Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni and Ngonde native ethnic groups, as well as populations of Asians and Europeans. Major languages include Chichewa, an official language spoken by over 57% of the population, Chinyanja (12.8%), Chiyao (10.1%) and Chitumbuka (9.5%).[20] Other native languages are Malawian Lomwe, spoken by around 250,000 in the southeast of the country; Kokola, spoken by around 200,000 people also in the southeast; Lambya, spoken by around 45,000 in the northwestern tip; Ndali, spoken by around 70,000; Nyakyusa-Ngonde, spoken by around 300,000 in northern Malawi; Malawian Sena, spoken by around 270,000 in southern Malawi; and Tonga, spoken by around 170,000 in the north.[33]

According to 2007 estimates, approximately 80% of the population is Christian, with the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian making up the largest Christian groups. There are also smaller numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, evangelicals and Seventh-day Adventists. Around 13% of the population is Muslim, with most of the Muslim population being Sunni, of either the Qadriya or Sukkutu groups. Other religious groups within the country include Jews, Rastafarians, Hindus and Baha'is. Atheists make up around 4% of the population, although this number includes people who practice traditional African religions.[34]


Infant mortality rates are high, and life expectancy at birth is 50.03 years. There is a high adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 930,000 adults (or 11.9% of the population) living with the disease in 2007. There are approximately 68,000 deaths a year from HIV/AIDS (2007).[20] Approximately 250 new people are infected each day, and at least 70% of Malawi's hospital beds are occupied by HIV/AIDS patients. The high rate of infection has resulted in an estimated 5.8% of the farm labor force dying of the disease, and HIV/AIDS is expected to lower the country's GDP by at least 10% by 2010. The government spends over $120,000 each year on funerals for civil servants who die of the disease.[21] There is a very high degree of risk for major infectious diseases, including bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, plague, schistosomiasis and rabies.[20] Malawi has been making progress on decreasing child mortality and reducing the incidences of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; however, the country has been "[performing] dismally" on reducing maternal mortality and promoting gender equality.[27]


In Malawi, primary education is not compulsory, but the Constitution requires that all people are entitled to at least five years of primary education. In 1994, free primary education for all children was established by the government, which increased attendance rates. Dropout rates are higher for girls than boys,[35] attributed to security problems during the long travel to school, as girls face a higher prevalence of gender-based violence. However, attendance rates for all children are improving, with enrollment rates for primary schools increased from 58% in 1992 to 75% in 2007, while the number of students who begin in grade one and complete grade five has increased from 64% in 1992 to 86% in 2006. Youth literacy has also increased, moving from 68% in 2000 to 82% in 2007. This increase is primarily attributed to improved learning materials in schools, better infrastructure and feeding programs that have been implemented throughout the school system.[27]


A man in Malawi playing a traditional musical instrument.

The name "Malawi" comes from the Maravi, a Bantu people who immigrated from the southern Congo around 1400 AD. Upon reaching northern Lake Malawi, the group divided, with one group moving south down the west bank of the lake to become the tribe known as the Chewa, while the other group, the ancestors of today's Nyanja tribe, moved along the east side of the lake to the southern section of Malawi. Tribal conflict and continuing migration prevented the formation of a society that was uniquely and cohesively Malawian until the dawn of the 20th century. Over the past century, ethnic distinctions have diminished to the point where there is no significant inter-ethnic friction, although regional divisions still occur. The concept of a Malawian nationality has begun to form around a predominantly rural people who are generally conservative and traditionally nonviolent.[9]

The Malawian flag is made up of three equal horizontal stripes of black, red and green with a red rising sun superimposed in the center of the black stripe. The black stripe represents the African people, the red represents the blood of martyrs for African freedom, green represents Malawi's ever-green nature and the rising sun represents the dawn of freedom and hope for Africa.[1]

A strong part of Malawi's culture is its dances, and the National Dance Troupe (formerly the Kwacha Cultural Troupe) was formed in November 1987 by the government.[25] Traditional music and dances can be seen at initiation rites, rituals, marriage ceremonies and celebrations. Soccer is the most common sport in Malawi, introduced there during British colonial rule. Basketball is also growing in popularity. The native tribes of Malawi have a rich tradition of basketry and mask carving, and some of these goods are used in traditional ceremonies still performed by native peoples. Wood carving and oil painting are also popular in more urban centers, with many of the items produced being sold to tourists. There are several internationally recognized literary figures from Malawi, including poet Jack Mapanje, history and fiction writer Paul Zeleza and authors Legson Kayira, Felix Mnthali, Frank Chipasula and David Rubadiri.[36]

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
Institute for Economics and Peace [1] Global Peace Index[37] 47 out of 144
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 160 out of 182
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 89 out of 180
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 119 out of 133

See also


  1. ^ a b Berry, Bruce (February 6, 2005). "Malawi". Flags of the World Website. Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-08-23. 
  2. ^ "Malawi National Anthem Lyrics". National Anthem Lyrics. Lyrics on Demand. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cutter, Africa 2006, p. 142
  4. ^ a b c d "Country profile: Malawi". BBC News Online. BBC. March 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-17. 
  5. ^ a b c Benson, Todd. "Chapter 1: An Introduction" (PDF). Malawi: An Atlas of Social Statistics. National Statistical Office, Government of Malawi. p. 2. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  6. ^ a b {{cite web|url= |title=Malawi|publisher=International Monetary Fund|accessdate=2009-10-01}}
  7. ^ a b c "Country Brief - Malawi". The World Bank. September 2008.,,menuPK:355882~pagePK:141132~piPK:141107~theSitePK:355870,00.html. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  8. ^ "2008 Statistical Update: Malawi". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 2009-04-19. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Background Note: Malawi". Bureau of African Affairs. U.S. Department of State. May 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-24. 
  10. ^ Davidson, Africa in History, pp. 164–165
  11. ^ Turner, The Statesman's Yearbook, p.821
  12. ^ a b Murphy, Central Africa, p. xxvii
  13. ^ Reader, Africa, p. 579
  14. ^ Murphy, Central Africa, p. 28
  15. ^ Murphy, Central Africa, p. li
  16. ^ a b c Cutter, Africa 2006, p. 143
  17. ^ Meredith, The Fate of Africa, p. 285
  18. ^ Meredith, The Fate of Africa, p. 380
  19. ^ "Malawi president wins re-election". BBC News. May 22, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Malawi". The World Factbook. CIA. Retrieved 2010-02-06. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Dickovick, Africa 2008, p. 278
  22. ^ "Ibrahim Index of African Governance". Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Retrieved 2009-07-17. 
  23. ^ Turner, The Statesman's Yearbook, p. 822
  24. ^ Douglas, John (Summer 1998). "Malawi: The Lake of Stars". Travel Africa (4). Retrieved 2008-08-22. 
  25. ^ a b Turner, The Statesman's Yearbook, p. 824
  26. ^ Banda, Mabvuto (April 1, 2009). "Malawi economy grew by around 9.7 pct in 2008: IMF". Reuters Africa. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  27. ^ a b c "Malawi releases the 2008 MDGs Report". United Nations Development Programme Malawi. December 23, 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  28. ^ Chimwala, Marcel (October 10, 2008). "Malawi's ethanol-fuel tests show promise". Engineering News. Retrieved 2009-01-03. 
  29. ^ Dugger, Celia W. (December 2, 2007). "Ending Famine, Simply by Ignoring the Experts". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-05. 
  30. ^ Luscombe, Belinda (August 6, 2006). "Madonna Finds a Cause". Time.,9171,1223372,00.html. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  31. ^ Hutton, Punch (July 2007). "Raising Malawi". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2008-10-24. 
  32. ^ "Malawi". NICI in Africa. Economic Commission for Africa. Retrieved 2008-11-06. 
  33. ^ "Languages of Malawi". Ethnologue. SIL International. Retrieved 2008-11-21. 
  34. ^ "Malawi". International Religious Freedom Report 2007. U.S. Department of State. 2007-09-14. Retrieved 2008-12-18. 
  35. ^ "Malawi". Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept. of Labor. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  36. ^ Gall, Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life, pp. 101–102
  37. ^ "Vision of Humanity". Vision of Humanity. Retrieved 2010-02-04. 


  • Cutter, Charles H. (2006). Africa 2006 (41st ed.). Harpers Ferry, WV: Stryker-Post Publications. ISBN 1887985727. 
  • Davidson, Basil (1991). Africa in History: Themes and Outlines (Revised and Expanded ed.). New York, NY: Collier Books, MacMillan Publishing Company. ISBN 0020427913. 
  • Dickovick, J. Tyler (2008). Africa 2008 (43rd ed.). Harpers Ferry, WV: Stryker-Post Publications. ISBN 9781887985901. 
  • Gall, Timothy L. (ed.) (1998). Worldmark Encyclopedia of Cultures and Daily Life. Volume 1 - Africa. Cleveland, OH: Eastword Publications Development Inc.. ISBN 0787605530. 
  • Meredith, Martin (2005). The Fate of Africa - From the Hopes of Freedom to the Heart of Despair: A History of 50 Years of Independence. New York, NY: Public Affairs. ISBN 1586482467. 
  • Murphy, Philip (editor) (2005). Central Africa: Closer Association 1945-1958. London, UK: The Stationary Office. ISBN 0112905862. 
  • Reader, John (1999). Africa: A Biography of the Continent (First Vintage Books ed.). New York, NY: Vintage Books. ISBN 067973869X. 
  • Turner, Barry (ed.) (2008). The Statesman's Yearbook 2009: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World. Macmillan Publishers Ltd.. ISBN 1403992789. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Africa : East Africa : Malawi
Quick Facts
Capital Lilongwe
Government Multiparty democracy
Currency Malawian kwacha (MWK)
Area 94,080 km2
Population 13,013,926 (July 2006 est.)
Language English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally
Religion Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs 3%, other 2%
Electricity 230V/50Hz (UK plug)
Calling Code +265
Internet TLD .mw
Time Zone UTC+2

Malawi (Chichewa: Malaŵi) [1] is a country in Africa, bordered by Mozambique to the south and east, Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west. Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa, runs along most of its eastern border. It's described as the "Warm Heart of Africa", referring to the friendliness of the people.

  • Lilongwe - the political capital of country.
  • Blantyre - the economic capital and largest city of the country.
  • Mzuzu - the largest town in northern, and a staging-post for transport to Tanzania.
  • Karonga - the first and last stop from/to Tanzania - this town is quickly growing and spurned by the recient development of a uranium mine. Though it is tempting to swing through quickly, there can be some charm found here especially by the lakeshore.
  • Mangochi, formerly known as Fort Johnston, is found at the southern end of Lake Malawi where it empties into the Shire River and heads toward Liwonde. A medium-size town, it has all the usual conveniences for travelers (resthouses, restaurants, grocery stores) though none of them are worthy of much praise. By private vehicle, a drive to Mangochi from Blanytre will take about 3 to 4 hours.
  • Monkey Bay, is a popular large village as you head up the Lake Road from Mangochi toward Cape Maclear.
  • Cape Maclear - laid back fishing village on the southern end of the lake with good sandy beaches, a favorite among backpackers, boaters, and sunseekers.
  • Nkhata Bay - a rocky bay towards the north of the lake - check into one of the lodges and you could be here for a while.
Map of Malawi
Map of Malawi

Kuti community Wildlife Park - 90 km from Lilongwe on Salima Road where you will get closer to zebra than anywhere else in Africa.

See also African National Parks


Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi on 6th July, 1964. After three decades of one-party rule, the country held multiparty elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution, which took full effect the following year. National multiparty elections were held again in 1999 and 2004 electing present president Bingu wa Mutharika.


The hottest region is on the shores of Lake Malawi, but there is mostly a cooling breeze. It is cooler in the highlands. Winters (May till July) are dry. The rainy seasons is from November until March.

Get in

Most visitors from industrialized countries, including the United States, Canada, most European Union countries, Japan and Taiwan do not require a visa for Malawi.

By plane

Malawi's largest international airport is in Lilongwe, although there are also some flights from Blantyre to regional destinations. Most travelers connect via Johannesburg (South Africa) or Nairobi (Kenya). State carrier Air Malawi [2] claims to be "Africa's Friendliest Airline", but its limited network covers only nearby countries plus Middle Eastern hub Dubai.

The previous international departure tax of $30 is now included in the air fare.

By train

There are trains twice a week from Blantyre to Cuamba and Nampula in northern Mozambique, although a 77-kilometer stretch of track between the Mozambique border and Cuamba is out of commission and must be covered by truck.

By boat

A ferry runs twice a week from Likoma Island to Cobuè and Metangula in Mozambique.

By car

The main road (M1) runs from the northern border (Kaporo) through Karonga, Mzuzu, Lilongwe and finally to Mchinji and is in excellent shape. There is an excellent road from Lilongwe to Mchinji on the Zambian border (120 km).

By bus

To get into Malawi from Mozambique, in the south, one can take the bus from Tete (north-west Mozambique) to Zobwe. After crossing, take another bus from the border to Blantyre. This crossing is quite hectic, and it is closed at night, so one should plan on getting there early, and trying to keep it cool with all the border-hawkers. Direct buses run from Lusaka, Zambia to Lilongwe, but are best avoided (or done in stretches) if 18-20 hours on a bus doesn't sound like your idea of a good time. There is also minibus from Mbeya in Tanzania to the border. From the border in Malawi Side, take a taxi to Karonga. The cost is around 400-500 MK depend on negotiation. From Karonga bus station, take a bus or minibus to other destinations in Malawi. Bus is cheaper than minibus. The easiest way take direct bus from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania to Mzuzu or Lilongwe.

Get around

Compared to its neighbors, the main roads in Malawi are in surprisingly good shape and travel times between major destinations should be reasonable. The volume of traffic is low and most people drive reasonably slowly. Road travel after dark is not advisable as road markings are poor to non-existent and not all cars have headlights.

The Malawian police force have check points along many of the major roadways. By and large, they are looking for illegal activities and often wave tourists through. Expect to be stopped on occasion and asked where you are going. You should not have any problems if you are polite and have the correct documentation (passport, driver's licence, permission to use the vehicle, etc.) available if they ask.

By car

Local car rental companies:

Apex Rent-a-Car Malawi, [3]. Sedans, 4x4s, even buses.  edit

Unfortunately many car rentals in Southern Africa do not allow you to enter Malawi with their cars. You might have the best chances if you rent a car in Zambia.

Car rentals that allow you to enter Malawi:

  • Kwenda, 17 Samantha Street; Strijdom Park; Randburg, Johannesburg, South Africa, +27 44 533 5717 (), [5].  edit
  • Bushtackers, P.O. Box 4225, Rivonia, 2128, Johannesburg, South Africa, +27 11 465 5700 (). Allow you to enter Malawi if you ask by email.  edit

By boat

Traveling by boat is surely the most enjoyable mode of getting around in Malawi. The Ilala ferry runs north from Monkey Bay to Chilumba (F 10AM-Su 6:30PM), and back southbound on the same route (departure Chilumba on Monday 2AM, arriving at Monkey Bay on Wednesday at 2PM). Prices are rising with every year, but so is the ferry's reliability: some years back (before its privatization) it was perfectly normal to arrive a day late sometimes. The Ilala thus connects Likoma Island twice a week with the mainland, and the much closer Cobuè in Mozambique, respectively. Prices in January 2006 were about 6000 Malawian Kwacha from Monkey Bay to Likoma, and 1600 from Likoma to Nkatha Bay.

By plane

Air Malawi [6] flies small propeller planes between the three big cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre. Nyassa Air is a by far the preferred choice of fly in guests

By bus

"Luxury" buses, medium-sized buses, and minibuses all service the country. They vary in comfort and price. Vehicle condition can be very poor and road accidents are relatively common. Generally, if police are going to hassle travelers, it will be individuals using these types of transportation.

By taxi

Taxis are available in any city, whether they are licensed or not. Be prepared to negotiate as quoted prices to tourists are generally two to three times the actual going rate. Ask a friendly local or expat what the price should be. Rental cars are also available in these towns. Costs vary depending on vehicle type, but expect a compact car to run about $60/day.


English is one of the official languages of Malawi and is widely spoken in urban areas. The other official language is Chichewa (Nyanja), which is understood by almost all Malawians. Tumbuka is the first language for many people in the north of the country. Chiyao is spoken by the Yao people who live mostly in the Mangochi District, as well as areas surrounding Zomba into Machinga District as well.


The local currency is the Malawi kwacha, abbreviated K or MK. The currency is freely convertible (if difficult to get rid of outside the country) and, as of November 2008, trades at around 142.55 kwacha to the US dollar. US dollars will also be accepted by almost everybody, particularly for larger purchases. For the current exchange rate visit i.e. [7]. In Blantyre and Llilongwe try Victoria Forex Bureau [8]. Watch out for kwacha from neighboring Zambia, worth less than 1/20th of the Malawi version! Malawi Kwacha are exchangeable in the Zambian capital Lusaka, and at banks close to the border.

Credit card acceptance is spotty. Visa and MasterCard are accepted by larger hotels, including some ATMs, but you can leave AmEx or anything else at home. ATMs are becoming much more common and can be used at many banks in major cities, though most notably, VISA is the card of choice and many times the only option.

Travellers cheques can be changed in banks, forex bureaus and in some high-end hotels. The number of hotels accepting payment by travellers cheque seems to be shrinking. Don't rely on them unless you have spoken to the hotel. US dollars cash, is your best bet, and it gives a better exchange rate.

Nsima with three relishes: rape and peanut (top left), cabbage (bottom right) and kapenta (bottom left)
Nsima with three relishes: rape and peanut (top left), cabbage (bottom right) and kapenta (bottom left)

Traditional Malawian food revolves around one staple, maize, served in one form, nsima (n'SEE-ma). Nsima is basically a type of thick porridge, rolled into balls with your right hand and dipped into a variety of stews known as relishes. Those who can afford them eat relishes of beef, chicken or fish, but the many who can't make do with beans, tiny dried fish (kapenta), pumpkin leaves (chibwabwa) and other vegetables. At breakfast, nsima can be served watered down into a soup, maybe with a little sugar. Local restaurants will serve nsima and relish for less than 100K (US$1).

Food options in the major cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre are good. Fast food — to include burgers, pizza, and fried chicken — is very popular in Malawi. For sit-down meals, ethnic eateries (thanks to a significant ex-pat population) are popular. Do note that, in many restaurants, pork products are not served to accommodate the Muslim population.

Outside the larger cities, however, you might be a little underwhelmed with food options. Along the major roadways, you will find "tuck shops" featuring packaged cookies or Take Away Meals — meat pies or sausage rolls, for instance — which may or may not satisfy you.

Finally, in terms of hygiene outside the major cities, you are unlikely to find a proper washroom with running water. You will probably be given a bowl of water, a piece of soap, and a (damp) towel. Therefore, some travelers bring small bottles of anti-bacterial hand soap with them.


Tap water in major towns like Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu is generally potable, although it's advisable to boil it first. For those who fancy bottled water, it is widely available in the cities.

Soft drinks

A traditional local drink worth trying is mahewu (also maheu), a somewhat gritty and vaguely yogurty but refreshing beverage made from maize meal. Factory-produced maheu is sweet, comes in plastic bottles and is available in a variety of flavors including banana, chocolate and orange, while homemade versions are usually unflavored and less sweet.

Less traditional, but arguably more tasty, are the fizzy drinks by Southern Bottlers (Sobo). Sobo is also the licensed manufacturer of Coca Cola in Malawi.


Malawi has a significant Muslim population, including the former president, but alcohol is widely available even in Muslim dominated regions. The only beers you will generally find are brewed in Blantyre by Carlsberg, and its products are available in fine establishments and questionable joints everywhere. Malawi Distilleries produces stronger stuff including Smirnoff Vodka (licensed), but also its own products like Mulanje Gold Coffee Liqueur. Perhaps one of the most popular drinks in the country is the MGT (Malawi Gin and Tonic) made with Malawi Gin, an aromatic version of this popular alcohol.


Western-standard hotels can be found in Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

There are high-level five-star resort hotels in some rural areas charging western prices.

Individual listings should be moved to the appropriate city/region articles

- Club Makokola, [9].  editperhaps the most luxurious hotel/resort in the country, on the shore of Lake Malawi north of Mangochi

- Ku Chawe Inn, [10].  editon the top of Zomba mountain north of Blantyre

There are simple clean but extremely comfortable accommodations at surprisingly low cost available in in some unexpected places:

- Dedza Pottery and Nkhotakota Pottery, +265 (1) 751743 (, fax: +265 (1) 751743 (same as phone)), [11].  edithave nice guesthouses for pottery students and other visitors.

- Florence Holiday Resort, +265 (8) 870817 ().  edit is a friendly simple motel on Lake Malawi right next to Club Makokola - from the main road turn towards Club Makokola then take a left just when you reach the Club Makokola airstrip and loop 3/4 of the way around the airstrip! Rooms are simple but clean, including electricity and bathrooms en suite. It has a beautiful setting on the fishing beach, where the fishermen bring their catches each morning while their children play. There is a basic restaurant and but there is inadequate cutlury to go around. Rates are reasonable, about $25/night. be sure to get up early to watch the fishermen bring in their catch.

Kuti community wildlife park - simple A frame chalets set amongst Indigenous trees with antelope grazing in front of you tel: +265 5236672 or +265 9563004.

Mua Mission at KuNgoni Centre of Culture and Art, [12].  edithas wonderful inexpensive small rondavels and the best cultural museum in the country.

  • Kande Beach Resort. popular with overland trucks, this resort has camping, dorm rooms, single, twin and doubles. Activites include a great horse riding tour, scuba diving with the experienced team at "Aquanuts", there are katamarans and canoes for hire, and you can get great food at the "soft sand cafe"  edit
  • Ntchisi Forest Lodge, Ntchisi Forest Reserve (2 hrs north of Lilongwe), +265 999 971 748 (), [13]. Cosy owner-run eco-lodge in an unspoilt part of rural Malawi and with one of southern Africa's last remaining patches of rainforest on its doorstep. Activities include guided rainforest hikes, mapped bush trails, walks with the local traditional healer, and cultural village activities.  edit


Secondary school are largely government run, however many private school have since become available to address the need for education in Malawi. Some private schools:

  • Kamuzu Academy
  • Walani Private School
  • Lilongwe Private School
  • St. Andrews
  • Bishop Mackenzie International School (referred to as Bishop Mac)

Malawi's largest tertiary education structure at present is the University of Malawi which is made up of Chancellor College located in the heart of Zomba, Blantyre Polytechnic in Chichiri and College of Medicine. Bunda College of Agriculture and Kamuzu College of Nursing are located in Lilongwe. There is also Mzuzu University in the Northern part of Malawi.

Stay safe

Malawi is not known as a particularly dangerous travel locale for wester foreigners and expatriates. Muggings and robbery may occur in the larger cities, most especially Lilongwe, as well as in some notorious places along the main tourist routes. It is advisable to avoid walking alone at night. If you go out for the evening, make sure you know how you're going back home. Car-jackings happen occasionally so keep windows shut and doors locked during evening and night journeys. Road safety is the most dangerous thing with the standard of vehicles and drivers usually being relatively poor and drivers, especially in the evening, being intoxicated.

That said, Malawi does deserve its reputation as "the warm heart of Africa".

Stay healthy

As with its neighboring countries malaria can be a problem. The lake is freshwater and is prone to bilharzia, especially in the Cape Maclear area. Symptoms of bilharzia can take months to surface, if you think you've been exposed to it you can get a very cheap pill from the local pharmacists that will kill it before it even shows its face. It's a good idea to take care of it before leaving Malawi as it will be much more expensive back home.

The adult HIV prevalence in the country is at 14% or 1 in 7 adults. Do not have unprotected sex. Do not use injecting drugs.


Malawians follow a strict patriarchal society — men are afforded more respect than women, and older men are respected more than younger men. You might find, however, that a white person is afforded the most respect of all. A holdover from colonial times, this might make a traveler uncomfortable, but this is largely a Malawian's way of being courteous. Accept their hospitality.

Malawians are a curious people. To a Western mindset, this might be interpreted as unnecessarily staring at you or talking about you in front of you. Be prepared to be greeted by kids yelling mzungu, mzungu! and answer lots of questions about yourself. Even relatively mundane items like mechanical pencils can draw a crowd of onlookers.

Malawians love to shake hands, and you should oblige them. However, Malawian men often like to hold hands for the duration of a conversation. This should not be interpreted as anything sexual; they are merely trying to "connect" with you. If you feel uncomfortable, simply pull your hand away.

Culturally, women should not wear shorts or mini-skirts, especially as they travel away from Lilongwe. (Thighs, to Malawian men, are huge turn-ons.) Low-cut tops, however, while discouraged, are not nearly as provocative.

Finally, when meeting a Malawian — even to ask a question — you should always say hello and ask how they are. Properly greeting a Malawian is very important. They are uncomfortable with the Western notion of simply "getting to the point."

  • Embassy of the Republic of Malawi to Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland and France [14]
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




Said to be from Chichewa malawi, flames, after the appearance of the sunrise over Lake Malawi; also possibly from Maravi, the name of an early Malawi tribe

Proper noun


  1. Country in Southern Africa. Official name: Republic of Malawi.


See also


Proper noun

Malawi n.

  1. Malawi


Finnish Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia fi

Proper noun


  1. Malawi


Derived terms

  • malawilainen


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de

Proper noun

Malawi n.

  1. Malawi

Derived terms


Italian Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia it

Proper noun

Malawi m.

  1. Malawi

Derived terms


Proper noun


  1. Malawi

Related terms



  • IPA: /maˈlavi/

Proper noun

Malawi n.

  1. Malawi

Derived terms

  • Malawijczyk m., Malawijka f.
  • adjective: malawijski


Proper noun


  1. Alternative spelling of Malaui.


Proper noun


  1. Malawi


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