Population: 18,606,000 (est.)
Language(s): English, Chichewa
- The official currency of Malawi is the Malawian kwacha.
- The main religion is Christianity with approximately 80% of the population being Christian. Around 13% of the population is Muslim, with most of the Muslim population being Sunni.
- Malawi became a fully independent member of the British Commonwealth on July 6, 1964.
- Lake Malawi is sometimes called the Calendar Lake as it is about 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.
- Its three most important export crops are (in order) tobacco, tea and sugar.
Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, 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. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of more than 13,900,000. Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi’s largest city; the second largest is Blantyre and the third is Mzuzu. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”.
The area of Africa now known as Malawi was colonized by migrating tribes of Bantu around the 10th century. In 1891 the area was colonized again, this time by the British. In 1953 Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, became part of the semi-independent Central African Federation (CAF). The Federation was dissolved in 1963 and in 1964, Nyasaland gained full independence and was renamed Malawi. 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. Joyce Banda (no relation) is the current president, raised to that position after president Bingu Mutharika died in 2012. She is the first female leader in Malawi.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 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 building and expanding the economy, improving education, health care, 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. 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.