Malawi Facts

Area: 118,484 km2

Population19,130,604 Visit Worldometers

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. Malawi is over 118,000 km2(45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 18,091,575 (July 2016 est.). Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi’s largest city; the second largest is Blantyre, the third is Mzuzu and the fourth largest is its old capital Zomba. 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”. Malawi is among the smallest countries in Africa. Lake Malawi takes up about a third of Malawi’s area. The area of Africa now known as Malawi was settled by migrating Bantu groups around the 10th century. Centuries later in 1891 the area was colonised by the British. In 1953 Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, a protectorate of the United Kingdom, became a protectorate within the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation was dissolved in 1963. In 1964 the protectorate over Nyasaland was ended and Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II with the new name Malawi. Two years later it became a republic. Upon gaining independence it became a totalitarian one-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until 1994, when he lost an election. Arthur Peter Mutharika is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government. The country has a Malawian Defence 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 organisations, including the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa(COMESA), and the African Union (AU). 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, healthcare, environmental protection, and becoming financially independent amidst widespread overpopulation and unemployment. Since 2005, Malawi has developed several programs that focus on these issues, and the country’s outlook appears to be improving, with a rise in the economy, 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 labour 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 periodic regional conflict fuelled in part by ethnic divisions in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had re-emerged.

 

Culture

The name “Malawi” comes from the Maravi, a Bantu people who emigrated 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 group known as the Chewa, while the other group, the ancestors of today’s Nyanja, moved along the east side of the lake to the southern section of Malawi. Ethnic 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. The “Warm Heart of Africa” nickname is not due to the hot weather of the country, but due to the kind, loving nature of the Malawian people. From 1964–2010, and again since 2012, the Flag of Malawi 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 represented the African people, the red represented the blood of martyrs for African freedom, green represented Malawi’s ever-green nature and the rising sun represented the dawn of freedom and hope for Africa. In 2010, the flag was changed, removing the red rising sun and adding a full white sun in the center as a symbol of Malawi’s economic progress. The change was reverted in 2012. Its dances are a strong part of Malawi’s culture, and the National Dance Troupe (formerly the Kwacha Cultural Troupe) was formed in November 1987 by the government. 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 indigenous ethnic groups 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 centres, with many of the items produced being sold to tourists. There are several internationally recognised 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. Malawian cuisine is diverse, with tea and fish being popular features of the country’s cuisine. Sugar, coffee, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats are also important components of the cuisine and economy. Lake Malawi is a source of fish including chambo (similar to bream) usipa (similar to sardine), and mpasa (similar to salmon and kampango). Nsima is a food staple made from ground corn and typically served with side dishes of meat and vegetables. It is commonly eaten for lunch and dinner.

 

Government and politics 

Malawi is a democratic, multi-party government, currently under the leadership of Arthur Peter Mutharika, who defeated former president Joyce Banda in the 2014 elections, despite alleged poll rigging. The current constitution was put into place on 18 May 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 and Vice President are elected together every five years. A second vice president may be appointed by the president if so chosen, although they 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. 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. There are currently nine political parties, with the Democratic Progressive Party acting as the ruling party, it is in an unofficial coalition with United Democratic Front. the Malawi Congress Party currently led by Reverend Lazarus Chakwera is the main opposition party. Suffrage is universal at 18 years of age, and the central government budget for 2009/2010 is $1.7 billion. The independent judicial branch is based upon the English model and consists of a Supreme Court of Appeal, a High Court divided into three sections (general, constitutional and commercial), an Industrial Relations Court and Magistrates Courts, the last of which is divided into five grades and includes Child Justice Courts. The judicial system has been changed several times since Malawi gained independence in 1964. Conventional courts and traditional courts have been used in varying combinations, with varying degrees of success and corruption. Malawi is composed of three regions (the Northern, Central and Southern regions), which are divided into 28 districts, and further into approximately 250 traditional authorities and 110 administrative wards. 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 21 November 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 cancelled by the government. In February 2005, President Mutharika split with the United Democratic Front and began his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party, which had attracted reform-minded officials from other parties and won by-elections across the country in 2006. In 2008, President Mutharika had implemented reforms to address the country’s major corruption problem, with at least five senior UDF party members facing criminal charges. In 2012, Malawi was ranked 7th of all countries in sub-Saharan Africa in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, an index that measures several variables to provide a comprehensive view of the governance of African countries. Although the country’s governance score was higher than the continental average, it was lower than the regional average for southern Africa. Its highest scores were for safety and rule of law, and its lowest scores were for sustainable economic opportunity, with a ranking of 47th on the continent for educational opportunities. Malawi’s governance score had improved between 2000 and 2011. Malawi held its most recent elections in May 2014, with challenger Arthur Peter Mutharika defeating incumbent President Joyce Banda.

 

Foreign relations

Former President Hastings Banda established a pro-Western foreign policy that continued into early 2011. It included 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. Following the collapse of apartheid in 1994, diplomatic relationships were made and maintained into 2011 between Malawi and all other African countries. In 2010, however, Malawi’s relationship with Mozambique became strained, partially due to disputes over the use of the Zambezi River and an inter-country electrical grid. In 2007, Malawi established diplomatic ties with China, and Chinese investment in the country has continued to increase since then, despite concerns regarding treatment of workers by Chinese companies and competition of Chinese business with local companies. In 2011, relations between Malawi and the United Kingdom were damaged when a document was released in which the British ambassador to Malawi criticised President Mutharika. Mutharika expelled the ambassador from Malawi, and in July 2011, the UK announced that it was suspending all budgetary aid because of Mutharika’s lack of response to criticisms of his government and economic mismanagement. On 26 July 2011, the United States followed suit, freezing a US$350 million grant, citing concerns regarding the government’s suppression and intimidation of demonstrators and civic groups, as well as restriction of the press and police violence. 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, the UK and Flanders (Belgium), as well as international institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union, the African Development Bank and UN organisations. Malawi is a member of several international organisations including the Commonwealth, 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.

Human rights

As of 2017, international observers noted issues in several human rights areas. Excessive force was seen to be used by police forces, security forces were able to act with impunity, mob violence was occasionally seen, and prison conditions continued to be harsh and sometimes life-threatening. However, the government was seen to make some effort to prosecute security forces who used excessive force. Other legal issues included limits on free speech and freedom of the press, lengthy pretrial detentions, and arbitrary arrests and detentions. Societal issues found included violence against women, human trafficking, and child labour. Corruption within the government is seen as a major issue, despite the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau’s (ACB) attempts to reduce it. The ACB appears to be successful at finding and prosecuting low level corruption, but higher level officials appear to be able to act with impunity. Corruption within security forces is also an issue. Malawi had one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. In 2015 Malawi raised the legal age for marriage from 15 to 18. Other issues that have been raised are lack of adequate legal protection of women from sexual abuse and harassment, very high maternal mortality rate, and abuse related to accusations of witchcraft. As of 2010, homosexuality has been illegal in Malawi. In one 2010 case, a couple perceived as homosexual faced extensive jail time when convicted. The convicted pair, sentenced to the maximum of 14 years of hard labour each, were pardoned two weeks later following the intervention of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In May 2012, then-President Joyce Banda pledged to repeal laws criminalising homosexuality.

Health

Malawi has central hospitals, regional and private facilities. The public sector offers free health services and medicines, while non-government organisations offers services and medicines for fees. Private doctors offer fee-based services and medicines. Health insurance schemes have been established since 2000. The country has a pharmaceutical manufacturing industry consisting of four privately owned pharmaceutical companies. Malawi’s healthcare goal is for “promoting health, preventing, reducing and curing disease, and reducing the occurrence of premature death in the population”. Infant mortality rates are high, and life expectancy at birth is 50.03 years. Abortion is illegal in Malawi, except to save the mother’s life. The Penal Code punishes women who seek illegal or clinical abortion with 7 years in prison, and 14 years for those perform the abortion. There is a high adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 980,000 adults (or 9.1% of the population) living with the disease in 2015. There are approximately 27,000 deaths each year from HIV/AIDS, and over half a million children orphaned because of the disease (2015). 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. The government spends over $120,000 each year on funerals for civil servants who die of the disease.mIn 2006, international superstar Madonna started Raising Malawi, a foundation that helps AIDS orphans in Malawi, and also financed a documentary about the hardships experienced by Malawian orphans, called I Am Because We Are.[94] Raising Malawi also works with the Millennium Villages Project to improve education, health care, infrastructure and agriculture in Malawi. There is a very high degree of risk for major infectious diseases, including bacterial and protozoal diarrhoea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, plague, schistosomiasis, and rabies.[35] 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. Female genital mutilation (FGM), while not widespread, is practiced in some local communities. On November 23, 2016, a court in Malawi sentenced an HIV-positive man to two years in prison with forced labor after having sex with 100 women without disclosing his status. Women rights activists asked the government to review the sentence calling it too “lenient.”

 

Infrastructure

As of 2012, Malawi has 31 airports, 7 with paved runways and 24 with unpaved runways. As of 2008, the country has 797 kilometres (495 mi) of railways, all narrow-gauge, and, as of 2003, 24,866 kilometres (15,451 mi) of roadways in various conditions, 6,956 kilometres (4,322 mi) paved and 8,495 kilometres (5,279 mi) unpaved. Malawi also has 700 kilometres (430 mi) of waterways on Lake Malawi and along the Shire River. As of 2011, there were 3.952 million cell phones and 173,500 landline telephones in Malawi. There were 716,400 Internet users in 2009, and 1099 Internet hosts as of 2012. As of 2007 there was one government-run radio station and approximately a dozen more owned by private enterprise. Domestic expenditure on research in Southern Africa as a percentage of GDP, 2012 or closest year. Radio, television and postal services in Malawi are regulated by the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (MACRA). Malawi television is improving. The country boasts 20 television stations by 2016 broadcasting on the country’s digital network MDBNL e.g. This includes Times Group, Timveni, Adventist, and Beta, Zodiak and CFC. 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.

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