Republic of Malawi
45,745.38 sq mi
118,480.00 sq km
10,385,849 (July 2000 est.) note: estimates for this country explicitly
take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS
Estimated Population in 2050
English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally
58.0% total, 72.8% male, 43.4% female (1999 est.)
Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs
37.2 male, 37.98 female (2000 est.)
1 Malawian kwacha (MK) = 100 tambala
GDP (per capita)
$940 (1999 est.)
Labor Force (by occupation)
agriculture 86%, wage earners 14% (1990 est.)
tobacco, tea, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods
tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, cassava (tapioca),
sorghum, pulses; cattle, goats
tobacco, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products
food, petroleum products, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation
limestone, arable land, hydropower, unexploited deposits of uranium,
coal, and bauxite
Current Environmental Issues
deforestation; land degradation; water pollution from agricultural runoff,
sewage, industrial wastes; siltation of spawning grounds endangers fish
Telephones (main lines in use)
Telephones (mobile cellular)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs)
Hominids are known to have inhabited the Malawi area as long as two
million years ago. The remains of settlements of modern humans dating
back some 100,000 years have been found on the shores of Lake Malawi.
Evidence suggests that these were the same Boskopoid people who inhabited
much of this part of Africa: the ancestors of the pygmies in Central
Africa and the San ('Bushmen') of Southern Africa, who now survive only
in isolated pockets.
years ago these 'Stone Age Malawians' came under pressure from another
race of people, the Bantu, who were gradually migrating into the area.
The Bantu brought knowledge of iron working with them, giving them the
edge in both agriculture and warfare. Eventually, the Bantu completely
dominated the earlier inhabitants. Further migrations brought Bantu
peoples from the Congo region, via Tanzania, into northern Malawi. In
the south, groups came from present-day Zaïre and established a
kingdom that ruled the southern area of the country.
19th century brought two significant migrations. The Yao, from western
Mozambique, invaded the highlands of southern Malawi, killing the more
peaceful local inhabitants as they went, or capturing them for sale
into slavery. The Yao, brandishing firearms supplied them by Arab traders
on the east coast, were one of several African tribes who supplied slave
traders by raiding the interior. About the same time, Zulus from present-day
South Africa began moving into southern Malawi and eventually spread
throughout the country, overpowering many local tribes.
Europeans to arrive in Malawi were Portuguese explorers who reached
the African interior from the east coast of present-day Mozambique.
The most famous European explorer to reach this area was David Livingstone,
a Scottish missionary who first travelled in Malawi in the 1850s. Despite
poor relations with the indigenous people and the ravages of malaria,
many Scottish missionaries established missions and convents in Malawi,
usually resulting in the death by fever of the missionaries and very
few converts among the Africans.
less successful at their stated aim, the missionaries did manage to
blaze the way for various adventurers and traders, who in turn made
Malawi such a hot property that colonisation wasn't far behind. It came
in 1878 in the form of the Livingstonia Central African Mission Company,
a Scottish concern the object of which was the development of a river
route into Central Africa and the introduction of trade. The British
government made the Shire Highlands a protectorate in 1889, and expanded
its holdings to include much of the land on the western side of Lake
Malawi, calling the colony 'Nyasaland.'
control expanded, trade and the number of foreigners in the area increased
- and so did indigenous resistance to colonisation. In the early 1900,
Reverend John Chilembwe organised the first serious anti-British effort
when he led an attack on a large estate that resulted in the death of
its white manager. The colonial authorities crushed the movement, and
no major bids for independence surfaced again until the 1950s.
joined Nyasaland with the Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia
(now Zambia and Zimbabwe), a move that deepened resentment against colonial
rule. The Nyasaland African Congress, which had been formed in 1944,
was led by Dr Hastings Banda after the federation was announced. A year
later, the colonial authorities declared a state of emergency, jailed
Banda and went on a rampage that left 52 Africans dead. Opposition continued,
strengthened by the release of Banda in 1960. The British negotiated
with Banda for elections, which were held the following year and were
capped by the overwhelming victory of Banda and his party (now called
the Malawian Congress Party). Shortly afterward the Federation of Rhodesia
and Nyasaland was dissolved, and Malawi declared its independence in
rule proved to be harsh. Those of his opposition who weren't silenced
were driven into exile. Through his business dealings, Banda also controlled
the economy completely. As if that weren't enough power, Banda declared
himself 'President for Life' in 1971. A cozy relationship with South
Africa made the construction of the new capital, Lilongwe (it had previously
been at Blantyre), which opened for business in 1975.
elections since independence were held in 1978 - a farce, really, considering
that Banda personally vetted everyone who intended to run, disqualifying
90% of the field right off the top by submitting potential candidates
to an English test. As the 1980s wore on it became increasingly clear
that Banda was Malawi - running the political system, the ruling party
and the economy. One newspaper estimated that 250,000 people disappeared
or were murdered during Banda's 30 year reign. By the 1990s, however,
opposition to Banda's totalitarian one-party rule grew, spurred on by
the end of the Cold War and the drying up of aid to the west's 'client
states' - such as Malawi.
moment came in 1992, when Catholic bishops released a pastoral letter
condemning Banda, touching off demonstrations throughout the country.
When donor countries cut off all non-humanitarian aid until Banda agreed
to relinquish power, the final nail in the coffin went home. Over 80%
of the electorate took part in a 1993 referendum, voting for a new system
over Banda by a 2-1 ratio. Despite the brief threat of a military coup,
multi-party elections went ahead the following year.
Muluzi, a Muslim from Machinga in the south, emerged as the new president.
Muluzi immediately freed prisoners, reestablished freedom of speech
and the press and lifted the unofficial night curfew that had marked
the Banda years. Banda himself was tried in 1995 for ordering the murder
of three government ministers but was acquitted, later apologising for
any suffering he may have 'unknowingly caused.'
won over 50% of the vote in the 1999 presidential election. In 2002,
he attempted to change the constitution to give himself life presidency.
It is believed that those in power are desperate to retain it to avoid
charges of corruption and mismanagement. A further sign that all is
not well is the order police have received to prevent all public demonstrations.
Clearly, Malawi's freedom of expression is once again at stake.
something of a sense of disappointment with the democratic process,
although many of the country's problems predate it. Major donors have
suspended aid because of concerns over corruption and misappropriation
of funds. On top of the political dramas, an environmental catastrophe
is unfolding: a drought causing famine in pockets of the country, as
well as a water hyacinth problem in Lake Malawi and surrounding waters.
Last but not least, refugees are flooding in from neighbouring Zimbabwe.