The Republic of Malawi is in southern Africa. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique, which surrounds it on the east, south and west and is separated from Malawi by Lake Malawi (also Lake Nyasa).

Background History

Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi in 1964. After three decades of one-party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu Banda the country held multiparty elections in 1994, under a provisional constitution that came into full effect the following year. Current President Bingu wa Mutharika, elected in May 2004 after a failed attempt by the previous president to amend the constitution to permit another term, struggled to assert his authority against his predecessor and subsequently started his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in 2005. As president, Mutharika has overseen some economic improvement. Population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, corruption, and the spread of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for Malawi. Mutharika was reelected to a second term in May 2009. Major developments in 2011 include the expulsion of the British High Commissioner over a leaked cable perceived as critical of the President, suspension of general budget support due to a negative IMF review and concern over governance issues, and protests in July over economic hardships and political issues that turned violent.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Republic of Malawi
  • conventional short form: Malawi
  • local long form: Dziko la Malawi
  • local short form: Malawi
  • former: British Central African Protectorate, Nyasaland Protectorate, Nyasaland


  • name: Lilongwe
  • population: 821,000
  • geographic coordinates: 13 59 S, 33 47 E
  • time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 6 July 1964 (from the UK)

Government Type:

  • multiparty democracy

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: President Joyce Banda (since 7 April 2012)
  • head of government: President Joyce Banda (since 7 April 2012)
  • elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 19 May 2009 (next to be held in May 2014)

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: unicameral National Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: Supreme Court of Appeal; High Court; magistrate's courts

People & Society


  • 16,323,044 (global rank: 65)
  • growth rate: 2.758% (global rank: 17)


  • noun: Malawian(s)
  • adjective: Malawian

Major Cities:

  • Blantyre 856,000; Lilongwe (capital) 821,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • Chewa 32.6%, Lomwe 17.6%, Yao 13.5%, Ngoni 11.5%, Tumbuka 8.8%, Nyanja 5.8%, Sena 3.6%, Tonga 2.1%, Ngonde 1%, other 3.5%


  • Christian 82.7%, Muslim 13%, other 1.9%, none 2.5%


  • Chichewa (official) 57.2%, Chinyanja 12.8%, Chiyao 10.1%, Chitumbuka 9.5%, Chisena 2.7%, Chilomwe 2.4%, Chitonga 1.7%, other 3.6%

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 52.31 years (global rank: 208)
  • male: 51.5 years
  • female: 53.13 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 79.02 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 10)
  • male: 83.06 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 74.92 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 11% (global rank: 9)
  • people living with AIDS: 920,000 (global rank: 12)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 62.7%
  • male: 76.1%
  • female: 49.8%


Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's most densely populated and least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture, which has benefited from fertilizer subsidies since 2006, accounts for one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. In December 2007, the US granted Malawi eligibility status to receive financial support within the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) initiative. The government faces many challenges including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, facing up to environmental problems, dealing with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors that fiscal discipline is being tightened. Since 2005 President Mutharika'S government has exhibited improved financial discipline under the guidance of Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe and signed a three year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility worth $56 million with the IMF. The government has announced infrastructure projects that could yield improvements, such as a new oil pipeline for better fuel access, and the potential for a waterway link through Mozambican rivers to the ocean for better transportation options. Since 2009, however, Malawi has experienced some setbacks, including a general shortage of foreign exchange, which has damaged its ability to pay for imports, and fuel shortages that hinder transportation and productivity. Investment fell 23% in 2009, and continued to decline in 2010. The government has failed to address barriers to investment such as unreliable power, water shortages, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and the high costs of services. Donors, who provided an average of 36 % of government revenue in the past five year, suspended general budget support for Malawi in 2011 due to a negative IMF review and governance issues.

Gross Domestic Product:

  • GDP (PPP): $13.77 billion (global rank: 139)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $900 (global rank: 214)
  • real growth rate: 4.6% (global rank: 87)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 30.3%, industry: 16.3%, services: 53.4%


  • currency: Malawian Kwacha (MWK)
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 159

Unemployment Rate

  • unemployment rate: NA

Agricultural Products:

  • tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, cassava (tapioca), sorghum, pulses, groundnuts, Macadamia nuts; cattle, goats


  • tobacco, tea, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods

Export Commodities:

  • tobacco 53%, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products, apparel

Import Commodities:

  • food, petroleum products, semi-manufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment



  • Southern Africa, east of Zambia, west and north of Mozambique


  • total: 118,484 sq km (global rank: 100)
  • land: 94,080 sq km
  • water: 24,404 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than Pennsylvania


  • sub-tropical; rainy season (November to May); dry season (May to November)

Land Use:

  • arable land: 20.68%
  • permanent crops: 1.18%
  • other: 78.14%

Natural Resources:

  • 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 populations

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: disputes with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and the meandering Songwe River remain dormant

Published: Monday, September 08, 2008