Malawi Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Malawi > Map Economy History

Lake Malawi National Park
Malawi Environment

Facts About Malawi

Background: Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi in 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.
Government type: multiparty democracy
Capital: Lilongwe
Currency: 1 Malawian kwacha (MK) = 100 tambala

Geography of Malawi

Location: Southern Africa, east of Zambia
Geographic coordinates: 13 30 S, 34 00 E
Area:
total: 118,480 sq km
land: 94,080 sq km
water: 24,400 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 2,881 km
border countries: Mozambique 1,569 km, Tanzania 475 km, Zambia 837 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Climate: sub-tropical; rainy season (November to May); dry season (May to November)
Terrain: narrow elongated plateau with rolling plains, rounded hills, some mountains
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: junction of the Shire River and international boundary with Mozambique 37 m
highest point: Sapitwa 3,002 m
Natural resources: limestone, arable land, hydropower, unexploited deposits of uranium, coal, and bauxite
Land use:
arable land: 34%
permanent crops: 0%
permanent pastures: 20%
forests and woodland: 39%
other: 7% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 280 sq km (1993 est.)
Environment - current issues: deforestation; land degradation; water pollution from agricultural runoff, sewage, industrial wastes; siltation of spawning grounds endangers fish populations
Environment - international agreements:
party to:  Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note: landlocked; Lake Nyasa, some 580 km long, is the country's most prominent physical feature

People of Malawi

Malawi derives its name from the Maravi, a Bantu people who came from the southern Congo about 600 years ago. On reaching the area north of Lake Malawi, the Maravi divided. One branch, the ancestors of the present-day Chewas, moved south to the west bank of the lake. The other, the ancestors of the Nyanjas, moved down the east bank to the southern part of the country.

By AD 1500, the two divisions of the tribe had established a kingdom stretching from north of the present-day city of Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River in the south, and from Lake Malawi in the east, to the Luangwa River in Zambia in the west.

Migrations and tribal conflicts precluded the formation of a cohesive Malawian society until the turn of the 20th century. In more recent years, ethnic and tribal distinctions have diminished. Regional distinctions and rivalries, however, persist. Despite some clear differences, no significant friction currently exists between tribal groups, and the concept of a Malawian nationality has begun to take hold. Predominately a rural people, Malawians are generally conservative and traditionally nonviolent.

The Chewas constitute 90% of the population of the central region; the Nyanja tribe predominates in the south and the Tumbuka in the north. In addition, significant numbers of the Tongas live in the north; Ngonis--an offshoot of the Zulus who came from South Africa in the early 1800s--live in the lower northern and lower central regions; and the Yao, who are mostly Muslim, live along the southeastern border with Mozambique.

Population: 12,158,924 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years:  44.43% 
15-64 years:  52.78% 
65 years and over:  2.79% 
Population growth rate: 1.5% 
Birth rate: 37.8 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 22.81 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 121.12 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population:  37.08 years
male:  36.61 years
female:  37.55 years
Total fertility rate: 5.18 children born/woman 
Nationality:
noun: Malawian(s)
adjective: Malawian
Ethnic groups: Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuko, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European
Religions: Protestant 55%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 20%, indigenous beliefs
Languages: English (official), Chichewa (official), other languages important regionally
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 58%
male: 72.8%
female: 43.4% (1999 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Malawi > Map Economy History