About Malawi

“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.”
– Thomas Jefferson


Read the Malawi Welcome Book.

Brief History of Malawi

Malawi is a small country in southeast Africa, known for its natural beauty and its warm, hard-working people. The first significant Western contact began with the arrival of David Livingstone in 1859. Fiery sunlight glittering from Lake Nyasa gave the name “Malawi”—land of flaming waters—to an ancient Bantu empire. Present-day descendants revived the name when the British Protectorate of Nyasaland became independent in 1964.

The country is considered something of a success story in African political development. In 1994, after 30 years of one-party, dictatorial rule dating back to independence from Britain, Malawi quietly and peacefully elected a new government committed to multiparty democracy. In spite of the wave of euphoria over their newly won freedom, the Malawian people continue to face the obstacles of poverty, drought, environmental degradation, hunger, disease, rising crime, and illiteracy on their path to social, political, and economic reform.

The follow statistics are most recent as of February 2014. 

Government and Politics

  • Capitol
    • Lilongwe (largest city, located in central region)
  • Form
    • Unitary Presidential Republic, parliamentary
      • President Dr. Peter Mutharika
      • Vice-President Saulos Chilima
        • Leaders follow a pro-Western foreign policy
  • Independence
    • From the United Kingdom: 6 July 1964
    • Formed republic: 6 July 1966
    • Current constitution: 18 May 1994
  • Motto
    • “Unity and Freedom”
  • Anthem
    • Mulungu dalitsa Malaŵi
      • Chichewa (local language) translates to: “O God Bless Our Land of Malawi”
  • Nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”

People and Culture 

  • Population Demographics
    • Made up of the Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, and Ngonde native ethnic groups, as well as populations of Europeans and Asians
    • Total population: 15,910,000 (2012)
    • 2.8% annual growth rate, is expected to triple to over 40 million people by 2040
    • 358 persons per square mile (31st most densely populated country)
    • Percent rural: 84%
    • Average household size: 4.6
    • Percent under 18: 56%
  • Language
    • English (Formal; mostly spoken in urban areas)
    • Chichewa (Dominate language; 57%)
    • Chiyao
    • Chitonga
    • Chitumbuka
  • Health
    • Life Expectancy: 53 years
    • Maternal Mortality: 675 per 100,000 live births
    • Infant Mortality: 66 per 1,000 live births
    • HIV/AIDS rate: 11.4%
      • Approximately 250 new infections each day
      • Urban areas (20.4 percent total, woman: 22.7%), semi-urban (17.0 percent) and rural areas (13.0 percent)
      • 1/2 of orphan population of roughly one million results because of HIV/AIDS
      • At least 70% of hospital beds are occupied by HIV/AIDS patients
    • Malaria accounts for 33% of all hospital visits
    • 85% of population lives within 10 km of a health facility
    • Over 1/2 the population lives below the poverty line, more than 1/3 consumes less than the required caloric intake, and 47 percent of children under five are stunted; 63% are anemic

  • Religion
    • 68% identify as Christian, the largest groups being Roman Catholic and Presbyterian
    • 25% as Muslim, most of the Muslim population is Sunni, of either the Qadriya or Sukkutu groups
    • 5% as “other”, including Rastafarians, Hindus, Baha’is, Jews and Atheist (though atheist make up 4% of the population, this number includes those who practice traditional African religions)
  • Human Rights
    • Corruption in government has caused many countries to suspend aid
      • Higher level officials appear to act with impunity
    • Excessive force has been seen to be used by police forces
      • Lengthy and excessive detentions and arbitrary arrests
    • Limits on free speech, freedom of the press
    • Violence against woman, human trafficking, and child labor issues
    • As of 2010, homosexuality has been illegal, though there are efforts to repeal the law
    • Malawi presents a crime and safety situation that is consistent with many impoverished and developing countries
      • Most incidents cited are property crimes
      • Often in larger urban centers than in rural areas


  • Landlocked country located in southeast sub-Saharan Africa
  • Area total: 45,747 sq mi (118,484 sq km), (99th)
    • Approximately the size of Pennsylvania (water area included)
    • Approximately the size of Indiana (land area, water not included)
  • Water: 20.6% of total area
    • Lake Malawi, sometimes referred to as Lake Nyasa
      • Runs over three-quarters of the entire length of the country’s eastern boundry
      • Ninth largest lake in the world (larger than the state of New Hampshire)
      • Largest supplier of aquarium freshwater fish globally
      • Habitat of more species of fish than any body of freshwater
      • Called the Calender Lake as it is about 365 miles long and 52 miles wide
      • Second deepest lake in Africa (2,316 feet at deepest point)
    • Shire River flows south out of Lake Malawi and meets the Zambezi River 250 miles south in Mozambique
  • The Great Rift Valley runs through the country north to south
    • In the south region are the Shire Highlands, where the Zomba and Mulanje mountain peaks rise to respective heights of 7,000 feet and 10,000 feet
  • Climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south and temperate in the northern highlands
    • Sub-tropical
    • Relatively dry and strongly seasonal, with one rainy season stretching from November to April, during which 95% of the annual precipitation takes place


  • GDP (PPP) total: $14.265 billion
  • GDP growth: 4.3% in 2012, 4.1% in 2013
  • GDP per capita: $330
  • Commercial center is Blantyre, located in the south and named after David Livingstone’s birthplace in Scotland
  • Agriculture represents over 35% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and employs over 85% of the labor force
    • Tobacco, tea, sugarcane, cotton, corn, potatoes, coffee, sorghum, cattle and goats
      • Tobacco generates 70% of export revenues
    • Industry is 19% of the GDP, Services the remaining 46%
  • Ease of Doing Business: 157/183 countries ranked (2013 WB ranking)
  • Global Competitiveness: 129/144 countries ranked
  • By early 2013, inflation reached 35%
  • 9% of the country’s population has access to electricity
  • Currency: Kwacha (MWK), $1 = approximately K400

Peace Corps Program

  • Dates: 1963-1976, 1978-present
  • Number of Volunteers Currently: 127
  • Total Volunteers to Date: 2,685
  • Program Sectors: Education, Environment, Health

Here is the official Peace Corps page for PC/Malawi.

PC/Malawi Flickr Picture Show

Malawi Wikipedia

The World Factbook – Malawi

The Lonely Planet: Malawi  

Friends of Malawi


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