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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 which 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, has struggled to assert his authority against his predecessor, who still leads their shared political party. MUTHARIKA's anti-corruption efforts have led to several high-level arrests and one prominent conviction. Increasing corruption, population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, and the spread of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for the country.


Southern Africa, east of Zambia

Geographic coordinates:

13 30 S, 34 00 E


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


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


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


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 (Mount Mlanje) 3,002 m

Natural resources:

limestone, arable land, hydropower, unexploited deposits of uranium, coal, and bauxite

Land use:

arable land: 20.68%
permanent crops: 1.18%
other: 78.14% (2005)

Irrigated land:

560 sq km (2003)

Environment - current issues:

deforestation; land degradation; water pollution from agricultural runoff, sewage, industrial wastes; siltation of spawning grounds endangers fish populations

Geography - note:

landlocked; Lake Nyasa, some 580 km long, is the country's most prominent physical feature


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 46.5% (male 3,056,522/female 3,000,493)
15-64 years: 50.8% (male 3,277,573/female 3,332,907)
65 years and over: 2.7% (male 139,953/female 206,478) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 16.5 years
male: 16.2 years
female: 16.8 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.38% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

43.13 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

19.33 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 94.37 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 98.66 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 89.96 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 41.7 years
male: 41.93 years
female: 41.45 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

5.92 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

14.2% (2003 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

900,000 (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

84,000 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and plague are high risks in some locations
water contact disease: schistosomiasis (2005)


noun: Malawian(s)
adjective: Malawian

Ethnic groups:

Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, Asian, European


Christian 79.9%, Muslim 12.8%, other 3%, none 4.3% (1998 census)


Chichewa 57.2% (official), Chinyanja 12.8%, Chiyao 10.1%, Chitumbuka 9.5%, Chisena 2.7%, Chilomwe 2.4%, Chitonga 1.7%, other 3.6% (1998 census)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 62.7%
male: 76.1%
female: 49.8% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Malawi
conventional short form: Malawi
former: British Central African Protectorate, Nyasaland Protectorate, Nyasaland

Government type:

multiparty democracy



Administrative divisions:

27 districts; Balaka, Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Chitipa, Dedza, Dowa, Karonga, Kasungu, Likoma, Lilongwe, Machinga (Kasupe), Mangochi, Mchinji, Mulanje, Mwanza, Mzimba, Ntcheu, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Nsanje, Ntchisi, Phalombe, Rumphi, Salima, Thyolo, Zomba


6 July 1964 (from UK)

National holiday:

Independence Day (Republic Day), 6 July (1964)


18 May 1994

Legal system:

based on English common law and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Appeal; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

unicameral National Assembly (193 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 20 May 2004 (next to be held May 2009)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - UDF 74, MCP 60, Independents 24, RP 16, others 18, vacancies 1

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court of Appeal; High Court (chief justice appointed by the president, puisne judges appointed on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission); magistrate's courts

Economy - overview:

Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's least developed countries. The economy is predominately agricultural, with about 90% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounted for nearly 36% of GDP and 80% of export revenues in 2005. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for over 60% of exports. The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In late 2000, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. The government faces strong 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. In 2005, President MUTHARIKA championed an anticorruption campaign. Malawi's recent fiscal policy performance has been very strong, but a serious drought in 2005 and 2006 will heighten pressure on the government to increase spending.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$7.645 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$1.91 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

1% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$600 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 35.9%
industry: 14.5%
services: 49.6% (2005 est.)

Labor force:

4.5 million (2001 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 90%
industry and services: 10% (2003 est.)

Population below poverty line:

55% (2004 est.)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

50.3 (1997)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

15.4% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

9.5% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $844.6 million
expenditures: $913.9 million; including capital expenditures of $NA (2005 est.)

Public debt:

208.6% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


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

Industrial production growth rate:

-1.6% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

1.296 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

1.206 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - consumption:

5,450 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Current account balance:

-$217 million (2005 est.)


$364 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

tobacco 60%, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products, apparel

Exports - partners:

South Africa 13.4%, US 11.9%, Germany 11.5%, Egypt 8.4%, UK 6.6%, Mozambique 4.5% (2004)


$645 million f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

food, petroleum products, semimanufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment

Imports - partners:

South Africa 35.5%, India 7.7%, Mozambique 7.3%, Zimbabwe 6.8%, Zambia 6.3%, Tanzania 4.3% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$146 million (2005 est.)

Debt - external:

$3.284 billion (2005 est.)

Economic aid - recipient:

$401.5 million (2001)

Currency (code):

Malawian kwacha (MWK)

Fiscal year:

1 July - 30 June

Telephones - main lines in use:

93,000 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

222,100 (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: NA
domestic: system employs open-wire lines, microwave radio relay links, and radiotelephone communications stations
international: country code - 265; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 9, FM 5 (plus 15 repeater stations), shortwave 2 (plus a third station held in standby status) (2001)

Television broadcast stations:

1 (2001)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

305 (2005)

Internet users:

46,100 (2005)


42 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 6
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 36
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 15
under 914 m: 20 (2005)


total: 797 km
narrow gauge: 797 km 1.067-m gauge (2004)


total: 28,400 km
paved: 5,254 km
unpaved: 23,146 km (1999)


700 km (on Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and Shire River) (2006)

Ports and terminals:

Chipoka, Monkey Bay, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Chilumba

Military branches:

Malawi Armed Forces: Army (includes Air Wing and Naval Detachment), Police (includes Mobile Force Unit)

Disputes - international:

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