Malawi is a southeastern African country which is defined by its topography of highlands split by the Great Rift Valley and enormous Lake Malawi. It is a landlocked country bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. Malawi is over 118,000 km 2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 16,777,547 (July 2013 est.). Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi’s largest city; the second largest is Blantyre , the third is Mzuzu and the fourth largest is its old capital Zomba. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”.
Malawi gained independence from the United Kingdom on July 6, 1964. English language as its official language of Malawi and Chichewa is the recognised national language.
Malawi is among the smallest countries in Africa. Lake Malawi takes about a third of Malawi’s area. The area of Africa now known as Malawi was settled by migrating Bantu groups around the 10th century. Centuries later in 1891 the area was colonised by the British. In 1953 Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, a protectorate of the United Kingdom, became a protectorate within the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation was dissolved in 1963. In 1964 the protectorate over Nyasaland was ended and Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II with the new name Malawi. Two years later it became a republic. Upon gaining independence it became a one-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda , who remained president until 1994, when he lost an election. Arthur Peter Mutharika is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government.
Malawi is among the world’s least-developed countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in building and expanding the economy, improving education, healthcare, environmental protection , and becoming financially independent. Since 2005, Malawi has developed several programs that focus on these issues, and the country’s outlook appears to be improving, with a rise in the economy, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008.
Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality . There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS , which is a drain on the labour force and government expenditures. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was periodic regional conflict fuelled in part by ethnic divisions in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had re-emerged.
Malawi has two sites listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lake Malawi National Park was first listed in 1984 and the Chongoni Rock Art Area was listed in 2006. Malawi’s climate is hot in the low-lying areas in the south of the country and temperate in the northern highlands. The altitude moderates what would otherwise be an equatorial climate. Between November and April the temperature is warm with equatorial rains and thunderstorms, with the storms reaching their peak severity in late March. After March, the rainfall rapidly diminishes and from May to September wet mists float from the highlands into the plateaus, with almost no rainfall.
Animal life indigenous to Malawi includes mammals such as elephants, hippos, big cats, monkeys, lemurs and bats; a great variety of birds including birds of prey, parrots and falcons, waterfowl and large waders, owls and songbirds. Lake Malawi has been described as having one of the richest lake fish faunas in the world, being the home for some 200 mammal, 650 bird, 30+ mollusc, and 5,500+ plant species.
The ecoregions include tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands of the miombo woodland, dominated by miombo trees; and the Zambezian and mopane woodlands, characterized by the mopane tree ; and also flooded grassland providing grassland and swamp vegetation.
There are five national parks, four wildlife and game reserves and two other protected areas in Malawi.