- Area: 118,484 sq km / 45,747 sq mi
- Population: 18,091,575
- Infant mortality: 43.4 per 1000 live births
- Life expectancy: 58.3 years
- Urbanisation: 16.9%
- Literacy: 65.8%
The area of Africa now known as Malawi had a very small population before waves of Bantu peoples began emigrating from the north around the 10th century AD. Although most of the Bantu peoples continued south, some remained permanently and founded ethnic groups based on common ancestry.
By 1500 AD, the tribes had established the Kingdom of Maravi that reached from north of what is now Nkhotakota to the Zambezi River and from Lake Malawi to the Luangwa River in what is now Zambia.
Soon after 1600, with the area mostly united under one native ruler, native tribesmen began encountering, trading with and making alliances with Portuguese traders and members of the military. By 1700, however, the empire had broken up into areas controlled by many individual ethnic groups. The Arab slave trade reached its height in the mid-1800s, when approximately 20,000 people were enslaved and considered to be carried yearly from Nkhotakota to Kilwa where they were sold.
Missionary and explorer David Livingstone reached Lake Malawi (then Lake Nyasa) in 1859 and identified the Shire Highlands south of the lake as an area suitable for European settlement. As the result of Livingstone's visit, several Anglican and Presbyterian missions were established in the area in the 1860s and 1870s, the African Lakes Company Limited was established in 1878 to set up a trade and transport concern working closely with the missions, and a small mission and trading settlement was established at Blantyre in 1876 and a British Consul took up residence there in 1883. The Portuguese government was also interested in the area so, to prevent Portuguese occupation, the British government sent Harry Johnston as British consul with instructions to make treaties with local rulers beyond Portuguese jurisdiction.
In 1889, a British protectorate was proclaimed over the Shire Highlands, which was extended in 1891 to include the whole of present-day Malawi as the British Central Africa Protectorate. In 1907, the protectorate was renamed Nyasaland, a name it retained for the remainder of its time under British rule.
In 1944, the Nyasaland African Congress (NAC) was formed by the Africans of Nyasaland to promote local interests to the British government. In 1953, Britain linked Nyasaland with Northern and Southern Rhodesia in what was the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, often called the Central African Federation (CAF), for mainly political reasons. Even though the Federation was semi-independent, the linking provoked opposition from African nationalists, and the NAC gained popular support. An influential opponent of the CAF was Dr. Hastings Banda, a European-trained doctor working in Ghana who was persuaded to return to Nyasaland in 1958 to assist the nationalist cause. Banda was elected president of the NAC and worked to mobilise nationalist sentiment before being jailed by colonial authorities in 1959. He was released in 1960 and asked to help draft a new constitution for Nyasaland, with a clause granting Africans the majority in the colony's Legislative Council.
In 1961, Banda's Malawi Congress Party (MCP) gained a majority in the Legislative Council elections and Banda became Prime Minister in 1963. The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and on 6 July 1964, Nyasaland became independent from British rule and renamed itself Malawi. Under a new constitution, Malawi became a republic with Banda as its first president. The new document also formally made Malawi a one-party state with the MCP as the only legal party. In 1971, Banda was declared president-for-life. For almost 30 years, Banda presided over a rigidly totalitarian regime, which ensured that Malawi did not suffer armed conflict.
In 1994 the first multi-party elections were held in Malawi, and Banda was defeated by Bakili Muluzi (a former Secretary General of the MCP and former Banda Cabinet Minister). Re-elected in 1999, Muluzi remained president until 2004, when Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika was elected. Although the political environment was described as "challenging", it was stated in 2009 that a multi-party system still existed in Malawi. Multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections were held for the fourth time in Malawi in May 2009, and President Mutharika was successfully re-elected, despite charges of election fraud from his rival.
Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa, bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast and Mozambique to the south, southwest and southeast.
The Great Rift Valley runs through the country from north to south, and to the east of the valley lies Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa), making up over three-quarters of Malawi's eastern boundary. Lake Malawi is sometimes called the Calendar Lake as it is about 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.
In the mountainous sections of Malawi surrounding the Rift Valley, plateaus rise generally 914 to 1,219 metres (3,000 to 4,000 ft) above sea level.
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 during these months.
Malawi is among the world's least developed countries. Around 85% of the population live in rural areas. The economy is based on agriculture, and more than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from this. In the past, the economy has been dependent on substantial economic aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and other countries.
In December 2000, the IMF stopped aid disbursements due to corruption concerns, and many individual donors followed suit, resulting in an almost 80% drop in Malawi's development budget. However, in 2005, Malawi was the recipient of over US$575 million in aid. The Malawian government faces challenges in developing a market economy, improving environmental protection, dealing with the rapidly growing HIV/AIDS problem, improving the education system, and satisfying its foreign donors that it is working to become financially independent.
Agriculture accounts for 35% of GDP, industry for 19% and services for the remaining 46%. Malawi has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world.
In January 2015 southern Malawi was devastated by the worst floods in living memory, stranding at least 20,000 people. These floods affected more than a million people across the country, including 336,000 who were displaced, according to UNICEF. Over 100 people were killed and an estimated 64,000 hectares of cropland were washed away.
Church of Central Africa Presbyterian, Reformed Presbyterian Church of Malawi, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran.