Malawi is a small landlocked country in Central Africa that received independence in 1964. It was formerly part of the Maravi empire and than became a British colony in the 19th century. For the three decades following independence it was ruled as a one party state under Hastings Banda. Since 1994 though, it has been a multi-party democracy. Although there are an array of languages spoken in Malawi, English and Chichewa are the official ones. The economy, and in particular exports, is heavily dependent on agriculture, which supplies a majority of the jobs for the economy. The country is composed of three regions (North, Central, and South) and the capital city is Lilongwe. Although the country is often ranked near the bottom in terms of development indices, it is often referred to as the warm heart of Africa for the friendly nature of its citizens. Indeed Malawi has not been plagued by civil or political violence like some of its neighboring countries. Popular tourist destinations include Lake Malawi, which covers about one third of the country, and Mount Mulanje, one of the tallest mountains on the continent. The current president is Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party, and the next elections are scheduled for May, 2019.
Fun Facts about Malawi
- Encompassing 11,400 square miles, Lake Malawi is the 8th largest lake in the world and is home to more species of fish than any other lake in the world. It is often referred to as the Lake of Stars because of the fishing boats that operate at night.
- Malawi is home to the Chongoni Rock Art Area, which was deemed a UNESCO world heritage site in 2006. It contains hundreds of rock art paintings from the late stone age and early iron age period. Indeed, the earliest human settlements in Malawi were 50,000-60,000 years ago.
- The name Malawi is derived from the Maravi Empire, which held political power until the 18th century. Maravi means flames, and is indicative of the iron kilns that characterized this era.
- Malawi is the only country outside of Denmark that has a Carlsberg production facility. The ties between Malawi and Carlsberg date to 1966, when a Danish foreign minister visited the country and did not like the beer that he was served. Therefore Carlsberg beers are cheap and can be found throughout the country.
- The traditional dress worn by many women in Malawi is referred to as Chitenje. It is rectangular piece of fabric that can be found in many shapes, patterns, and colors. Local tailors have mastered the art of infusing chitenje into a range of clothing apparel.
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Interested in Learning More about Malawi?
McCraken's illustration of the political, economic, and social dimensions of the colonial era provides an excellent introduction to Malawian history. He expertly extols the complex interactions between the British colonists and the Malawian people that shaped the institutional development and subsequent dissolution of the colonial government.
If you really want to understand Malawi, it is important to have at least some grasp of Chichewa, the most commonly spoken language. Chichewa is a Bantu language and therefore shares some similarities with other Southern and Eastern African languages such as Swahili. Although it may be challenging at first, it is easier to learn than some other languages.
Written by the former Norwegian ambassador, A Place Apart nicely complements A History of Malawi. While primarily focused on the political and social history of post-colonial era, the book provides an in-depth portrait of the country by covering a range of topics such as religion, ethnography, anthropology, history, economics, and domestic and geopolitical issues.