Malawi has been affectionately named ‘The Warm Heart of Africa’ by many. This rings true not only in the climate but also in the warm and friendly nature of the country’s inhabitants. It has one of the highest population densities in Africa, with the population still rapidly growing. The country’s centrepiece is the beautiful Lake Malawi, a well-known geographical landmark which serves as a very attractive destination for locals and tourists alike.
Malawi became a fully independent member of the Commonwealth on July 6, 1964. Two years later, Malawi became a one-party state and elected its first president, President Bandu, who ran the country for the first 30 years of its independence. Bandu effectively lead a dictatorship, and it was a cruel time for the country, with harsh laws, censorship and a lack of control and freedom for the people. Bandu survived many attempts to knock him out of power, but was eventually elected out of his position in the mid-1990s and a multi-party democracy was formed. Malawi’s new constitution guarantees freedom of speech, religion and assembly.
The country’s workforce is mainly employed in the primary sector, with around 85% of the population living in rural areas, engaged in agricultural work. However, this is an unreliable sector, with heavy reliance on weather conditions and land availability; for example, the country endured a severe famine in 2005, and is now under increasing pressure for land due to the rising population. Malawi’s main exports are tobacco, which makes up 70% of total exports, while sugar and tea, combined makes up 20% of exports.
Malawi’s tourism industry has greatly improved over the years due to it being a small and compact country with good public transport, cheap prices, and the appeal of the exotic beaches and scenery that Lake Malawi brings. More recently, however, its appeal as a tourist destination has declined due to the fact that the main visitors to Malawi are tourists visiting neighbouring countries, where recent political disruptions have lead people to travel elsewhere.
Malawi’s location within Africa, bordering Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, makes it effectively situated at a ‘biological crossroads’ between southern, central and east Africa. This means it attracts a range of wildlife from each of these regions including hippos, elephants, buffalos and antelopes. Being a landlocked country, Malawi has no direct access to the sea, but the country’s most prominent physical feature, Lake Malawi acts almost like an inland sea. The lake lies in the trough of The Great Rift Valley, and is the third largest lake in Africa, is 360 miles long and covers almost a fifth of Malawi’s total area. Lake Malawi is surrounded by endless palm fringed beaches and enclosed by sheer mountains, making Malawi’s land very diverse.
HIV/AIDS Prevalence and Poverty
Malawi struggles with being the country with the ninth highest prevalence for HIV/AIDS in the world, with current prevalence rates of 10%. Like those in much of the rest of the world, women in Malawi are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS. A recent report by the Malawian government suggests HIV prevalence among women is 12.9%, compared to prevalence among men at 8.1%. The report suggests factors such as the low social and economic status of women contributes to this, as well as harmful cultural practices and gender-based violence.
More than half of Malawi’s population lives below the poverty line. Most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, making the food supply very unreliable, as the country is prone to natural disasters of both extremes, from drought to heavy rainfalls. This means the country is in a situation of constant need of thousands of tonnes of food aid every year.