Welcome to Malawi

Malawi is a poor country in terms of wealth, but a very friendly and welcoming one. Many Malawians rely on agriculture and times can be hard, especially following droughts or floods. Illnesses are a constant threat. Maybe that's why we like to celebrate the good times, for example at the music festivals of Lilongwe and Blantyre

Development

‘People are the real wealth of a nation.’ This is the belief of the United Nations, whose Millenium Development Goals provide a framework for improving the lives of millions.

It helps when nations are peaceful, stable and growing economically. But where even the poorest countries focus on health, education and creating fairer societies, more Africans have the chance of a better life.

Greetings

All to do with respect

If you’re a young person in Malawi, you’d say ‘Bo?’ when greeting your friends. But for parents or anyone older, a more formal and respectful greeting would be used.

Climate & Agriculture

Sub-tropical climate

Malawi enjoys a sub-tropical climate with three seasons and the country's agriculture generally depends on the rainy season, when as much as 15cm of water can fall in one day.

Geography & Wildlife

Lake of the stars

Lake Malawi is the dominant geographical feature of the country. It runs almost the entire length of the country and is the third-largest freshwater lake in Africa. The lake lies within a deep trough along the Great Rift Valley and has existed for around two million years.

Economy & Industry

Agriculture still the mainstay

Malawi’s economy revolves around agriculture, which brings in more than 80% of the country’s export earnings and supports well over 80% of the population.

Education & Jobs

One in ten children not at school

Primary education is compulsory in Malawi. However, around one in ten primary-age children are not enrolled at school. Of those who do attend school, only a quarter currently go on to secondary education.

Food & Daily life

Maize is life

Malawians have a saying – ‘chimanga ndi moyo’ (maize is life). For 90% of Malawians, life revolves around growing enough maize to feed the family.

Facts & Figures

A densely-populated country

This small African country (around half the size of the UK) is densely populated, with more than 15 million inhabitants. Most still rely on agriculture as their main source of income – only 20% of Malawians live in towns and cities.

Growing up

Ambition and enterprise

What do young people in Malawi want to do when they leave school? Dumbo Jonasi talks about his dream of becoming a manager and working in an office, showing young people have the same kind of aspirations the world over.

Child rights

Forced into marriage – aged 13

As a young girl in Malawi, especially if you live in a rural area, you may be forced into marriage, sometimes with a much older man. The government is trying to put an end to such traditional practices.

Children's stories

Filming in Malawi

Youngsters at the SOS Children’s Village in Malawi were given lessons from professional film makers. They learnt skills in editing, directing and shooting a video. See what they came up with.

An ancient game

An ancient board game

Wari is a varient of one of the oldest board games, known more widely as Mancala/ Mankala. Dating back thousands of years, the game is still popular today. In Malawi, children play Wari on ‘boards’ scooped out of the ground.

Malawi map

Explore Malawi

Discover some of Malawi’s most important places and features, such as Lake Malawi, which runs almost the entire length of the country.

Tourism & Communications

Natural wealth in a poor country

Malawi has great natural beauty and its biodiversity and climate draw many tourists. The main attraction is Lake Malawi, which offers stunning scenery, beaches, snorkelling, scuba-diving and water-sports.

Our staple diet

Long, hard haul

Maize is the staple food in Malawi. One large bag of maize feeds a family of ten for two weeks. But there is a long, hard haul involved in getting the corn to the mill before the family can put meals on the table.

People & Culture

It’s OK to be late

When young Malawians fix a time to meet, they expect to arrive late – perhaps by an hour or so – unlike Westerners, who mean the time they set!

Poverty & Healthcare

One in ten adults have HIV/AIDS

In Malawi, more than one in ten adults are infected with HIV/AIDS and each year around 50,000 people die from the disease.

Climate

Africa is a massive continent, with a range of climates. Some regions are hot and dry, like the Sahara, Kalahari and Namib deserts. Other parts are wet or covered in tropical rainforest. Conditions also vary by altitude, from the dry salt pans of the Danakil Depression (one of the lowest points on earth) to the snowcaps (at certain times) of the highest mountains. Weather-wise, Africa has it all!

Tribal traditions

A fearsome apparition

In Malawi, outsiders are not meant to see what happens at initiation ceremonies for boys and girls in village communities. So when Caroline takes her video camera, young men in wild animal costumes rush up to her – a fearsome apparition.

Welcome to Malawi

Hi, we're Caroline and Joyce!

Welcome to Malawi! We've made videos around our home town of Lilongwe to show you something of our country. Malawians are a nation of growers. No crop is more important to us than maize, which is why we have a saying - ‘chimanga ndi moyo’ or 'maize is life'. Come and find out more about life in Malawi.

History & Politics

A nation reborn

David Livingstone was an important crusader against slavery and his association with the region drew British trading companies. Having been colonised by Britain at the end of the nineteenth century, Malawi (along with Zambia and Zimbabwe) became independent in the 1960s.

Poverty

Across the rest of the world, absolute poverty has halved over recent decades, but in Africa it has barely fallen.

About two-fifths of the population of sub-Saharan Africa survive week by week on what someone in the UK earns from just one hour's work on the minimum wage.

Agriculture & Famine

A quarter of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is undernourished and famines can impact whole regions.

Land is available to grow more food locally, but investment is needed in  technologies such as irrigation for land to be used effectively. Farmers must also adapt to climate change if they are to feed the continent's rising population.

Health

Africa has a high number of communicable diseases, which place a huge burden on healthcare systems. The vast majority of malaria cases and HIV/AIDS-related deaths occur in Africa; these two diseases currently represent the greatest threats.

With low investment in healthcare and a severe shortage of medical staff, many countries struggle to meet the health needs of their people.

Foods

Africa has some of the most distinctive cuisines and flavours in the world. Food varies widely, but there are commonalities across regions. Depending on what's grown locally, dishes are also influenced by the traders, immigrants and rulers who settled across the continent. Arab, Asian and European elements blend in with traditional African cooking.

Children

Around one in six children born in sub-Saharan Africa don't live to see their fifth birthday and life can be tough for those who do.

What are the common challenges facing African children and how do their lives compare with those of children in the UK?

Games & Sport

Africa is home to arguably the oldest-recorded games and sports. While some are only known through archaeology, modern-day games and sports such as Mancala/Mankala and Nubian wrestling are very much alive today.

Of course, new sports have come along to claim the attention of Africans. You may have heard of one - it's called football.

History

The first humans are thought to have lived in Africa and powerful African empires formed from the medieval age onwards.

However, today's African nations were shaped by the European powers who colonised this vast continent. Having gained their independence, many African countries are still coming to terms with the legacy left by their colonisers.

Geography & Wildlife

With its varied geography and diverse habits, the African continent is home to a wide range of flora and fauna. Though famous for its 'big game' animals, Africa has huge numbers of fish, mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and insect species, as well as many tree, plant and flower species.

Women

A woman’s status varies by country and region across Africa. In many parts, women struggle against inequality in laws, education, pay and domestic responsibilities.

Women’s health is also at risk from traditional practices such as early marriage. But with better education, girls can make more informed choices, leading to the greater development of African nations.

Malawi topicsFacts & FiguresPoverty & HealthcareFood & Daily lifeAn ancient gamePeople & CultureGeography & WildlifeClimate & AgricultureGrowing upOur staple dietWelcome to MalawiTribal traditionsEconomy & IndustryGreetingsEducation & JobsChildren's storiesHistory & PoliticsChild rightsMalawi mapTourism & Communications