25 interesting facts about Malawi

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The most interesting facts about Malawi, from one of the planet’s largest and deepest lakes to selling the presidential jet to raise funds for the economy.

Interesting facts about Malawi include the spectacular Lake Malawi
Interesting facts about Malawi include the spectacular Lake Malawi (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of Malawi
Capital city: Lilongwe
Population: 21,196,629
Area: 118,484 sq km
Major languages: English, Chichewa
Time zone: UTC+2 (Central Africa Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about Malawi

1. Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa. A landlocked country is surrounded by land and does not have access to the open sea. There are currently 45 landlocked countries in the world as well as five partially recognised states.
– Source: CIA World Fact BookThe Telegraph

2. Human cultural artefacts have been found in Malawi and date back over 50,000 years. However, discovered fossilised remains of Homosapiens only date to between 8000 and 2000 BC.
– Source: Britannica

3. Bantu-speaking tribes occupied the Malawi region between the 1st and 4th centuries BC and continued to rule the region until the arrival of Europeans.
– Source: Britannica

A map of Malawi
A map of Malawi (Shutterstock)

4. During the 17th century, Portuguese explorers arrived from the east coast of present-day Mozambique. They began slave trading in the area, which then increased dramatically between 1790 and 1860.
– Source: BBC News

5. During the mid-nineteenth century Scottish explorer, missionary and anti-slavery campaigner David Livingstone first travelled through the region, paving the way for further European influence.
– Source: New Statesmen

6. Founded in 1876, Blantyre is Malawi’s second-largest city and is named after David Livingstone’s Scottish birthplace.
– Source: Lonely Planet

A sign for Blantyre
A sign for Blantyre (Shutterstock)

7. In 1891, Malawi was established as part of the British territory of Nyasaland and District Protectorate.
– Source: BBC News

8. In 1964 Nyasaland finally declared complete independence and changed its name to Malawi.
– Source: BBC News

9. For the first 30 years of independence, Malawi was ruled by a one-party regime under autocratic President Hastings Banda. Democratic processes have improved since he relinquished power in the mid-1990s.
– Source: BBC News

10. Lake Malawi, also known as Lake Nyasa, accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s total area.
– Source: Britannica

An island on Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi accounts for more than one-fifth of the country’s total area (Shutterstock)

11. Lake Malawi is the fourth-largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, the ninth-largest lake in the world by area and the third-largest and second-deepest in Africa.
– Source: Water Encyclopedia

12. Lake Malawi is home to hundreds of fish species, nearly all endemic. Its importance for the study of evolution has been compared to that of the Galapagos Islands.
– Source: UNESCO

13. Malawi’s flag is horizontally striped black-red-green. The colours symbolise the African people, the blood of independence martyrs and the green nature of Malawi. The setting sun is featured in the top stripe
– Source: Britannica

Malawi's flag
Malawi’s flag (Shutterstock)

14. Lake Malawi is sometimes referred to as “the calendar lake” dues to its dimensions: 365 miles long and 52 miles wide.
– Source: Africa Geographic

15. Malawi means “flaming waters” and refers to the setting sun over Lake Malawi.
– Source: Britannica

16. Popstar Madonna famously adopted four Malawian children. She drew criticism for receiving a special exemption from laws restricting non-residents from taking children abroad and for exaggerating her charity work in the country.
– Source: The Guardian, The Guardian

17. In 2013, Malawi’s President Joyce Banda sold the luxury presidential jet for $15 million to raise cash for the struggling economy.
– Source: Reuters

A portrait of Joyce Banda
Joyce Banda (UN Women:CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

18. President Banda also cut her salary by 30%, pledged to sell off 35 Mercedes Benz cars used by her cabinet and introduced a host of austerity measures to boost Malawi’s economy.
– Source: Reuters

19. Malawi is the third poorest country in the world when measured by GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP).
– Source: World Bank

20. The UNESCO-listed Majete Wildlife Reserve achieved public acclaim after it successfully reintroduced wildlife including lions and cheetahs. With the lions, it became Malawi’s first Big Five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) wildlife park following the decimation of the area’s wildlife population due to decades of poaching.
– Source: The Guardian, Lonely Planet

An elephant in Majete Wildlife Reserve
An elephant in Majete Wildlife Reserve (Shutterstock)

21. Malawi is one of 73 countries to have never won a medal at the Olympic Games.
– Source: The Telegraph, Washington Post

22. Malawi is home to the “richest concentration of rock art in Central Africa”. The UNESCO-listed Chongoni Rock-Art Area features 127 sites of rock art from the late Stone Age (between 50,000 and 39,000 years ago).
– Source: UNESCO

23. Malawi is known as the “warm heart of Africa” due to the welcoming nature of its people.
– Source: National Geographic

A group of women in Malawi
Women in Malawi (Shutterstock)

24. In 1991, a hominid jawbone was discovered in Malawi that is believed to be up to 2.4 million years old – the oldest evidence of the genus Homo ever discovered.
– Source: New Scientist

25. Tobacco accounts for nearly 70% of Malawi’s exports. Its second-largest export is tea (9%).
– Source: OEC

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