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Brief History

The British colony Nayasaland became the Republic of Malawi after gaining its independence in 1964. It then became a single part state that was ruled by the President Hastings Kamuzu Bandafor three decades. In late 1993 a presidential council was formed, the life presidency was abolished and a new constitution was put into place, effectively ending the MCP's rule. In 1994 the first multi-party elections were held in Malawi, and Bakili Muluzi became president. Muluzi remained president until 2004, when Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika was elected. Multiparty parliamentary and presidential elections were held for the fourth time in Malawi in May 2009, and President Bingu wa Mutharika was successfully re-elected, despite charges of election fraud from his rival. Population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, corruption and the spread of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for Malawi.

Geography

Malawi, capital Lilongwe, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa covering an area of 118,484 square kilometers. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. The climate is sub-tropical with a rainy season from November to May and dry season from May to November. Malawi’s natural resources are limestone, arable land, hydro-power, unexploited deposits of uranium, coal and bauxite. Its commercial and largest city is Blantyre.

People

Malawi’s population is 15,447,500 (2010) belonging to many ethnic groups which include Chewa, Nyanja, Tumbuka, Yao, Sena, Tonga, Asian and European. The official language is the Chichewa 57.2% and other spoken languages include Chinyanja 12.8%, Chiyao 10.1%, Chitumbuka 9.5% and Chisena 2.7%. Its religions are distributed among Christian 79.9%, Muslim 12.8%, other 3% and Atheists 4.3%. The Malawian literacy rate is 62.7%.

Government

Malawi is a democratic, multi-party government, currently under the leadership of President Bingu wa Mutharika. The president is both the chief of state and head of government. Its legal system is based on English common law and customary law and it accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations. The vice president is Joyce Banda. The Malawian kwacha is the official currency, where 149.8 kwacha are equivalent to US$1 (2010).

Economy

Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. Its GDP per capita is US$900. The economy of Malawi has in the past been dependent on substantial economic aid from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and individual nations. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. In December 2007, the US granted Malawi eligibility status to receive financial support within the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) initiative. The poverty rate in Malawi is decreasing through the work of the government and supporting organizations, with people living under the poverty line decreasing from 54% in 1990 to 40% in 2006, and the percentage of "ultra-poor" decreasing from 24% in 1990 to 15% in 2007.

Agriculture accounts for 35% of GDP, industry for 19% and services for the remaining 46%. It is heavily agriculture-based, with around 85% of the population living in rural areas. More than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues come from agriculture. The main agricultural products of Malawi include tobacco, sugarcane, cotton, tea, corn, potatoes, sorghum, cattle and goats. The main industries are tobacco, tea and sugar processing, sawmill products, cement and consumer goods. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports.

As of 2009, Malawi exports an estimated US$945 million in goods per year. Other exported goods are cotton, peanuts, wood products and apparel. The main destination locations for the country's exports are South Africa, Germany, Egypt, Zimbabwe, the United States, Russia and the Netherlands. As of 2008, Malawi does not import or export any electricity, but does import all its petroleum, with no production in country.

In 2009, however, Malawi experienced some setbacks, including a general shortage of foreign exchange, which has damaged its ability to pay for imports. Investment fell 23% in 2009. The government has failed to address barriers to investment such as unreliable power, water shortages, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and the high costs of services.

In 2009, the real GDP growth was 5.9% and its inflation rate was also 8.4% in the same year. Malawi has one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world, although economic growth was estimated at 9.7% in 2008. Gambia’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita is US$287.62 (2010).


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