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Flag Source: CIA World Factbook
Historically, Bantu-speaking tribes inhabited Malawi, and the Maravi Kingdom, established in the 15th century, was the country’s first national ruling society. By the 18th century, it had successfully expanded into present-day Mozambique and Zimbabwe. In 1883 the British arrived, and in 1891 the British Central African Protectorate (which included most of today’s Malawi and was later renamed Nyasaland) was created.
As in many other European-colonized areas, the British established plantations and employed local Africans. The year 1915 marked Malawi’s first revolt against the British; it failed. Not until 1944 did Britain form Malawi’s first national political movement, known as the Nyasaland African Congress, and in 1949 the first Africans were admitted to the council.
In 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was created, and many Malawians feared that it would be used as a means of op
pression against them, as much of Rhodesia was governed with aggressive policies contrived by Europeans. The Nyasaland African Congress in turn became more radical in its politics, and under the direction of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda the movement was renamed the Malawi Congress Party. Protests were organized against the British, and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland fell apart in 1963, making way for the establishment of an independent Malawi on July 6, 1964.
Banda was a controversial ruler, as he fostered a strong connection with South Africa, becoming the first independent black African leader to visit the apartheid-riven nation. Despite the controversy, Malawi benefited from significant foreign investment and prospered.
Protests erupted against Banda’s government in 1992, coinciding with a terrible drought. In 1994, free elections were held, and Bakili Muluzi replaced Banda. Muluzi was himself replaced by Bingu wa Mutharika, who remains Malawi’s president to this day.
The Top 5: Local Advice
1. Malawi is a landlocked country smaller than Pennsylvania, with a population of more than 15 million. The capital of the country, Lilongwe, is located in the central region of the nation, and the most populous city, Blantyre, is in the southern region.
2. The Malawi currency is the Malawi kwacha (Zambia also calls its currency the kwacha). Every kwacha equals 100 tambala; the coins include one-, five-, and 20-tambala pieces. The symbol for the kwacha is KW.
3. Some of the most popular newspapers are The Nation, the Daily Times, and the monthly Chichewa-language paper, Boma Lathu.
4. The main languages of Malawi are English and Chichewa. Many Bantu languages, such as Chilomwe, Chiyao, and Chitumbuka, are spoken.
5. Smoking is currently allowed in public areas. Tobacco is Malawi’s most important cash crop.