Introduction / History The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south, and west. Malawi is over 100,000 square miles in land area and has an estimated population of 14 million. The capital city is Lilongwe and the largest city is Blantyre.
Malawi was first settled during the 10th century and remained under native rule until 1891 when it was colonized by the British. Malawi remained under British rule until 1963 when they gained their independence and became a single party state. Currently, Malawi is a multi-party democracy with an elected president. Their foreign policy is pro-western and Malawi maintains diplomatic relations with most countries.
Malawi is among the world's least developed and most densely populated countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture and has a predominately rural population. The Malawian government is decreasingly dependent on outside aid to meet their developmental needs.
Where are they located? Malawi is located in the southeastern section of the African continent. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique to the east, south, and west. Lake Malawi forms two thirds of the nation's eastern border measuring 365 miles in length and 50 miles in width.
What are their lives like? Malawi has low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high rate of HIV/AIDS which greatly contributes to the low life expectancy and causes a drain on the nation from lowering the available workforce and elevating government expenditures.
Malawi has a diverse population of indigenous peoples, Asians, and Europeans. The major languages of Malawi include Chichewa, an official language spoken by over 57% of the population, Chinyanja (12.8%), Chiyao (10.1%), and Chitumbuka (9.5%). Other native languages spoken include Malawian Lomwe (spoken by 250,000 in the southeast), Kokola (spoken by around 200,000 people also in the southeast), Lambya (spoken by around 45,000 in the northwestern tip), Ndali (spoken by around 70,000), Nyakyusa-Ngonde (spoken by around 300,000 in northern Malawi), Malawian Sena (spoken by around 270,000 in southern Malawi), and Tonga (spoken by around 170,000 in the north).
The name "Malawi" comes from the Maravi who are descendants of the Bantu people who emigrated from the southern Congo around 1400 AD. Upon reaching northern Lake Malawi, the group divided with one group moving south down the west bank of the lake to become the tribe known as the Chewa, while the other group, the ancestors of today's Nyanja tribe, moved along the east side of the lake to the southern section of Malawi.
Tribal conflict and migration prevented the formation of a society that was uniquely and cohesively Malawian prior to the dawn of the 20th century. Over the past century however, tribal and ethnic distinctions have diminished to the point where there is no significant tribal friction. The concept of a Malawian nationality has begun to form composed predominantly of rural people who are generally conservative and traditionally nonviolent.
Malawi culture combines native and colonial aspects including dance, sports, art, and music. The National Dance Troup (formerly the Kwacha Cultural Troup) was formed in November 1987 by the government. Traditional music and dance can be seen at ritual ceremonies, marriages, and other celebrations.
Soccer is the most common sport in Malawi after being introduced by the British during their colonial rule. Basketball is also growing in popularity.
The native tribes of Malawi have a rich tradition of basket-making, mask carving, other woodcarving, and oil painting. Some of these goods are used in traditional ceremonies still performed by native peoples while other goods are sold to tourists in the more populated areas.
There are several internationally recognized literary figures from Malawi include poet Jack Mapanje, history and fiction writer Paul Zeleza, and authors Legson Kayira, Felix Mnthali, Frank Chipasula, and David Rubadiri.
Primary education is not compulsory in Malawi but their constitution entitles all citizens to at least five years of school. Traditionally, Malawi children have been plagued by high truancy and dropout rates. In 1994, free primary education for all children was established by the government and increased attendance rates were realized. Dropout rates are higher for girls than boys because they face greater levels of gender-based violence on the long walk to school. Despite the security challenges, attendance rates for all children have increased from 58% in 1992 to three-quarters in 2007 and the number of students who begin in grade one and complete grade five has increased from 64% in 1992 to 86% in 2006. Youth literacy has improved from 68% in 2000 to 82% in 2007.
What are their beliefs? According to recent estimates, approximately 80% of the population is Christian. The Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Central Africa Presbyterian make up the largest groups with smaller numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, and Seventh Day Adventists. Around 13% of the population is Sunni Muslim. There are also a few ancient African religions practiced in remote areas.
What are their needs? The Malawian government faces challenges in growing the economy, improving education, health care, and sanitation, and becoming financially independent. Several programs developed since 2005 have shown some success.
Malawi has a population of almost 14 million with an annual growth rate of 2.39%. Infant mortality rates are high and average life expectancy is low at 43.45 years. There is a high adult prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS with an estimated 900,000 adults (or 14.2% of the population) living with the disease in 2003. There are approximately 84,000 deaths a year from HIV/AIDS. Approximately 250 new people are infected each day and at least 70% of Malawi's hospital beds are occupied by HIV/AIDS patients. The high rate of infection has resulted in an estimated 5.8% of the farm labor force dying of the disease and HIV/AIDS is expected to lower the country's GDP by at least 10% by the year 2010.
There is also a very high degree of risk for major infectious diseases including bacterial and protozoan diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, malaria, plague, and schistosomiasis. Malawi has made progress in decreasing child mortality and reducing the incidences of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; however, the country has not performed so well at reducing maternal mortality and promoting gender equality.
Prayer Points * Pray for a clear, consistent, and persistent presentation of Biblical Christianity for Malawi.
* Pray for workers who will enter and persist in this field of opportunity.
* Pray that God will raise up local residents who will take the Word of God to the rest of Africa.