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A map of Malawi A map of Malawi Much of eastern Malawi is taken up by Lake Nyasa (also called Lake Malawi), a large freshwater lake lined with beaches that lies in East Africa’s Great Rift Valley. In the west the land rises—quite steeply in the far north—to forested plateaux. Malawi has a tropical climate; it is hot and humid for much of the year with a warm, rainy season between November and April. High on the plateaux, temperatures are cooler. Malawi is one of the least developed countries in Africa. It is very dependent on agriculture but suffers from frequent crop failures. However, the Malawian government has put in place programmes to improve the nation’s economy, education and health. The number of people living in poverty—and the nation’s dependence on foreign aid—are slowly decreasing. 

Welcome to Malawi
Women selling their produce in a market in LilongweWomen selling their produce in a market in Lilongwe


Around nine major tribes live in Malawi. Several of them are descended from Bantu people who migrated from West Africa starting around 3000 years ago. Malawi takes its name from the Maravi, a people who arrived in the region 600 years ago. One group settled west of Lake Nyasa: their descendants today are the Chewa, Malawi’s largest ethnic group. Another group of Maravi settled in the south: their descendants are the Nyanja. Malawi has suffered from conflicts between different ethnic groups, but today most people live peacefully side by side.

Malawi’s first female president was Joyce Banda (2012 to 2014). She was Africa’s second female head of state, after Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (2006–present). Banda is a champion of education and women’s rights.

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