Landlocked, Malawi with a population of 13.9 million ranks among the world's most densely populated and least developed countries. The country is surrounded by Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.
Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland became the independent nation of Malawi in 1964. After three decades of one-party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu BANDA the country held multiparty elections in 1994, under a provisional constitution that came into full effect the following year.
President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA has overseen substantial economic improvement but because of political deadlock in the legislature, his minority party has been unable to pass significant legislation, and anti-corruption measures have stalled.
His recent death, from natural causes, sees Vice-President Joyce BANDA assume Presidential duties until the next election due in 2014. Population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, corruption, and the spread of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for Malawi.
Malawi enjoys diverse geographical features ranging from one of Africa's tallest mountains in the south, Mount Mulanje (3002m), to Lake Malawi which stretches for 580kms from North to South. In northern Malawi the vast Nyika Plateau stretches as far as the eye can see and is home to a range of wildlife including leopards. Nearly 80% of the population live in rural areas surviving on subsistence farming. While driving through the country, pockets of maize and other crops can be seen growing.
Agriculture represents nearly one third of GDP and 90% of all export revenues.
Lake Malawi is the primary focus of tourist activity in the country providing freshwater diving, sailing, water skiing among beautiful coastland stretches. Wildlife including elephants can be seen in Shire Park and black rhino have recently been introduced into Liwonde National Park. The jewel in the crown is Likoma Island located close the Mozambique shoreline. Here you can find unspoilt water activities, and a quiet and relaxing atmosphere.
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Approximately 37.8% of GDP focuses on agriculture, 18.1% industry and services including tourism 44.1% (2007 est.)
Purchasing Power Parity was estimated at $800 per capita in 2007. Other trends include:
- Life expectancy is 43.45 years (2007);
- Official unemployment figures are unavailable. There is a labour force of 4.5 million people.
- 45% of the population live below the poverty line.
The economy is predominately agricultural with about 85% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for more than one-third of GDP and 90% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports. Other agricultural industries with export markets includes sugar, cotton, tea and macadamia nuts.
Tourism plays a small but growing influence on the economy with South African, European and American tourists visiting the country, in small numbers.
The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In December 2007, the US granted Malawi eligibility status to receive financial support within the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) initiative. The government faces many challenges including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, facing up to environmental problems, dealing with the rapidly growing problem of HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors that fiscal discipline is being tightened.
Malawi enjoys a sub-tropical climate with a rainy season (November to May) and dry season (May to November).
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