The African continent is comprised of 54 nations, each with its own independent government and sovereignty, GDP, culture, natural resources, language(s), military, and religion. The treasure trove of mineral and raw material wealth has scarcely been touched and the continent's largely untapped fertile lands could feed the world. Herewith is Jewel of Africa, an interactive adventure in the cradle of mankind, an exploration of nations from A-Z in alphabetical order.
Malawi: Coming of age in a 21st century Garden of Eden
The Republic of Malawi is landlocked southeast African nation sharing its borders with Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique The capital is Lilongwe, bearing 646,750 people situated at 3,400 feet in a high central plateau area of the country. Malawi's total population is 20 million.
Malawi lies wholly within the tropics and occupies a strip of land between Zambia and Mozam-bique. Malawi remains one of the neediest countries in the world despite making significant economic and structural reforms to sustain economic growth. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, employing nearly 80 percent of the population, and it is vulnerable to external shocks, particularly climatic shocks.
The Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), a series of five-year plans, guides the country’s development. The current MGDS III, Building a Productive, Competitive and Resilient Nation, will run through 2022 and focuses on education, energy, agriculture, health and tourism. In January 2021, the government launched the Malawi Vision 2063 that aims at transforming Malawi into a wealthy and self-reliant industrialized upper middle-income country.
Malawi covers 46,066 square miles and geographically is a deep depression. Its chief physical feature, runs through the center and forms part of the Great Rift Valley. In this depression are Lake Malawi and the Shire Valley. Lake Malawi, about 1,500 feet above sea level and 380 miles long, is Africa's third largest lake and Malawi's major tourist attraction. In Malawi's north and central areas are the Nyika, Vipya, and Dedza uplands, rising 5,000 to 8,000 feet above sea level.
In the south, the Shire Highlands plateau, with the Dowa highlands and Dedza-Kirk mountain range in the north and west average 3,000-4,000 feet. The isolated massifs of Mulanje, which reach 9,849 feet, the highest point in the country; and Zomba, which reach 6,846 feet, and Mulanje (10,000 feet), represent the fourth physical region. Lake Nyasa, 360 miles long, is the country's most prominent feature and contains more fish species than any other lake on Earth.
Malawi has wet and dry seasons. The wet season is from November to April; the heaviest rainfall occurs between December and March. The dry season begins in May and lasts until November. It is hottest just before rains begin. The average daily temperature in Lilongwe during October is 84.6 degrees Fahrenheit. June, July, and August are the coolest months, and nights can be quite chilly when temperatures drop to between 41 degrees and 57 degrees. Frost occasionally occurs in Lilongwe. During the dry season, particularly September and October, high winds and some dust occur. The annual mean temperature in Lilongwe is 67.4, and annual rainfall is 31.9 inches. Nights are gen- erally cool and pleasant in Lilongwe, even during the hottest weather. Dry season days are gener- ally sunny and warm; rains during the wet season are brief. The Blantyre area is more mountain- ous, and the weather more humid.
The major drainage system is Lake Malawi, which covers some 11,430 square miles and extends beyond the Malawi border. It is fed by the North and South Rukuru, Dwangwa, Lilongwe, and Bua rivers. The Shire River, the lake’s only outlet, flows through adjacent Lake Malombe and receives several tributaries before joining the Zambezi River in Mozambique. A second drainage system is that of Lake Chilwa, the rivers of which flow from the Lake Chilwa–Phalombe plain and the
About 187 species of mammals have been recorded in Malawi. Of these, 55 are bats and 52 are rodents. The people living in rural Malawi are mostly subsistence farmers; they do not appreciate their crops being trampled and eaten and will hunt or drive off wild animals. Elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffa- lo, hippopotamus and rhinoceros are present in the country but their numbers are low except in national parks and game reserves.
More numerous are jackals and spotted hyenas, African wildcats, caracal and serval. Smaller predators include mongoose, genet, civet, striped polecat, honey badger, and African clawless otters. Antelopes roaming Malawi include the common eland, greater kudu, waterbuck, sable, roan antelope, bush buck, nyala, impala, southern reedbuck and several smaller species of antelope. Primates present in the country include yellow and chacma baboons, vervet monkeys, blue monkeys, thick-and lesser bush-babies. Some 648 species of bird have been recorded in Malawi of which 456 are resident and 94 are migratory within Africa.
Malawi may be a landlocked nation, but it still exhales. The major drainage system is Lake Malawi, which covers some 11,430 square miles and extends beyond the Malawi border. It is fed by the North and South Rukuru, Dwangwa, Lilongwe, and Bua rivers. The Shire River, the lake’s only outlet, flows through adjacent Lake Malombe and receives several tributaries before joining the Zambezi River in Mozambique. A second drainage system is Lake Chilwa, the rivers of which flow from the Lake Chilwa–Phalombe plain and the adjacent highlands.
Because of the popularity of Senga Bay, there is a line of craft stalls along the main road down to the bay where. There can be over 100 meter stretches of stalls on both sides of the road. There are some high quality products
on sale, especially the wood carvings, and for something personal, your name can carved onto a key tag in the shape of a fish!
Senga Bay has a variety of accommodation available. Kumbali Lake Retreat is one of the newest, a charming rustic eco lodge. Blue Waters by Serendib has plenty of facilities and activities available and is one of the more popular hotels. But the most luxurious lodge in the area is actually a 15 minute boat trip off shore from Senga Bay, on the uninhabi- ted Marelli Islands, which are part of the Lake Malawi National Park. That is Blue Zebra Island.
Malawi covers 46,066 square miles and geographically is a deep depression. Its chief physical feature, runs through the cen- ter and forms part of the Great Rift Valley. In this depression are Lake Malawi and the Shire Valley. Lake Malawi, about 1,500 feet above sea level and 380 miles long, is Africa's third largest lake and Malawi's major tourist attraction.
Malawi's magnificent flora, fauna, rugged geography and soothing lakes and rivers gives way to urban sprawl in the capital city of Lilongwe, the nation's brain trust and most populace city of 1.2 million. Lilongwe is located in the central region of Malawi in an area of the same name near Moz- ambique and Zambia. It is an important economic and trans- portation hub for central Malawi. It is named after the Lilongwe River. There are a number of first-class hotels in Lilongwe. One,
which stands head and shoulders above the rest is the new 11-floor Five-star President Walmont Hotel, part of Umodzi Park. Quiet and charming suburban guest houses are found in the residential areas, with Heuglin’s Lodge and Africa House Malawi among the best. Slightly further out, but easily acces- sible, the splendid Kumbali Country Lodge is found on a dairy farm at the edge of the city. Lilongwe is also home to the Wildlife Center, a sanctuary for rescued and injured animals.
adjacent highlands. While Malawi’s landscape is highly varied, four basic regions can be identified: the East African (or Great) Rift Valley, the central plateaus, the highlands, and the isolated mountains. The East African Rift Valley, another defining feature of Malawi, is a massive trough-like depression running through the country from north to south, containing Lake Malawi (north and central) and the Shire River valley (south).
The lake’s littoral, situated along the western and southern shores and ranging from 5-15 miles wide, covers almost 10 percent of the total land area and is dotted with swamps and lagoons. The Shire valley stretches 250 miles from the southern end of Lake Malawi at Mangochi to Nsanje at the Mozambique border and contains Lake Malombe at its northern end. The plateaus of central Malawi rise to elevations of 2,500 to 4,500 feet and are situated west of the Lake Malawi littoral; the plateaus cover roughly 75 percent of the total land area.
Soils, distributed in a complex pattern, are composed of a combination of red earth, with brown soil, and gritty yellow clay on the plateaus. Alluvial soils occur on the lakeshores and in the Shire valley. Other soil types include excessively moist hydromorphic soil, black clay, and sandy dunes on the lakeshore.
Most of Malawi’s population engages in cash-crop and subsistence agriculture. The country’s exports consist of the produce of both small landholdings and large tea and tobacco estates. Malawi has received a significant amount of foreign capital in the form of development aid, which has contributed greatly to the exploitation of its natural resources and has allowed Malawi to produce a food surplus. Nevertheless, its population has suffered from chronic malnutrition, high rates of infant mortality, and grinding poverty—a paradox often attributed to an agricultural system that has favored large estate owners.
Major ag products of Malawi are tobacco, tea, cotton, groundnuts, sugar and coffee. These have been among the main cash crops for the last century, but tobacco production has become increased in the last quarter-century, with a production in 2011 of 175,000 tons. Over the last century, tea and groundnuts have increased in relative importance while cotton has decreased. The main food crops are maize, cassava, sweet potatoes, sorghum, bananas, rice, and Irish potatoes. Farmers also raise cattle, sheep and goats.
The main industries deal with agricultural processing of tobacco, tea, sugar and timber. The industrial production growth rate was estimated at 10 percent in 2009.
About 187 species of mammals thrive in Malawi. Of these, 55 are bats and 52 are rodents. Elephants, lions, leopards, Cape buffaloe, hippopotamus and rhinoceros are present in the country but numbers are low except in national parks and game reserves. More numerous are jackals and spotted hyenas, African wildcats, caracal, wildcats, caracal and serval. Smaller predators include mongoose, genets, civets, striped polecats, honey bad- gers, spotted-necked and African clawless otter. Antelopes in Malawi include the eland, greater kudu, waterbuck, sable, roan antelopes, bushbuck, the nyala, the impala, the southern reedbuck.
Some 648 species of bird have been recorded in Malawi of which 456 are resident and another 94, migratory within Africa. Some breed in the Malawi. Roughly 77 species fly between eastern Asia and South Africa. Species of global concern which pass through in small numbers include the pallid harrier, lesser kestrel, corn crake, great snipe, and Malagasy pond heron. Malawi is at the southern end of the range for many East African birds, and the northern limit for some South African species. Evergreen forest provides a particularly rich list of bird species, and the Miombo woodland, sparse, open deciduous woodland characteristic of dry parts of eastern Africa, supports many species found nowhere else on Earth. The lakes and marshes are rich in animal species, with Lake Chilwa having a greater diversity of birds than Lake Malawi.
There are about five hundred species of fish in Malawi, with more than 90 endemic to Malawi. This is a greater number of fish species than in Europe and North America combined. Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi contain a larger number of endemic species than any other freshwater lake in the world. The majority of species present are cichlids, which are mouth-brooders, and many are usually found in small localized areas of the lakes. Other species are also present and hunted as part of the local fishing industry. These include the African catfish, and carp, and a small sardine-like fish present in large shoals which are caught by trawling. The most common fish found in Lake Chilwa are Barbus paludinosus, Oreochromis shiranus chilwae, Clarias gariepinus, Brycinus imberi, and Gnathonemus.
The natural vegetation pattern reflects the country’s diversity in relief, soils, and climate. Savanna occurs in the dry lowland areas. Miombo woodlands are an important habitat, particularly for the country’s large mammal popula- tions. Acacia trees predominate woodlands that make-up fertile plateau and river margins. Grass-covered broad depressions, called madambo also dot the plateaus. Grasslands and evergreen forests are found in conjunction on the highlands and on the Mulanje and Zomba massifs.
However, Malawi’s natural vegetation has been altered significantly by human activities. Swamp vegetation has given way to agriculture as swamps have been drained and cultivated. Much of the original woodland has been cleared, and, at the same time, forests of softwoods have been planted in the highland areas. High population density and intensive cultivation of the Shire Highlands have also hindered natural succession there, while wells have been sunk and rivers dammed to irrigate the dry grasslands for agriculture.
The Malawi Defense Force is the state military organization responsible for defending Malawi. It originated from British colonial units formed before independence in 1964. The Malawi Rifles was a unit in the Malawi Army formed on the country's gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. Its first battalion was formed from the 1st Battalion, King's African Rifles. On independence the battalion became 1st Battalion, The Malawi Rifles (King's African Rifles). They were at Cobbe Barracks, Zomba.
In 1964 at Malawi's independence, the Malawian Army consisted of one battalion with 2,000 soldiers at Cobbe Barracks in Zomba. The Malawi Army is now made up of two rifle regiments and one parachute regiment. The military is organized under the purview of the Ministry of Defense. State Department IMET training documentation from FY 2003 indicates the US trained army personnel from the 2nd Battalion, Malawi Rifles, 3rd Battalion, Malawi Rifles, the Parachute Battalion, and the Combat Support Battalion.
In 1993, the army played a vital role in dismantling the dictatorship of Kamuzu Banda. After Banda announced multi-party elections, the army intervened by dismantling Banda's paramilitary wing, the Malawi Young Pioneers in one night during an operation called "Bwezani" which means "taking back" or "returning". This event marked a vital point in the ideology of the Malawi Army that was to follow. The Malawi Army was shown to have no political aspirations themselves, and allowed the democratic process to ensue in Malawi as guided by civilians.
The Malawi Air Wing was established with German help in 1976 with the delivery of six single-engined Dornier Do 27s and eight Do 28 light twins from 1976-1980. During the same time period, the air wing received an Alouette III, an AS 350 and an AS 355 Ecureuil, and three SA 330 H/L Puma Helicopters from France. A single BAe 125-800 was delivered in 1986. Four Dornier Do 228 light twin turbo props were acquired between 1986 and 1989 in part to allow disposal of the older Dornier products. In 1990 two Douglas C-47s and PT6A turboprops were delivered from the US.
As a landlocked country, Malawi has a very small navy with no sizeable military craft. Their naval force only operates on Lake Malawi and is based at Monkey Bay. In 2008, it had 225 personnel and two patrol boats
Malawi Police Service (MPS) is a Malawi Government organ under the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Public Security. Our operations are provided for under the laws of Malawi, notably in the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi and the Malawi Police Service Act. MPS is overseen by the Inspector General (IG) who is appointed by the state president and confirmed by the Public Appointments Committee of the National Assembly. The IG is assisted by two deputies who run the administration and operations, respectively.
The mining sector in Malawi only accounts for about 1 percent of the country’s GDP. Malawi has several minerals with economic potential, such as phosphates (apatite), bauxite, kaolinitic, coal, kyanite, limestones, rare earths (including strontianite and monazite), graphite, sulphides (pyrite and pyrrhotite), titanium minerals along the Lakeshore, and vermiculite. Most of these minerals have been evaluated in the past by either the Geological Survey Department or private companies. Only phosphate, coal, limestone, and uranium have been exploited..
Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) in Malawi is generally carried out through labor intensive methods for limestone for lime production, clay for pottery, and gemstones. Small scale mining is facilitated by Mineral Permits, Mining Claim Licenses, and Reserved Mineral Licenses. The Malawi Geological Survey Department recently released the results of the high resolution airborne geophysical survey whose data can be readily procured for analysis. Follow up field surveys that include sample collection are underway that should provide more granular data about mineral deposits.
Department of Science and Technology, one of the highest ratios in Africa. This corresponds to $7.8 per researcher (in current purchasing parity dollars). In 2014, Malawian scientists had the third-largest output in Southern Africa, in terms of articles cataloged in international journals. They published 322 articles in Thomson Reuters' Web of Science (Science Citation Index expanded) that year, almost triple the number in 2005.
Only South Africa (9,309) and the United Republic of Tanzania (770) published more in Southern Africa. Malawian scientists publish more in mainstream journals—relative to GDP—than any other country of similar population size. This is impressive, even if the country's publication density remains modest, with just 19 publications per million inhabitants cataloged in international journals in 2014. The average for sub-Saharan Africa is 20 publica- tions per million persons. Malawi was ranked 111st in the Global Innovation Index in 2020, up from 118th in 2019.
Malawi is a multiparty republic. Malawi’s original constitution of 1966 was replaced with a provisional constitution in 1994, which was officially promulgated in 1995 and has since been amended. It provides for a president, who is limited to serving no more than two five-year terms, and up to two vice presidents, all of whom are elected by universal suffrage.
The president serves as head of state and government. The cabinet is appointed by the president. The legislature, the National Assembly, is unicameral. Its members also are elected by universal suffrage and serve five-year terms. The 1995 constitution also provided for the creation of an upper legislative chamber, but it was not established by the target completion date in 1999; a proposal to cancel plans for the creation of such a chamber was passed by the National Assembly in 2001. The country is divided into a number of administrative subdivisions—district, city, municipality, and town—that are governed by assemblies. Each assembly has a political arm and a technical arm. Efforts have been undertaken to strengthen local governments by giving them more financial autonomy from the central government.
The judiciary is based upon the system prevailing in the British colonial era and consists of a Supreme Court of Appeal, a High Court, and subordinate courts. The Supreme Court of Appeal, made up of a chief justice and a minimum of three justices of appeal, is the highest court in the land and hears appeals from the High Court. The High Court has judicial authority over all civil and criminal cases. The traditional court system, which was intro- duced in 1964, was terminated by the 1995 constitution; made up of specially chosen judges, the traditional courts were often used by the government of Pres. Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1963-94) to obtain favorable sentences against political opponents. The judiciary is based in Blantyre.
Initially, most of the country’s lawyers were trained in the United Kingdom, but since the early 1970s the over- whelming majority have been graduates of the law school at Chancellor College, at the University of Malawi.
Malawi is a generally peaceful country and has had stable governments since independence in 1964. One-party rule ended in 1993; since then multi-party presidential and parliamentary elections have been held every five years. Malawi’s sixth tripartite elections were conducted in May 2019. The presidential results were nullified in February 2020 by the Constitutional Court. Fresh presidential elections were held on June 23, 2020, in which Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party and Saulos Chilima of the UTM Party were elected as president and vice president respectively after getting 58.6 percent of the votes. They won against Peter Mutharika of Democratic Progressive Party and United Democratic Front coalition, who received 39.4 percent of the votes. President Lazarus Chakwera and Vice President Saulos Chilima lead a coalition of nine political parties.
Malawi’s economy continues to be heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy was severely hit by the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic which largely subsided by March 2021, but a third wave led to a jump in case numbers from June to August. As a result, the government increased social distancing policies which impacted the services and industry sectors, although these policies were then lifted in August as conditions improved.
Favorable weather and agricultural input subsidies have contributed to a one-time jump in the maize harvest, and tobacco production also increased as such the economy is expected to grow at 2.4 percent in 2021. Headline inflation picked up to 8.4 percent in August 2021. Robust food supplies following the strong agriculture season led food inflation to decelerate to 9.7 percent. However, non-food inflation has increased to 7.2 percent partially due to depreciation of the kwacha
Fiscal pressures from the pandemic and government expansionary policies, including the introduction of the Affordable Input Program (AIP), contributed to the fiscal deficit widening to 7.1 percent of GDP in FY2021. Expenditure reached the highest levels in recent years due to high levels of expenditure on wages, interest payments, and fertilizer subsidies. Development spending has also been strong, driven by COVID-19 response programs, and irrigation and water projects.
Domestic debt continues to increase and has pushed Malawi into high overall risk of debt distress, and it is budgeted to continue rising sharply. This is being compounded by recent external non-concessional borrowing. This increasingly reducing fiscal space for development spending and also risks crowding out private sector investment.
The increase in agriculture yield has contributed to stronger employment in rural areas, while urban employment has only shown a slower recovery from the pandemic. Moderate and severe food insecurity has also reduced by June 2021, although poorest households continue to be the most insecure. Poverty and inequality remain stubbornly high. The national poverty rate has slightly declined from 51.5 percent in 2015/16 to 50.7 percent in 2019/20. Poverty in Malawi is driven by low productivity in the agriculture sector, limited opportunities in non-farm activities, volatile economic growth, rapid population growth, and limited coverage of safety net programs and targeting challenges.
Malawi continues to rely on subsistence, rain-fed agriculture, which limits its growth potential, increases its susceptibility to weather shocks, and creates food insecurity. Trade policies and a business environment continue to impede investment and commercialization, as well as erratic electricity supply that limits value addition and slows economic diversification. Public investment has been low, offset by large and increasing subsidies to maize production. Weak fiscal management and economic policies have contributed to recurring and increasing fiscal deficits, which have been largely funded by high-cost domestic borrowing and resulted in a surge in public debt.
Closing the wide gender gap in economic opportunities could lift more people out of poverty and unlock Malawi’s full inclusive growth potential, the latest World Bank Malawi Economic Monitor (MEM) shows. The 14th edition of the MEM, Addressing Macro and Gender Imbalances, highlights how Malawi’s economic growth for 2022 is projected to pick up to 3 percent. However, this growth is vulnerable to shocks due to macroeconomic imbalances. Public debt is high and the budgeted fiscal deficit of an annualized 9.1 percent of GDP is the highest in recent years, and imbalances in the foreign exchange market may lead to further constraints on the private sector.
The government must therefore act decisively to address mounting macroeconomic challenges, especially on the accumulation of domestic and external debt. This calls for hard decisions in the upcoming FY2022/23 budget, including on the Affordable Input Program (AIP). The containment of expenditure on wages and goods and services, will be key to improving public financial management systems to make optimal use of limited resources, and strengthen oversight of state-owned enterprises.
Malawi is lagging across several indicators related to women’s economic opportunities although the country has one of the highest labor force participation rates. Overall, women’s capacity to access services and accumulate human capital endowments is below that of men. Around 59 percent of employed women and 44 percent of employed men were working in agriculture, which is the largest employment sector in Malawi. However, large gender productivity gaps remain. Plots managed by men produce an average of 25 percent higher yields than plots managed by women.
The gender gap in agricultural productivity is due to women having unequal use of land inputs, lower access to farm labor, inferior access to improved agricultural inputs and technology and lower participation in the cash crop/export crop value chains.
According to the 2021 World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report, women in Malawi continue to be disadvan- taged across several areas of economic participation. The country ranks 111 out of 151 countries in the Economic Participation and Opportunity index, lagging many other countries in Sub- Saharan Africa. The gender gaps also exist in the education sector. The Gender Parity Ratio in Malawi is at 84 percent for secondary enrollment. In 2021, nearly 40 percent of all selected students into public universities and colleges were females compared to 60 percent males.
The struggle for females does not end after completing their education, because some people still hold the per- ception that they are not capable of delivering the task at hand when they are fully employed. This dichotomy goes beyond education. For example, gender disparities in agricultural productivity are wide and put a significant burden on the economy.
Around 59 percent of employed women and 44 percent of employed men are working in agriculture, which is the largest employment sector in Malawi. However, large gender productivity gaps remain. Plots managed by men produce an average of 25 percent higher yields than plots managed by women. The gender gap in agricultural productivity is due to women having unequal use of land inputs, lower access to farm labor, inferior access to improved agricultural inputs and technology and lower participation in the cash crop/export crop value chains.
In Malawi, female wage workers earn 64 cents (512 Malawi Kwacha) for every dollar (800 Malawi kwacha) earned by men. Promoting gender equality is a central development agenda in Malawi, but persistent gender gaps across several economic dimensions is slowing progress towards this goal. Estimates suggest that closing the gender gap in agricultural productivity alone, could lift more than 238,000 people out of poverty and increase the country’s total GDP by 1.85 percent
Ethnic groups, languages
The official language is English. Major languages include Chichewa, a language spoken by over 57 percent of the population, Chinyanja (12.8 percent), Chiyao (10.1 percent), and Chitumbuka (9.5 percent). Other native lang- uages are Malawian Lomwe, spoken by approximately 250,000 in the southeast of the country; 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. All students in elementary school receive instruction in Chichewa, the unofficial national language of Malawi.
Malawi is a majority Christian nation. Government surveys indicate that 87 percent of the country is Christian The largest Christian groups in Malawi is the Roman Catholic Church, of which 19 percent of Malawians are adher- ents. The Church of Central Africa Presbyterian (CCAP) accounts for 18 percent. The CCAP is the largest Pro- testant denomination in Malawi with 1.3 million members.
There are smaller Presbyterian denominations like the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Malawi, and the Evan- gelical Presbyterian Church of Malawi. There are also smaller numbers of Anglicans, Baptists, evangel- icals, Seventh-day Adventists, and Lutherans. A Muslim minority accounts for 11.6 percent. Most of the Muslim pop- ulation is Sunni.
Weddings are very important to Malawians, as they bring together families in a tight bond for the rest of the couple’s lives. After informing family members and local chiefs of the upcoming nuptials, the families gather at the home of the bride-to-be to meet each other and make the engagement official. Villagers who live near the bride-to-be’s family host two large celebrations, one the night before the announcement with plenty of food and drink; and the second on the day of the engagement which includes a ceremonial exchange of chickens. The bride’s family receives a cockerel and the groom’s family a hen, symbolizing a union between the families.
During the celebration, there are tests of the new family members. An uncle representing the bride’s side of the family is presented with a lineup that includes the groom and a few of his friends. The uncle has to show that he knows the man by choosing correctly. However, the groom must pick his own wife-to-be from a line-up of female family members who are dressed in traditional Malawian zitenje (colorful cloth) dresses. He better guess correct or face the jeering and laughter of her aunts and his mother-in-law!
The three major national holidays are Independence Day, July 6, Republic Day, July 6, and Constitution Day, May 18. Independence Day celebrates the end of the British colonial status in 1964, Republic Day commemorates the formal Declaration of the Republic in 1966, and Constitution Day celebrates the drafting of the first constitution as a democratic society in 1995. Mother’s Day, Oct. 16, is also very important to Malawians, being designated a national holiday.
Verbal greetings are accompanied by a handshake. This is done with the right hand, with the left hand gripping the right forearm to show that one is not armed. Stopping to talk on the street is customary, and the conversation continues even after the parties go their separate ways. A person approaching someone’s house will often cry “Odi, Odi” to announce his or her presence.
Soccer is the most popular sport in Malawi. It is played by boys at all levels from makeshift village playfields to prep school league competition. Malawi fields a national football team. The country's biggest success was a third place finish at the 1987 All-Africa Games. This was the last year national football teams were allowed to play in the All-Africa Games. Since 1991, only under-23 teams are allowed to play.
Netball has long been a popular sport for schoolgirls. Malawi is a full member of the International Federation of Netball Associations, and is currently ranked sixth internationally. The Malawi national netball team has put Malawi on the African map, qualifying for and coming first in regional tournaments such as the COSANA tournament.
Malawi have competed at two Netball World Championships, and one Commonwealth Games. At the 2007 Netball World Championships, Malawi finished fifth beating strong teams such as Wales, Cooks Islands, and South Africa.
Malawi's biggest sport achievement so far comes from Netball. The team earned a bronze medal at the 2016 Fast5 Netball World Series, the most important Fast5 netball tournament in the world. On continental level, Malawi earned the title of the 2012 Netball Africa Championship.
Athletics and cross-country running have also been developing since Malawian independence. A pioneer in the systematic training of talented young runners is Dr. Harold Salmon, a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Malawi from 1966-1968. Smartex Tambala represented Malawi at the Olympic Games in 1992 in Barcelona, Spain. He competed in the Marathon road race. From the year 2000, there has been an improvement in the quality of athletes, the most notable of whom is Catherine Chikwakwa, silver medalist at the 2004 World Junior Champ- ionships in Athletics. There are other runners from the University of Malawi and the Army who have shown significant progress.
In post-colonial Malawi, basketball has also taken hold principally through the efforts of Peace Corps volunteers from the US in the mid 1960s. The African Bible College has further contributed to the growth of basketball, by bringing professionals from US to hold coaching clinics and also sending some of the best players to the US. Basketball is mostly made possible by individuals who provide university scholarships. Yet, sports scholarships in general are very rare in Malawi.
One of the recipients for a basketball school scholarship was Sharo Charlottie Kaiche, who as of 2021 is Youth Development Officer for the Likuni Gators, a spiritual based basketball and character development club with activities in four schools. Kaiche works with all of the 3 zonal regions of Malawi for future success especially for U16, U18 and 3x3 basketball. As of 2021, Sharo has also been the vice captain of the Lilongwe Arkangles, a contender for the top women’s basketball team in Malawi. She further coaches the Next Gen Academy and Catalyst Basketball Movement.
Maize is one of Malawi’s most important crops. After harvest, maize is typically ground into flour, which is then used to make Malawi’s most popular dish, nsima, a thickly-mashed maize porridge dish so relied upon by Mala- wians that it is not uncommon to see people eating variations of it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is eaten with the hands and used to scoop the side dishes of vegetables and meats, called relishes.
Relish, known locally as ndiwo, is mostly added just for flavoring, with the starch always being the bulk of the meal. In the poorer regions of Malawi, the relish is usually comprised of only vegetables—typically cassava leaves, sweet potato leaves, bean leaves, pumpkin leaves, cabbage, mustard leaves, rape leaves or kale leaves), but in the wealthier areas, meat is used (goat meat is popular).
Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and is abundant with fish. The main types of fish are chambo, a large white fish, Usipa, a sardine-like fish, and Mpasa, a salmon-like fish. Meat, usually beef and goat, is cooked in stews and eaten with nsima.
For dessert, Malawians often enjoy local plain doughnuts called mandasi, and frequently consume tea with their meals. Tea is one of Malawi’s major crops. Malawian tea is among the best in the world. Visitors are almost always offered a drink and perhaps something to eat. Food is customarily eaten without utensils, but with the right hand. The men usually eat separately from women, who traditionally kneel to serve them.
Jarrette Fellows, Jr. / Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License