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Peace Corps Malawi Welcome Book | September 2006

Peace Corps Malawi Welcome Book | September 2006

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Peace Corps Malawi Welcome Book
Peace Corps Malawi Welcome Book

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Categories:Types, Brochures
Published by: Accessible Journal Media Peace Corps Docs on Jun 13, 2010
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09/16/2014

Malawi is a small country in southeast Africa, and is known

for its natural beauty and its warm, hard-working people.

The first significant Western contact began with the arrival of

David Livingstone in 1859. Fiery sunlight glittering from Lake

Nyasa gave the name “Malawi”—land of flaming waters—to an

ancient Bantu empire. Present-day descendants revived the

name when what had once been the British Protectorate of

Nyasaland became independent in 1963.

The country is considered something of a success story

in African political development. In 1994, after 30 years

of one-party, dictatorial rule dating back to independence

from Britain, Malawi quietly and peacefully elected a new

government committed to multi-party democracy. In spite

of the wave of euphoria over their newly won freedom, the

Malawian people continue to face the obstacles of poverty,

drought, environmental degradation, hunger, disease, rising

crime, and illiteracy on their path to social, political, and

economic reform.

Government

Malawi has a parliamentary style of government with the

president as the head of state. The president has many

powers and sets the agenda for parliamentary debate.

Peaceful presidential elections were held in 1999 and again

in 2004, when the current president, Bingu wa Mutharika,

was elected. The national government still centrally manages

A WELCOME BOOK · MALAWI

11

PEACE CORPS

12

most issues, although strides have been made toward a

decentralization of power and greater control at the

local level.

Two parties currently dominate the political landscape.

President Mutharika’s party is the Democratic Progressive

Party (DPP), which split off from the United Democratic

Front (UDF), the party of former President Bakili Muluzi. The

Malawi Congress Party (MCP), the party of power during

the 30-year authoritarian rule of former President Hastings

Banda, is also still very much an active player. The capital

has been located in Lilongwe since the mid-1970s. Some

governmental entities still remain in the southern town of

Zomba, the former capital. With the move of the capital, all

ministries, embassies, and support structures for government

shifted, so buildings and facilities in Lilongwe are relatively

new. Lilongwe has grown tremendously following the move,

with a population of roughly 500,000 people.

Economy

Agriculture forms the mainstay of Malawi’s economy,

accounting for nearly half of its gross domestic product

(GDP). Tobacco, tea, and sugar together generate more

than 70 percent of export earnings, with tobacco providing

the lion’s share (over 60 percent). The agricultural sector

employs nearly half of those formally employed and directly or

indirectly supports an estimated 85 percent of the population.

Malawi has a narrow economic base with little industry

and mining and no known economically viable deposits of

gemstones, precious metals, or oil. As a landlocked country,

transport costs make imported goods very expensive.

Zimbabwe and South Africa are Malawi’s most important

trading partners, and the value of the Kwacha, the local

currency, is greatly influenced by the economic conditions

in those countries. Currently, inflation is running at about 15

percent per year, and economic growth is in the 3 percent to

4 percent range.

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