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26 fascinating facts about Malawi 

There are so many interesting facts about Malawi that most people do not know. This infrequently visited destination has many hidden secrets and fascinating facts, lets take a deep dive into why Malawi is such a fascinating country…

Fascinating Facts About Malawi

If you look at the map of Africa, you’ll find a tiny country, named Malawi, in Southeastern Africa, nestled between Zambia, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It’s one of the countries that appear small but have a lot to offer to the world. 

From its countless rivers to its beautiful culture, there’s much to discover about Malawi. So, in this post, I’ll be discussing 26 fascinating facts about Malawi. Read on!

26 fascinating facts about Malawi 

With an enriching culture and splendid landscapes, many travellers are curious about Malawi. Now, if you ever wish to visit it, here are some facts about Malawi. Trust me, knowing these will help you soak in the vibe and the culture of the country!

1. The Naming History of Malawi

Let’s start with the facts about Malawi with the meaning behind the country’s name. 

When Malawi was under British rule, it was known as “Nyasaland”, which translates to “broad waters”. 

However, when the people of Malawi gained independence, they decided to change the name to “Malawi”. Now, there are a few variations in the naming history of the country. 

For instance, some people believe that the name “Malawi” translates to the “land of “flaming waters”. The origin of the name is from a tribal word which talks about how the sun’s rays shine on Lake Nyasa. On the other hand, some people believe that the name is derived from the Maravi (or Chewa) people, who reside in Malawi. 

2. Lake Malawi Has the Highest Number of Fish Species Among Other Lakes 

If you love fish and have an aquarium, these facts about Malawi are going to intrigue you! 

Malawi has one of the largest lakes in the world, known as the Malawi Lake, which covers 20% of the country. It is the ninth-largest lake in the world, but that is not the astonishing part. Instead, the fascinating fact is that the lake has the highest number of fish species among all the other lakes. 

Scientists have found over 1000 fish species in just a single lake. Some of them even believe that the lake has more than 2000 unique fish species. The most common fish species in Lake Malawi include cichlids, chambo, and catfish!

3. Malawi Has One of the Highest Rates of Child Marriages 

Although this isn’t one of the fascinating facts about Malawi, it’s still worth noting. 

Malawi is a poor country, and some of the traditions are quite archaic, including child marriage. Unfortunately, Malawi has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world

According to a few shocking statistics, at least 42% of girls in Malawi get married before the age of 18, and 9% of them get married before they’re 15. 

Apart from child marriages, women’s education is also another issue in Malawi. As per the statistics, only 13% of the girls in Malawi get upper secondary education. 

4. Malawi Is a Landlocked Country

26 fascinating facts about Malawi 

These facts about Malawi are related to its geography. 

There are many landlocked countries in Africa, and Malawi is also one of them. Landlocked countries are those that are surrounded by land on all sides, instead of any water bodies. 

If you take a look at the map, Malawi is only covered by countries such as Zambia (west), Mozambique (east and south), and the United Republic of Tanzania (north). However, the country also shares a 750-kilometre border with Lake Malawi.

5. Malawi Is Thousands of Years Old 

Africa has always been the hotspot for early human settlements. Hence, the whole region of Malawi is also thousands of years old.  

Palaeontologists have found several human artefacts in Malawi, that are at least 50,000 years old. Additionally, they have also found fossils of the early homo sapiens, belonging to years between 8000 and 2000 BCE.

6. Malawi Was a Part of the British Territory

Just like many other African countries, Malawi was also under British rule, and a part of the British territory. These facts about Malawi are related to its history.

In the 16th century, the Malawi region was under the rule of the Maravi Empire (which consisted of present-day Malawi, Zambia, and Mozambique). However, the empire started declining in the 18th century, due to various internal conflicts.

Later on, in the late 19th century, Malawi was established as a protectorate. At that time, its name was “Nyasaland”. However, after many protests and movements, the country gained freedom on July 6, 1964. 

7. Dance and Craft are an Integral Part of Malawi 

You need to know about the country’s dance, if we’re discussing the facts about Malawi! After all, dance has always been an important part of Malawi’s traditions and culture. 

One of the most famous dance styles in Malawi is Gule Wamkulu or the Great Dance. In this dance, the locals wear decorative masks and fancy outfits. Also, they tend to perform this dance only on special cultural occasions. 

You’ll also come across other dance styles such as Vimbuza (for healing sickness) and Beni Dance.

Apart from the traditional dances, Malawi is also well-known for its craft industry. Malawians are extremely skilled at intricate crafts, like pottery, mask art, basket weaving, and wood carving.

8. Malawi’s President Sold off the Presidential Jet to Deal With the Economy Crisis

Malawi is one of the few countries that have had a woman president, Joyce Banda.  

However, during her presidency period, Malawi was experiencing a severe economic crisis. Due to this reason, Joyce Banda sold the luxury presidential jet of the late leader Bingu wa Mutharika, for $15 million.

Joyce Banda also reduced her own salary by 30% to deal with the poverty in Malawi!

9. Football Is a Famous Sport in Malawi

If you’re a sports enthusiast, especially football, read these sports-related facts about Malawi.

Malawians love to play football! They have their own football association, known as The Football Association of Malawi. It is responsible for administering and handling the national football team, also known as the Flames. 

The FAM also organizes the much-awaited event, the Super League of Malawi, a football league that is held every year between April and December.

10. Malawi’s Cuisine Is One of the Best 

26 fascinating facts about Malawi 

Don’t judge a country’s cuisine by its size! After all, Malawi’s cuisine is one of the richest and the finest. Most dishes are prepared from fresh and healthy ingredients that improve the flavour significantly. 

The main dish of Malawi is Nsima. It is a type of porridge, made out of maize flour and water. It is also accompanied by flavourful vegetables, meat, or fish. 

If you’re a seafood lover, you can also try Chambo, a fried freshwater fish dish, with gravy.

11. Malawi Is Known for Its Tobacco

Apart from agriculture, the tobacco industry is another significant source of money for Malawi. 

The country is one of the leading producers of tobacco. In 2015, it contributed around 22.6% to the total Africa’s production of tobacco. 

12. You’ll See a Lot of Flora and Fauna in Malawi 

Malawi is blessed with natural beauty in every possible way, including flora and fauna. So, these facts about Malawi are going to impress wildlife lovers.

Around 21% of Malawi is well-protected to take care of its wildlife. Therefore, you’ll find many national parks and wildlife reserves here. 

Some of the national parks include the Kasungu National Park, the Lengwe National Park, the Liwonde National Park, and the Lake Malawi National Park

In these national parks, you’ll come across animals like elephants, lions, rhinoceroses, and hippopotamuses. Also, there are over 648 species of bird found in Malawi too!

13. Malawi Is One of the Poorest Countries in the World

This is one of the sad facts about Malawi. 

Despite being rich in natural resources, Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world. In the recent Human Development Index (HDI), it ranked 169 out of 191. 

Half of Malawi’s population is in poverty, and one-fifth of the population is facing extreme poverty.

14. The Country Is Known for Its Friendly People and Warm Hospitality 

Every country is known for something, and Malawi is known for its friendly and warm people.

Most people also call Malawi the “The Warm Heart of Africa” due to the welcoming nature of the Malawians.

15. The Official Language of Malawi Is English 

This is one of the surprising facts about Malawi! 

As Malawi was under the British Empire, the official language here is English. Yet, only a small section of society speaks English there. 

On the other hand, over 50% of the people speak Chichewa, which is a recognised national language. You may also hear people speak other languages such as Chiyao, Chitumbuka, and Chindali.

16. Malawi Has Many Rivers 

We’ve already talked about the Malawi Lake in these facts about Malawi. But, did you know that Malawi also has many small and big rivers?

There are over 200 rivers that drain into Lake Malawi. The largest river is the Shire River, which is 402 kilometres long, and an outlet of Lake Malawi. Some other main rivers of Malawi are Dwangwa, Songwe, Lufira, Rukuru, and Rio Lunho.

Moreover, as Malawi has many rivers, the government is making a conscious effort towards hydroelectricity. 

17. Malawian Kwacha (MWK) Is the Official Currency 

Here are some economic facts about Malawi. 

The official currency of Malawi is the Malawian Kwacha. The abbreviation used for it is MWK, whereas the symbol used is K. You’ll find banknotes in the denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, 1000, and 2000. 

There are coins, known as tambala, in the denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 too.  

18. One of the Cities in Malawi Is Named After a Scottish Physician’s Birthplace

26 fascinating facts about Malawi 

The second-largest city in Malawi, Blantyre, is named right after a Scottish person’s birthplace.

Dr David Livingstone was a Scottish missionary and physician, who found the city of Blantyre. He named it after his birthplace, Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, as a sort of tribute.

If you’re a lover of arts and culture, then these facts about Malawi and its Lake of Stars festival are a must-know. 

The Lake of Stars is one of the most popular Malawi cultural festivals. You can consider this three-day festival, as a celebration of music and arts. Artists of different genres like rock, hip-hop, and Afro-pop perform at this festival. There are poetry readings and film screenings as well. 

The best part is that it is held on the shores of Lake Malawi at various locations. So, you can enjoy some precious views! 

20. Seems Like Malawi Loves Witches! 

There’s something witchy brewing in the Malawi air. Hence, this is one of the facts about Malawi that bewitched me the most. 

Many Malawians believe in witchcraft and think that certain illnesses and misfortunes are because of witches. Due to this reason, Malawi has a problem of witch-hunting (similar to the Salem witch trials) and violence/killings.

To combat this problem, Malawi has the Witchcraft Act. Under this act, it is illegal to practice witchcraft, accuse somebody of witchcraft, or make false supernatural claims.

21. Malawi Has Its Own Board Game Named “Bao”

If you’re a board game lover, you’ll enjoy these facts about Malawi and its games. 

Just like every country has that one local board game, Malawi also has one. It’s known as “Bao”, and is a type of traditional mancala board game. 

In Bao, there’s a specific setup with a board containing two rows of small pits on it. These pits also contain either seeds or stones for playing. 

You need to play it in a way that you capture your opponent’s seeds/stones. In the end, the winner is the person who has more seeds/stones.

22. Malawi Had One-Party Rule After Independence 

Presently, Malawi has a multi-party system with many popular political parties, like the Democratic Progressive Party and the Malawi Congress Party. 

But, when Malawi first got independence in 1964, it had a one-party rule. Back then, the Malawi Congress Party was the only ruling party, led by Kamuzu Banda. 

However, there was an alliance, known as Alliance for Democracy (AFORD), led by Chakufwa Chihana, a human-rights activist, opposing the one-party rule. 

After a lot of struggle, the multi-party system was adopted in 1994. This led to the start of a democratic regime in Malawi!

23. The Symbolism Behind Malawi’s Flag 

26 fascinating facts about Malawi 

Every country’s flag depicts something about the nation. So, these facts about Malawi are about its flag. 

Malawi’s flag consists of three bands – black, red, and green. Moreover, the black band consists of a red sun too. 

Now, the black band represents the native people of the country, the green band is for nature, and the red band depicts the struggle of the Malawians. Also, the rising sun on the black band is for hope and freedom. 

In 2010, Malawi had a new flag. However, the citizens refused to consider the new flag as the official flag. So, in 2012, the old flag was brought back again. 

24. Malawi Has Several Places With Rock Art!

As the name suggests, rock art consists of ancient markings and paintings on a natural surface, such as a rock. Now, African countries have several places with rock art, including Malawi. 

There are some popular places in Malawi that display rock art in all its glory. For instance, the Chongoni Rock Art Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, full of rock art paintings. There are at least 127 sites, spread over an area of 126 square kilometres, with paintings. 

Most of these rock paintings are thousands of years old and depict the old culture, ceremonies, and traditions of the Malawi locals, like Chewa. 

25. Archaeologists Found the Oldest Evidence of the Genus Homo in Malawi

As I mentioned earlier in the facts about Malawi, the country is quite old. Therefore, archaeologists have found several human fossils here. 

One of the most famous fossils is the jawbone of an ancient human that was found in Uraha Hill, located in northern Malawi. 

After studying the bone, it was discovered that the bone was 2.4 million years old. The scientists also assumed that it was of Homo rudolfensis. Hence, it might be one of the oldest evidence of the genus Homo.

26. Malawi Is Full of Unique Landscapes 

Many African countries either have forests or deserts. However, Malawi is an exception, as you’ll find several landscapes there. 

For starters, 20% of Malawi’s land is Lake Malawi. Other than that, you’ll also find valleys and plateaus, such as the Rift Valley, and the Zomba Plateau. Malawi also has mountain ranges, such as Mulanje Massif, Michiru Mountain, and Ntchisi Mountain.

If you’re looking for something serene, Malawi has many breathtaking tea and coffee plantations, like Nchima, Conforzi, and Makandi.

Further Reading – Facts About Malawi

I hope after reading these facts about Malawi, it’s no more a tiny country in Africa for you. It’s one of those countries that are quite underrated, in terms of nature, culture, and people. 

If you’ve any more facts about Malawi to share, please do! 

You can also check out my other posts, as mentioned below, to explore various other places.