There are different types of travellers. You got people who go on holiday and only get off their beach towel to get sunscreen or a cocktail. And you got people who really want to experience a country. Who want to get to know the people and their culture. And want to enjoy the most beautiful and unique places. Do you belong to the second group? Then you probably do some research in advance, so that you are well prepared for your trip. This blog is where your preparation really starts, with these 15 interesting and fun facts about Malawi!
1 A few basic facts
Malawi is a republic with over 19 million people. The official language is English, but by far most people speak Chichewa. Lilongwe is the capital, and Blantyre is the commercial centre. The country is about half the size of the UK.
2 Wet stuff
About 20% of the country is Lake Malawi, which is home to more freshwater fish than any other lake in the world. Most of these are endemic, meaning they don’t occur anywhere else. The cichlids are a large group of coloured fish. Scientists find these species just as interesting for evolutionary research, as different animal species on the Galapagos Islands.
3 First come…
It’s usually believed that the Scottish explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone was the first European to “discover” Lake Malawi in 1859. But the Portuguese had already been there by then. Probably even as early as 1492!
4 Name as a tribute
Dr. David Livingstone has meant a lot to Malawi and the region, including his fight against slavery. To honour him, the town of Livingstonia in northern Malawi is named after him, and the town of Blantyre in the south is named after his birthplace in Scotland.
5 A big move
Malawi made the international nature conservation headlines, when the organization African Parks moved a total of more than 500 elephants from Liwonde National Park and Majete Wildlife Reserve to Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve during 2016 and 2017. Together with the government and other partners, African Parks achieves a lot in the field of nature conservation in Malawi. Their methods work so well, because they involve the communities living around the parks and create benefits for them. As a result, Malawi is developing rapidly as a safari destination. If you’re lucky, you can spot the entire Big 5 here. Maybe even cheetahs and wild dogs.
In 1991, the oldest evidence of the genus Homo ever discovered, was found in Malawi. It is a jawbone of 2.4 million years old.
Do you like it bigger? Then you can see a replica of the skeleton of the Malawisaurus, the native dinosaur species of this country, in the museum in Karonga in northern Malawi.
The flag of Malawi was adopted in 1964, when the country gained independence from the British. This flag is full of meaning. The black stripe represents the population, the red represents the blood shed to get where we are today, including the independence struggle. The green stands for the fertile nature in the country. The rising sun symbolizes hope and freedom. There are 31 rays of sunshine, as Malawi was the 31st African country to be declared independent.
8 New flag
In 2010, the then President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, decided to change the flag. The order of the stripes was changed. The rising red sun was replaced by a full white sun in the centre. This symbolized the economic growth of the country. Unfortunately, his nice talks did not match reality, because at that time Malawi’s economy was already one of the worst in the world…
A majority of the people never agreed with this new flag, and in 2012, new president Joyce Banda reversed the decision.
9 Interesting political events
Joyce Banda was Malawi’s first female vice president. She also became Malawi’s first female president from 2012 – 2014, following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika. She was the second female president on the African continent.
In 2020, Malawi was the first African country in which opposition parties won a lawsuit, thereby annulling the presidential election. Read here how democracy triumphed in Malawi that year.
10 Go green
The government of Malawi recognizes the importance of sustainability, and increasingly works according to the Sustainable Development Goals. Through various campaigns, the people are motivated to take part as well. The capital Lilongwe even has the ambitious plan to become one of the greenest cities in the world!
11 Power woman
Unfortunately, 60-70% of Malawians live below the poverty line. This creates many challenges, including parents who cannot send their children to school. Girls therefore sometimes have to get married at a young age, and then leave home. Since 2017, according to the law in Malawi, you must be at least 18 years old to get married. Until then this was 15 years. But in many rural areas, child marriages still take place.
Theresa Kachindamoto is one of the few female Senior Chiefs in the country, and has been stirring up a lot of emotions. She has already reversed more than 850 child marriages. Many girls can go back to school thanks to her. She also tackles the chiefs and spiritual leaders, who still allow these practices, despite the changes in the law.
12 Full river
The Shire River is the only river that flows out of Lake Malawi. It seems to have the highest density of hippos in Africa. You can’t miss them during a boat safari in Liwonde National Park or Majete Wildlife Reserve. You may also see a large Nile crocodile!
13 Old pictures
According to UNESCO, Malawi has the richest concentration of rock art in Central Africa. The Chongoni Rock Art is a World Heritage Site with 127 locations from the Late Stone Age.
14 Going up in smoke
Tobacco is still one of Malawi’s biggest export products. But with prices dropping worldwide, smallholder farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to sell it for a profit. We hope that most of these hard-working families will switch to other products that can earn them money. Coffee, tea or perhaps even cocoa and hemp are, in our view, more sustainable alternatives.
15 Tiny holes
To protect the people of Malawi against malaria, the Bill Gates Foundation has distributed mosquito nets for years. Unfortunately, many people at the lake have started using these as fishing nets. This also catches the youngest fish, which are extremely important to maintain healthy fish populations. Fortunately, Ripple Africa, among others, is running successful projects to save the fish and ecosystems in Lake Malawi. Soon this organization will also start working in the area where we live. Maybe we could do some work together!
Many more interesting and fun facts about Malawi
Of course there are many more interesting and fun facts about Malawi. But we’d like to save some to chat about when we meet each other here!