Malawi Country Facts

By | June 18, 2024
Capital city Lilongwe
Surface 118,484 km²
Population 19,130,000
Road network length 6,956 km
Length of highway network 0 km
First highway N/A
Motorway name N/A
Traffic drives Left
License plate code MW

Malawi, formally the Republic of Malawi, is a small country in southern Africa. The country is approximately 3 times the size of the Netherlands and has 19 million inhabitants. The capital is Lilongwe, the largest city is Blantyre.


Malawi is an elongated country in the interior of East Africa. It borders Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia clockwise. The country measures a maximum of 900 kilometers from north to south, but only 200 kilometers from east to west. The capital Lilongwe is centrally located in the country, the second city of Blantyre is located in the south.

Malawi is located in the African Rift Valley, a north-south oriented valley with large lakes. Lake Malawi is located here at 468 meters altitude. However, the country is largely located on a plateau at 600 to 1000 meters altitude, in the north is an even higher plateau at more than 2000 meters. However, the extreme south is much lower, partly at less than 100 meters altitude. However, the highest mountain range is also to the south, the Mulanje Massif, an isolated mountain range with a peak of 3002 meters that rises far above the surrounding land.

Malawi has a tropical climate, which is tempered by the altitude. There is a wet season from November to March and a dry season after that. The higher capital Lilongwe has relatively pleasant temperatures that are between 21 and 27 °C during the day. Blantyre, further south, has somewhat higher temperatures at 24 to 31 °C.


In 1960, the country had just over 3 million inhabitants, growing to 10 million around 1995 and 19 million today. The population is relatively rural, there are two larger cities, Lilongwe and Blantyre, both of which have approximately 900,000 inhabitants. The only other larger city is Mzuzu with approximately 130,000 inhabitants.

Made up of many ethnicities, Malawi also has many indigenous languages, with Chichewa being the largest language spoken by just over half of the population. The official language and lingua franca is English.


Malawi is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. The economy is based on agriculture, largely for its own food supply, but also to some extent for export. The main export products are tobacco and tea. The country has hardly any raw materials and is largely dependent on development aid. However, Malawi does have quite a lot of infrastructure for a country with such economic conditions.


Bantu tribes populated the area, which grew into a kingdom in the 15th century. However, the kingdom broke up at the end of the 17th century, after which the area was impacted by the Arab slave trade, from Tanzania. Although Portuguese traders came to the area as early as the 17th century, it was not charted until the mid-19th century by explorers, the most famous of which was David Livingstone. A British protectorate was established in stages at the end of the 19th century, mainly to keep the area out of the control of the Portuguese. This resulted in the British Central Africa Protectorate of 1893. In 1907 it was renamed Nyasaland. In 1953 the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland was founded, a union of British colonies, which includes Zambia and Zimbabwe in addition to present-day Malawi. In 1964 Nyasaland became independent and renamed itself Malawi.

Under Hastings Banda, Malawi was a totalitarian state over a period of nearly 30 years. However, the repressive regime ensured that no conflict broke out. The first democratic elections were held in 1994, after which Banda was defeated by Bakili Muluzi, who was president until 2004. The country is developing little but is relatively stable.

Road numbering

Malawi always had many road classes, the Main Roads (M), Secondary Roads (S), District Roads (D), Tertiary and Quaternary Roads and Minor Roads. Most will be unpaved in practice, only the Main Roads are mostly paved.

The Main Roads are numbered from M1 to M26. Some songs are skipped. The Secondary Roads are numbered with a three-digit S number, increasing from S100 in the north to S152 in the south. The Tertiary Roads are numbered with a three-digit T number, ranging from T300 in the north to T426 in the south.

Maximum speed

The speed limit in Malawi is generally 50 km/h in built-up areas and 80 km/h outside built-up areas.


Little is known about any signage in Malawi. The signage presumably follows the standards of the South African Development Community (SADC), which in turn is based on British standards. In 1995, SADC member states decided to standardize road signs and signage. In 1999, the SADC Road Traffic Signs Manual was adopted, to which Malawi was also a signatory.


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