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The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in South East Africa. With an area of 118 480 km² (one quarter of which is water), the national territory corresponds to about one third of the area of Germany. Malawi borders Tanzania in the north and northeast, Mozambique in the east, south and southwest and Zambia in the west. The north-south extension is 850 km with a maximum width of 160 km. Lake Malawi (also Lake Njassasee) occupies about one fifth of the national territory (Malawi’s share about 24 000 km²) and forms the border to Tanzania in the north, in the east neighbouring Mozambique also shares the lake.
Malawi lies almost completely in the Njassagraben, which crosses the country from north to south and represents the southern part of the East African Rift System. Lake Malawi is embedded in the rift valley and is the third largest lake in Africa with a total area of almost 30,000 km². The river Shire forms the main outflow in the south and flows into the Zambezi in Mozambique. To the west and east of the Nyasgraben, there are plateaus at an average altitude of 900 to 1,200 m, which are dominated by individual mountain ranges. In the north the Nyikaplateau reaches heights up to approx. 2,600 m, south of Lake Malawi lies the Shire Highlands (up to 2,700 m). The highest elevation of the country (Sapitwa) is about 3 000 m south of Lake Chilwa in the Mulanje Mountains. The capital Lilongwe is located in the west of Malawi at an altitude of 1 067 m.
According to the 1995 constitution, Malawi is a presidential republic with a multi-party system. The head of state is the president (Peter Mutharika, since May 2014), who is elected by the people for a term of five years. The president is also the head of the government cabinet and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
The parliament consists of one chamber, the National Assembly, with a total of 193 seats. The deputies are elected by the people for a term of five years. Malawi is divided into three regions and 28 districts. The jurisdiction is based on British law and traditional tribal law.
Malawi is one of the poorest and underdeveloped countries in the world and is highly dependent on foreign development aid. More than half of the population lives below the poverty line.
The agricultural sector is the central economic sector; a good third of the land area is suitable for agricultural use and about 82% of the population is employed here. The main crops used to meet the country’s own needs are maize, manioc, millet and pulses. On large-scale plantations, tobacco, tea, sugar cane, cotton and coffee are cultivated for export. Most of these larger farms are foreign owned or their owners belong to the country’s leading elite. Despite the rich fish stocks in Malawi’s waters, fishing is almost exclusively self-sufficient.
The industry is only moderately developed and concentrates on the processing of agricultural products; it accounts for about 20% of the gross domestic product (GDP). The country’s energy needs are covered almost exclusively by hydroelectric power plants (especially on the Shire River). Malawi is poor in mineral resources and limestone and alumina are mined for domestic cement production.
The most important export partners are South Africa, Great Britain, Germany and the USA. South Africa, India and Tanzania are the most important importers of goods (food, machinery, vehicles, finished goods).
Paved roads (around 2,800 km) are almost exclusively between the country’s cities, with a total of around 15,000 km of roads available. The 800 km railway line links the country to the ports of Beira and Nacala in Mozambique. There are international airports in Lilongwe and Blantyre.