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Malawi (the Republic of Malawi) is bordered by Zambia to the west, Tanzania to the east and Mozambique to the east, south and west. It is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi.

The area had a small population of hunter-gatherers before being settled by Bantus from the north in the 10th century. By 1600 the Maravi empire was united under one ruler and trading with the Portuguese, but by 1700 this had broken up. Livingstone reached Lake Malawi in 1859 and missions were established. A British Consul arrived in 1883 and in 1889 a British protectorate was proclaimed. This was extended in 1891 to include the whole of Malawi and called the British Central Africa Protectorate, renamed Nyasaland in 1907. In 1953 the semi-independent Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (Central African Federation) was created. Nyasaland was granted independence from the UK in 1964 and called Malawi. It became a republic in 1966.

The new president ruled a single party regime until 1993 when the population voted for a multi-party democracy. Although remaining autocratic the country has mostly been stable and its outlook is now improving. With a largely rural population, the economy is based on agriculture depending on outside aid to meet development needs.

Malawi is land-locked and is dominated by the western arm of the Great Rift Valley which  runs through the country from north to south. East of the valley lies Lake Malawi (also called Lake Nyasa and Calendar Lake) which makes up over three-quarters of Malawi's eastern boundary.

The western rift valley includes the Albertine Rift of Uganda as well as the valley of Lake Malawi. The maximum depth of the lake is 701m and its bottom is over 200m below sea level. Mountainous areas surround the rift valley.

The country has no identified indigenous oil or gas resources. Oil discoveries in and around Lake Albert in Uganda in a similar geological environment may point to potential in the lake here but, as yet, no oil or gas production is forecast by Globalshift. No exploration wells have ever been drilled.

Geography, and oil and gas summary

MALAWI - Map and National Flag

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Capital: Lilongwe

Population: 15.5 million     


Boat on the lake

Brief history of the country

Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)

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Malawi’s president is both chief of state and head of government.The president is elected every 5 years and the vice president and cabinet is chosen by the president.

The legislative branch consists of a unicameral 193-member National Assembly. The constitution provides for an 80-member Senate but one does not exist in practice.

The Ministry of Mining is responsible for natural resources in the country but there is no department overseeing oil and gas resources.