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MalawiCountry profile

  • Area: 118,484 square kilometres
  • Population: 14.8 million 
  • Population density: 125 per square kilometre (cf. Germany: 229 per square kilometre)
  • Official languages: Chichewa und English
  • Independence: 1964
  • Capital: Lilongwe
  • Form of government: Presidential Republic (in Commonwealth); constitution of 1995
  • Average life expectancy: 52 years
  • Illiteracy rate: approx. 30% (population aged over 15) 
  • Top 3 exports: tobacco, sugar, tea 
  • Number of cotton farmers: 130,000 (status 2010) 
  • Number of “Cotton made in Africa” farmers: 26,432 (status 2010)
Malawi map

Malawi hit the world headlines in 2006, when pop star Madonna adopted a child from this land-locked state in South East Africa. Malawi has a population of about 13 million people, and is one of the smallest and poorest countries in Africa, very much dependent on support from overseas. The large number of young people with HIV infections there has enormous consequences for the country.

Malawi is a small landlocked country in South East Africa, and obtained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1964. The landscape is characterised by Lake Malawi in the east of the country (it is the ninth largest lake in the world), and by plateaus and individual mountain groups. In the north of Malawi, some of the mountain peaks are 3,000 above sea level. With the change in landscape and altitude, the subtropical climate also varies, with four seasons.
Africa map

      Vegetation zones of Africa with CmiA growing areas

According to the figures of the UN Human Development Index (HDI), Malawi is one of the 15 poorest countries in the world. The majority of the population live on less than 1.25 dollars per day. Apart from one north-south route, the roads in Malawi are practically unusable, and frequent floods cause problems of supply. The modernisation of the country did not start until the end of the last century, when the single-party government of Hastings Kamuzu Banda was removed from power by a peaceful referendum in 1993.

Average life expectancy in Malawi is only 52 years – here too, as in many African countries, this is a consequence of HIV and AIDS. Nearly 12% of adults (aged 15-49) are HIV positive. This mainly affects young people, with enormous economic consequences for the country. In addition, nearly one third of the population is illiterate.

Cotton made in Africa images
Agriculture is the dominant sector in this resource-poor country – agricultural products account for 90% of Malawi’s exports, and nearly 80% of the people work in agriculture. Products cultivated are tobacco, tea, sugar cane, cotton, and nowadays also maize. Thanks to international cooperation and funding programmes for seed and fertilizers for smallholder farmers, Malawi, which was still dependent on food imports up to 2005, has become a food exporter.
Malawi graphic
Cotton is mainly grown in the south of Malawi. It is estimated that cotton production provides incomes for about 150,000 households. Almost all of the cotton is exported as raw material. In the whole of Malawi there is only one cotton spinning mill with small capacity. In recent times, the government has increased its efforts to attract investors to Malawi for cotton processing.

Current information on Malawi is available at the website of the German Federal Foreign Office.

Sources: Human Development Report 2009 (UN); Foreign Office; World Development Indicators 2009; Fischer Weltalmanach (Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung/Federal Political Education Centre); Human Development Index (HDI)

Teaser Milestones

Albert Watson: Visions feat. Cotton made in AfricaThe exhibition and the project behind it

This exceptional collaboration with fashion and commercial photographer Albert Watson will provide insight into the cotton farmers' worlds and transport a better awareness of CmiA's work.

The photos will illustrate the initiative's goal to improve social conditions in the smallholder farmers’ lives without visual stereotypes. The aim is in contrast to show a new image of African living environments – through the eyes of Albert Watson. In addition to the cotton harvest, that was underway during the journey, Watson has also visited traditional markets and a regional king in Benin to get an impression of the diversity of life in Benin and its people.

African cottonIn demand worldwide

African cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, using sustainable growing methods with harmony between agriculture, the natural environment and human beings. About 8% of the cotton traded in the world market is harvested in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Africa cotton is almost exclusively grown by smallholder farmers, and there are only very few large plantations. ...