Monday, February 6, 2012

Lilongwe in the former Nyasaland

I'm in Lilongwe, Malawi.  This is my fifth trip to Malawi with most of them having been in the 1980s.  It is one of Africa's poorest countries with most of the population living from subsistence agriculture. A major hindrance to the country's development is its isolation. It is landlocked and imports and exports must be trucked from ports in Tanzania, Kenya or South Africa on difficult roads at great expense. Despite the poverty, the people are unfailing friendly and polite and the level of crime is much lower than in many surrounding countries. Seventy percent of the population live on less than one US dollar per day and the country is a major recipient of international humanitarian assistance and development aid.   A large percentage of the people I see at breakfast in the hotel are  European and American aid workers and Evangelical Christian missionaries whose revivals and church services are widely advertised around town.  Local TV is also dominated by Christian programming produced abroad with "God TV" ( one of the most watched channels.

As described in the following link, Malawi evolved out of England's Nyasaland Protectorate 
(  and was part of Rhodesia before becoming independent in
1964.  The father of the country and "Life President" until he passed away in 1997, was Hastings Kamuzu Banda (  Despite the country's colonial past, Dr. Banda was a strong Anglophile and tried to get his country to emulate the English. To promote British culture and history,  he created  Kamuzu Academy ( as a Britsh-style boarding school which the best students in the country are still admitted to and educated at government expense.  Many speak of it as "the Eaton of Africa" and in order to matriculate, students are required to read and analyze classic European literature and philosophy.  Banda also insisted that his countrymen dress conservatively according to British customs of the time.  During his tenure, women in Malawi were not allowed to wear pants and men were not allowed to have long hair. The Life-president was the only Black African leader who openly maintained full diplomatic and economic relations with Apartheid South Africa.  This made him extremely controversial on the Continent but provided the country with a major nearby trading partner and a significant source of imported goods.

Dr. Banda also established Lilongwe ( the capital of the new Malawi, transferring the government  from Zomba which had been the capital of Nyasaland Protectorate. Blantyre ( remains the long-time economic center of the country.

The best known and dominant natural feature of the country is Lake Malawi (, the third largest lake in Africa and the 8th largest in the world. It's Chambo are a very popular eating fish and the lake provides a variety of recreational activities for locals and tourists.  Fly fishing is a popular tourist pastime and Malawi is known internationally among fly fishermen as an excellent source of hand-tied fishing flies. 

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