Which Countries Border Malawi?

Lake Malawi is a point of contention between Tanzania and Malawi.
Lake Malawi is a point of contention between Tanzania and Malawi.

Malawi cover an area 45,747 square miles and it is located in the south-eastern region of Africa. The country, according to estimates from 2016, was home to 18,091,575 individuals which at the time was the 64th highest population in the world. The state of Malawi had a population density of about 333.6 people per square mile which was the 86th highest population density in the world.

Communities have lived within Malawi's borders for a long time with evidence discovered in 1991 of a hominid jawbone of more than 2.3 million years old. Most of the initial inhabitants of Malawi were hunters and gatherers until the arrival of many Bantu communities. One of the most significant empires to exist within Malawi's borders was the Maravi Empire from which the nation of Malawi is believed to have gotten its name. At its peak, the empire covered large swaths of territory within present-day Malawi.

Like most African nations, Malawi fell under European colonial rule which significantly altered the nation's destiny. The British had dominion over Malawi, and their actions had an enormous impact in the shape of Malawi's borders. Malawi's land border extends for approximately 1775 miles, and because it is a landlocked country, Malawi has no coastline. Malawi shares its land boundaries with three nations of Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zambia.

Tanzania-Malawi Border

The boundary that separates the nations of Tanzania and Mozambique is approximately 318 miles long.

The relationship between the two countries dates back to the colonial period when Malawi was under the British rule while Tanzania, at the time Tanganyika, was under the control of the Germans. In 1890, the two European powers signed the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty in which they agreed on the exact location of the border. The border between the two nations follows the course of some natural features such as the Songwe River as well as Lake Malawi. Tanzania remained under German control until Germany lost in the First World War. The territory of Tanzania was given to the British to administer on behalf of the League of Nations which meant that Tanzania and Malawi were under the same colonial power. Even though both nations were under British rule, they were ruled independently of each other. At the time of their independence, the border between Malawi and Tanzania was mostly the same as it had been during the colonial era.

Tanzania and Malawi have a long-standing border dispute mainly revolving around Lake Malawi. The conflict between the two nations stems from the difference in the application of international law as the Malawians believe that the colonial treaty between the Germans and the British should be applied. The Tanzanians, however, believe that the lake should be divided between the two states along the median line. Lake Malawi is so significant for Tanzania and Malawi both economically and culturally which has made the disagreement difficult to settle. The issue has affected the relations between the two countries and many organizations such as churches have tried to offer a solution to the misunderstanding.Malawi and Tanzania maintain diplomatic ties with both nations having a high commission in the other's territory.

Zambia-Malawi Border

The nations of Zambia and Malawi are separated by a border nearly 526 miles long. The history between the two countries dates back to the pre-colonial period when several members of the aristocracy of the Makololo Empire from Zambia were forced to flee to Malawi after the Lozi revolted. The history of the two nations also goes back to the Maravi kingdom that covered most of Malawi as well as sections of Zambia. Both Malawi and Zambia were colonies of Britain and before their independence joined Zimbabwe to create the Central African Federation. The federation collapsed, but the primary cause was the continued agitation by Africans for their independence.

Due to their shared history, Malawi and Zambia have exceptionally close ties mainly cultural due to the ease of movement from one nation to the other. People of Malawian descent have succeeded in Zambia with some of the most noteworthy examples being Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda both of whom have served as the president of Zambia. Malawi and Zambia signed an agreement in 1982 that established the Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation to ensure that both nations worked together regularly on many issues primarily security. Malawi and Zambia maintain close diplomatic ties as they both have a high commission in the other's capital.

Together with Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi decided to work together to develop the Shire Zambezi Waterway which would facilitate the transportation of goods as well as increase trade. The primary beneficiaries of the waterway would be Malawi and Zambia as it would reduce the cost of transporting goods as both nations are landlocked.

Mozambique-Malawi Border

Malawi's longest land border is the boundary that separates it from Mozambique which extends for about 930.8 miles. Several natural features make up the boundary between the two nations the most significant of which is Lake Malawi.

The relationship between the two nations was generally cordial though in some instances it was strained due to several shared natural resources most notably the Zambezi River. One of the most significant disputes between the countries was over Lake Malawi, but a concerted effort from both nations ensured that the issue did not escalate. Due to the close relationship between the two countries, Malawi provided shelter for nearly 1,000,000 refugees from Mozambique during and after a civil war that rocked Mozambique.

Mozambique and Malawi maintain close diplomatic ties with Malawi having a high commission located in Maputo while Mozambique has a high commission situated in Lilongwe as well as a consulate in the city of Blantyre.

Significance of Positive Border Relations

Cross border relations are vital for all nations around the world as it ensures the economic prosperity of the country. Positive border relations ensure that the states can exploit the resources along their border peacefully. Cordial ties also provide the security of both nations as the countries can cooperate on their safety, and ensure that nations support each other in case of a crisis.


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