Malawi, a largely agricultural country, is making efforts to overcome decades of underdevelopment and the more recent impact of a growing HIV-
For the first 30 years of independence it was run by the authoritarian and quixotic President Hastings Kamuzu Banda, but democratic institutions have taken a firm hold since he relinquished power in the mid-
After President Banda lost the first democratic presidential election in 1994 his successor, Bakili Muluzi, established a far more open form of government. Corruption, poverty and the high rate of HIV-
Most Malawians rely on subsistence farming, but the food supply situation is precarious and the country is prone to natural disasters of both extremes -
Malawi has been urged by world financial bodies to free up its economy, and has it has privatised many loss-
Since 2007 the country has made real progress in achieving economic growth as part of programmes instituted by the government of President Mutharika in 2005. Healthcare, education and environmental conditions have improved, and Malawi has started to move away from reliance on overseas aid.
Its single major natural resource, agricultural land is under severe pressure from rapid population growth, although the government's programme of fertilizer subsidies has dramatically boosted output in recent years, making Malawi a net food exporter.
Tens of thousands of Malawians die of Aids every year. After years of silence, the authorities spoke out about the crisis. A programme to tackle HIV-
President: Bingu wa Mutharika
Bingu wa Mutharika felt a backlash from his anti-
Bingu wa Mutharika scored a resounding victory in presidential elections held in May 2009, winning a second term in office.
He saw off a challenge by John Tembo, an ally of his predecessor and main political rival, Bakili Muluzi. Mr Tembo alleged that the vote had been rigged, but his legal challenge to the results was rejected by the High Court.
Mr Mutharika originally came to power in May 2004 as the presidential candidate of the ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).
Less than a year after his election, he resigned from the UDF, accusing the party and Mr Muluzi of opposing his high-
Mr Mutharika had been hand-
Donor countries warned in 2005 that a power struggle between the president and his predecessor was diverting the government's attention from pressing problems, including food shortages.
Mr Mutharika is an economist and a former secretary-