The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country in southeastern Africa. It occupies a narrow strip of land along the East African Rift Valley. It is bordered by Tanzania to the north, Zambia to the west, and Mozambique to the east and south. It was formerly known as Nyasaland because Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi in Malawi) occupies one-fifth of the country’s total area. Malawi comes from Maravi, an old name for the Chewa people. Malawi is nicknamed “the warm heart of Africa” because of how friendly its inhabitants are.
Malawi’s economy mainly relies on cash-crop and subsistence agriculture. Its official monetary unit is the Malawian kwacha. One kwacha is equivalent to 100 tambalas. The name kwacha derives from the Chinyanja word for “it has dawned” while tambala is the Chichewa word for “rooster”. The Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) was established in July 1964 but started its operations in June 1965. Prior to the kwacha, Malawi used the pound sterling. The last pound sterling banknotes were issued in 1964. These notes showcased President Hastings Banda and three fishermen on Lake Malawi on the obverse side, and different agricultural vignettes on the reverse side. The 1964 kwacha notes issued by the RBM ran concurrently to the last Malawian pound series at a rate of 2 kwacha per pound. These notes had the same design as the pound notes to ease the interim of the two currencies. In 1974, the 2-kwacha note was dropped from circulation and the portrait of President Hastings Banda moved from left to right. In 1990, the Reserve Bank introduced a newly-designed banknote family, with the 50-tambala dropped and the 50- and 100-kwacha notes introduced. These notes had new color schemes, novel serial numbers, and a rooster registration device. In 1994, new designs were introduced following the succession of Elson Bakili Muluzi as Malawi’s president. These notes featured Muluzi’s portrait and an optically variable ink sunburst over the watermark area on the front side of the notes. These notes also had new security features: a fish registration device and watermark, and windowed security threads. The 200-kwacha note was introduced in this family, and the 1-kwacha note was dropped. The backside of the notes also featured the natural habitats of local animals. In 1997, a portrait of a national hero, Reverend John Chilembwe, was used in the front instead of the president. In 2004, a commemorative 50-kwacha note was released to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Malawi independence. In 2012, a new family of banknotes was released with the theme that focused on the long-term objectives of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy: sustainable economic growth, social development, infrastructure development, and good governance. These notes featured different political, social, and cultural leaders on the front and vignettes that showed the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy objectives at the back. In 2014, enhanced blind recognition features were added and the 50-kwacha note changed its color scheme from light blue to light green to distinguish it from the 200-kwacha note. In the same year, a commemorative 1,000-kwacha note was issued to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Malawi’s independence.