The Republic of Malawi is a landlocked country that occupies a narrow strip of land along the East African Rift Valley in southeastern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to the east and south, Zambia to the west, and Tanzania to the north. It was also known as Nyasaland because Lake Nyasa (also known as Lake Malawi) occupies one-fifth of the country’s total area. The name Malawi comes from the old name for the Chewa people, Maravi. Malawi is also known as the “warm heart of Africa” because its people are known to be welcoming and friendly. Its economy is based on cash-crop and subsistence agriculture, accounting for 80% of the country’s GDP. Malawi was also a part of the British Empire. It achieved independence from the British in 1964.
The Malawian kwacha is the official currency of Malawi. It was adopted in 1964, replacing the pound sterling at a rate of 2 kwacha per pound. One kwacha is equivalent to 100 tambalas. The word kwacha comes from the Chinyanja word for “it has dawned”. The word tambala comes from the Chichewa word for “rooster”.
The Reserve Bank of Malawi has central bank responsibilities and issuing authority. It was established in July 1964 but started its operations in July 1965. The first family of kwacha notes had a similar design to the preceding pound sterling family to ease the transition between currencies. The notes featured President Hastings Banda and three fishermen in front and agricultural scenes at the back. In 1974, the 2 kwacha note was dropped from circulation and the portrait of President Banda was moved from left to right. In 1990, a new family of notes was introduced. The 50 tambala note was dropped and the 50 and 100 kwacha notes were introduced. The 1990 Issues had a new color scheme, novel serial numbers, and a rooster registration device.
In 1994, the long administration of President Hastings Banda ended and Elson Bakili Muluzi succeeded him as president. A new family of notes was introduced to reflect this change in administration. These notes featured the portrait of President Muluzi and an optically variable ink (OVI) sunburst pattern over the watermark area on the obverse side and wildlife on the reverse side. These notes also had new security features including a fish registration device, a fish watermark, and windowed security threads. The 1 kwacha note was dropped and the 200 kwacha note was introduced.
In 1997, the portrait of the president was replaced with the portrait of Reverend John Chilembwe, a national hero of Malawi. A commemorative 50 kwacha note was issued in 2004 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Malawian Independence.
A new family of banknotes was released in 2012. These notes had a theme that focused on the long-term objectives of the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy. These objectives are sustainable economic growth, social development, infrastructure development, and good governance. The 2012 Issues featured different political, social, and cultural leaders in the front and scenes that depicted the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy objectives at the back.
In 2014, enhanced blind recognition features were added to the 2012 Issues. The 50 kwacha note also changed its color scheme from light blue to light green to differentiate it from the 200 kwacha note. A commemorative 1,000 kwacha note was also introduced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Malawian Independence.