Nation Publications Limited (NPL) was established by the veteran politician the late Dr Aleke Kadonaphani Banda in 1993 after the June national referendum in Malawi.
The first publication of NPL, The Nation, hit the streets on July 26. It started as an eight-page bi-weekly and became the 23rd paper after a flurry of newspapers in the transition from one party rule to multiparty democracy.
Its initial circulation was 5 000 copies each going at K2.00
Virtually, all newspapers that started during the transition from the one party to the multiparty system of government folded up. While these artefacts of the new political dispensation disappeared one by one, The Nation grew quickly to become a daily on July 11 1994, coming out five days a week from Monday to Friday.
Despite several constraints and coming on the scene in the second half of the year, the paper was voted fourth in the best newspapers category of the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation’s Entertainers of the Year awards.
The paper grew in strength and continued to win the award in 2000, 2001 (2nd position), 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2008.
In July 1995, NPL launched its weekend paper Saturday Nation, now called Weekend Nation. It quickly grew to become the highest circulating weekly, reaching remotest parts of Malawi.
It also won the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation’s Entertainers of the Year award (best newspaper category) in 2000 (3rd position), 2001 (3rd position), 2002 (2nd position) and 2003 (2nd position).
In 1998, NPL launched its first online edition, Nation Online, which was redeveloped in 2002 and 2006. Nation Online was redeveloped again into this commercialised site.
In 2005, a magazine, Inspiration, and a graphic design arm of the company, Imagination, were born. April of the following year saw the death of Inspiration and in its place was born a Sunday paper, Nation on Sunday. The paper has also fast established itself on the market with a circulation figure that keeps growing steadily.
Towards the end of 2009, NPL introduced Fuko, a developmental newspaper in Chichewa and Chitumbuka which is distributed free to people in rural areas, especially targeted at Malawians who are barely literate.
Fuko, a fortnightly production, started with an initial circulation of 15 500 and is made possible with the support of production and distribution partners which include the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), Total Land Care, Pride Malawi and Malawi Rural Finance Company (MRFC).
Over the years, NPL has established itself to become a media force in Malawi and has won Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Print Media House of the Year award in 2007 and 2009.
When it started off, NPL had eight members of staff which quickly grew to 13. It operated from small offices opposite the City of Blantyre Engineering Department’s offices at Ginnery Corner.
There was only one vehicle, two computers and two telephone lines being shared among editorial, circulation, accounts, advertising and production departments.
Initially, printing of The Nation was mostly done by United Printers in Lilongwe and that meant artworks had to travel from Blantyre to Lilongwe. When the paper eventually went daily, this proved to be a logistical nightmare as it meant finishing production early to accommodate late breaking stories.
Arrangements were made to print at Blantyre Print and Publishing Company but this proved to be problematic.
Later, in 1994, NPL opened its first bureau in Lilongwe. In the following year, the company moved to its current premises on Salmin Amour Road, purchased the printing equipment from United Printers and started printing from its new premises. It also opened offices in Mzuzu and Zomba.
In December 2009, NPL head office moved to Hannover Building in Blantyre, on the junction between Hannover Street and Independence Drive.