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Malawi :: Africa



From the late 15th to the 18th centuries, a prosperous Kingdom of Maravi - from which the name Malawi derives - extended its reach into what are now areas of Zambia and Mozambique. British missionary and trading activity increased in the area around Lake Malawi in the second half of the 19th century. In 1889, a British Central African Protectorate was established, which was renamed Nyasaland in 1907, and which became the independent nation of Malawi in 1964. After three decades of one-party rule under President Hastings Kamuzu BANDA, the country held multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in 1994, under a provisional constitution that came into full effect the following year. Bakili MULUZI became the first freely elected president of Malawi when he won the presidency in 1994; he won re-election in 1999. President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA, elected in 2004 after a failed attempt by the previous president to amend the constitution to permit another term, struggled to assert his authority against his predecessor and subsequently started his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party in 2005. MUTHARIKA was reelected to a second term in 2009. He oversaw some economic improvement in his first term, but was accused of economic mismanagement and poor governance in his second term. He died abruptly in 2012 and was succeeded by vice president, Joyce BANDA, who had earlier started her own party, the People's Party. MUTHARIKA's brother, Peter MUTHARIKA, defeated BANDA in the 2014 election. Peter MUTHARIKA was reelected in a disputed 2019 election that resulted in countrywide protests. Population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, corruption, and the scourge of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for Malawi.



Southern Africa, east of Zambia, west and north of Mozambique

Geographic coordinates:

13 30 S, 34 00 E

Map references:



total: 118,484 sq km
land: 94,080 sq km
water: 24,404 sq km
country comparison to the world: 100

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries:

total: 2,857 km
border countries (3): Mozambique 1498 km, Tanzania 512 km, Zambia 847 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:

none (landlocked)


sub-tropical; rainy season (November to May); dry season (May to November)


narrow elongated plateau with rolling plains, rounded hills, some mountains


mean elevation: 779 m
lowest point: junction of the Shire River and international boundary with Mozambique 37 m
highest point: Sapitwa (Mount Mlanje) 3,002 m

Natural resources:

limestone, arable land, hydropower, unexploited deposits of uranium, coal, and bauxite

Land use:

agricultural land: 59.2% (2011 est.)
arable land: 38.2% (2011 est.) / permanent crops: 1.4% (2011 est.) / permanent pasture: 19.6% (2011 est.)
forest: 34% (2011 est.)
other: 6.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:

740 sq km (2012)

Population distribution:

population density is highest south of Lake Nyasa as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards:

flooding; droughts; earthquakes

Environment - current issues:

deforestation; land degradation; water pollution from agricultural runoff, sewage, industrial wastes; siltation of spawning grounds endangers fish populations; negative effects of climate change (extreme high temperatures, changing precipatation pattens)

Environment - international agreements:

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea

Geography - note:

landlocked; Lake Nyasa, some 580 km long, is the country's most prominent physical feature; it contains more fish species than any other lake on earth

People and Society


21,196,629 (July 2020 est.)
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected
country comparison to the world: 60


noun: Malawian(s)
adjective: Malawian

Ethnic groups:

Chewa 34.3%, Lomwe 18.8%, Yao 13.2%, Ngoni 10.4%, Tumbuka 9.2%, Sena 3.8%, Mang'anja 3.2%, Tonga 1.8%, Nyanja 1.8%, Nkhonde 1%, other 2.2%, foreign .3% (2018 est.)


English (official), Chewa (common), Lambya, Lomwe, Ngoni, Nkhonde, Nyakyusa, Nyanja, Sena, Tonga, Tumbuka, Yao
note: Chewa and Nyanja are mutually intelligible dialects; Nkhonde and Nyakyusa are mutually intelligible dialects


Protestant 33.5% (includes Church of Central Africa Presbyterian 14.2%, Seventh Day Adventist/Baptist 9.4%, Pentecostal 7.6%, Anglican 2.3%), Roman Catholic 17.2%, other Christian 26.6%, Muslim 13.8%, traditionalist 1.1%, other 5.6%, none 2.1% (2018 est.)

Demographic profile:

Malawi has made great improvements in maternal and child health, but has made less progress in reducing its high fertility rate. In both rural and urban areas, very high proportions of mothers are receiving prenatal care and skilled birth assistance, and most children are being vaccinated. Malawi's fertility rate, however, has only declined slowly, decreasing from more than 7 children per woman in the 1980s to about 5.5 today. Nonetheless, Malawians prefer smaller families than in the past, and women are increasingly using contraceptives to prevent or space pregnancies. Rapid population growth and high population density is putting pressure on Malawi's land, water, and forest resources. Reduced plot sizes and increasing vulnerability to climate change, further threaten the sustainability of Malawi's agriculturally based economy and will worsen food shortages. About 80% of the population is employed in agriculture. ++ Historically, Malawians migrated abroad in search of work, primarily to South Africa and present-day Zimbabwe, but international migration became uncommon after the 1970s, and most migration in recent years has been internal. During the colonial period, Malawians regularly migrated to southern Africa as contract farm laborers, miners, and domestic servants. In the decade and a half after independence in 1964, the Malawian Government sought to transform its economy from one dependent on small-scale farms to one based on estate agriculture. The resulting demand for wage labor induced more than 300,000 Malawians to return home between the mid-1960s and the mid-1970s. In recent times, internal migration has generally been local, motivated more by marriage than economic reasons.

Age structure:

0-14 years: 45.87% (male 4,843,107/female 4,878,983)
15-24 years: 20.51% (male 2,151,417/female 2,195,939)
25-54 years: 27.96% (male 2,944,936/female 2,982,195)
55-64 years: 2.98% (male 303,803/female 328,092)
65 years and over: 2.68% (male 249,219/female 318,938) (2020 est.)

Dependency ratios:

total dependency ratio: 83.9
youth dependency ratio: 79.1
elderly dependency ratio: 4.9
potential support ratio: 20.6 (2020 est.)

Median age:

total: 16.8 years
male: 16.7 years
female: 16.9 years (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 221

Population growth rate:

3.3% (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 6

Birth rate:

40.1 births/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9

Death rate:

7.2 deaths/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88

Population distribution:

population density is highest south of Lake Nyasa as shown in this population distribution map


urban population: 17.4% of total population (2020)
rate of urbanization: 4.19% annual rate of change (2015-20 est.)

Major urban areas - population:

1.122 million LILONGWE (capital), 932,000 Blantyre-Limbe (2020)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth:

18.9 years (2015/16 est.)
note: median age at first birth among women 25-29

Maternal mortality rate:

349 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31

Infant mortality rate:

total: 39.5 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 45.8 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 33.2 deaths/1,000 live births (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 63.2 years
male: 61.2 years
female: 65.3 years (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 204

Total fertility rate:

5.31 children born/woman (2020 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11

Contraceptive prevalence rate:

59.2% (2015/16)

Drinking water source:

improved: urban: 95.9% of population
rural: 87.3% of population
total: 88.7% of population
unimproved: urban: 4.1% of population
rural: 12.7% of population
total: 11.3% of population (2017 est.)

Current Health Expenditure:

9.6% (2017)

Physicians density:

0.02 physicians/1,000 population (2016)

Hospital bed density:

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Sanitation facility access:

improved: urban: 58.2% of population
rural: 35.9% of population
total: 39.6% of population
unimproved: urban: 41.8% of population
rural: 64.1% of population
total: 60.4% of population (2017 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

9.5% (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 9

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

1.1 million (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

13,000 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high (2020)
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever
water contact diseases: schistosomiasis
animal contact diseases: rabies

Obesity - adult prevalence rate:

5.8% (2016)
country comparison to the world: 173

Children under the age of 5 years underweight:

11.8% (2018)
country comparison to the world: 54

Education expenditures:

4.7% of GDP (2018)
country comparison to the world: 72


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 62.1%
male: 69.8%
female: 55.2% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 11 years (2011)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:

total: 40.5%
male: 33.1%
female: 47.7% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10


Country name:

conventional long form: Republic of Malawi
conventional short form: Malawi
local long form: Dziko la Malawi
local short form: Malawi
former: British Central African Protectorate, Nyasaland Protectorate, Nyasaland
etymology: named for the East African Maravi Kingdom of the 16th century; the word "maravi" means "fire flames"

Government type:

presidential republic


name: Lilongwe
geographic coordinates: 13 58 S, 33 47 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
etymology: named after the Lilongwe River that flows through the city

Administrative divisions:

28 districts; Balaka, Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Chitipa, Dedza, Dowa, Karonga, Kasungu, Likoma, Lilongwe, Machinga, Mangochi, Mchinji, Mulanje, Mwanza, Mzimba, Neno, Ntcheu, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Nsanje, Ntchisi, Phalombe, Rumphi, Salima, Thyolo, Zomba


6 July 1964 (from the UK)

National holiday:

Independence Day, 6 July (1964); note - also called Republic Day since 6 July 1966


history: previous 1953 (preindependence), 1966; latest drafted January to May 1994, approved 16 May 1994, entered into force 18 May 1995
amendments: proposed by the National Assembly; passage of amendments affecting constitutional articles, including the sovereignty and territory of the state, fundamental constitutional principles, human rights, voting rights, and the judiciary, requires majority approval in a referendum and majority approval by the Assembly; passage of other amendments requires at least two-thirds majority vote of the Assembly; amended several times, last in 2017

Legal system:

mixed legal system of English common law and customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court of Appeal

International law organization participation:

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


citizenship by birth: no
citizenship by descent only: at least one parent must be a citizen of Malawi
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 7 years


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Lazarus CHAKWERA (since 28 June 2020); Vice President Saulos CHILIMA (since 3 February 2020); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Lazarus CHAKWERA (since 28 June 2020); Vice President Saulos CHILIMA (since 3 February 2020)
cabinet: Cabinet named by the president
elections/appointments: president directly elected by simple majority popular vote for a 5-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 23 June 2020 (next to be held in 2025)
election results: Lazarus CHAKWERA elected president; Lazarus CHAKWERA (MCP) 59.3%, Peter Mutharika (DPP) 39.9%, other 0.7% ++

Legislative branch:

description: unicameral National Assembly (193 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote to serve 5-year terms)
elections: last held on 21 May 2019 (next to be held in May 2024)
election results: percent of vote by party - n/a; seats by party - DPP 62, MCP 55, UDF 10, PP 5, other 5, independent 55, vacant 1; composition - men 161, women 32, percent of women 16.6%

Judicial branch:

highest courts: Supreme Court of Appeal (consists of the chief justice and at least 3 judges)
judge selection and term of office: Supreme Court chief justice appointed by the president and confirmed by the National Assembly; other judges appointed by the president upon the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, which regulates judicial officers; judges serve until age 65
subordinate courts: High Court; magistrate courts; Industrial Relations Court; district and city traditional or local courts

Political parties and leaders:

Democratic Progressive Party or DPP [Peter MUTHARIKA] ++ Malawi Congress Party or MCP [Lazarus CHAKWERA] ++ Peoples Party or PP [Joyce BANDA] ++ United Democratic Front or UDF [Atupele MULUZI] ++ United Transformation Movement or UTM [Saulos CHILIMA]

International organization participation:


Diplomatic representation in the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Edward Yakobe SAWERENGERA (since 16 September 2016)
chancery: 2408 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 721-0270
FAX: [1] (202) 721-0288

Diplomatic representation from the US:

chief of mission: Ambassador Robert SCOTT (since 6 August 2019)
telephone: +(265) 1-773-166, 1-773-342 and 1-773-367 (Dial "0" before the "1" within Malawi); EMER: +(265) (0) 999-591-024 or +(265) (0) 888-734-826
embassy: 16 Jomo Kenyatta Road, Lilongwe 3
mailing address: P.O. Box 30016, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
FAX: 265 (0) 1770471

Flag description:

three equal horizontal bands of black (top), red, and green with a radiant, rising, red sun centered on the black band; black represents the native peoples, red the blood shed in their struggle for freedom, and green the color of nature; the rising sun represents the hope of freedom for the continent of Africa

National symbol(s):

lion; national colors: black, red, green

National anthem:

name: "Mulungu dalitsa Malawi" (Oh God Bless Our Land of Malawi)
lyrics/music: Michael-Fredrick Paul SAUKA
note: adopted 1964


Economic overview:

Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's least developed countries. The country's economic performance has historically been constrained by policy inconsistency, macroeconomic instability, poor infrastructure, rampant corruption, high population growth, and poor health and education outcomes that limit labor productivity. The economy is predominately agricultural with about 80% of the population living in rural areas. Agriculture accounts for about one-third of GDP and 80% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports, although Malawi is looking to diversify away from tobacco to other cash crops. ++ The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. Donors halted direct budget support from 2013 to 2016 because of concerns about corruption and fiscal carelessness, but the World Bank resumed budget support in May 2017. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program but recent increases in domestic borrowing mean that debt servicing in 2016 exceeded the levels prior to HIPC debt relief. ++ Heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture, with corn being the staple crop, Malawi's economy was hit hard by the El Nino-driven drought in 2015 and 2016, and now faces threat from the fall armyworm. The drought also slowed economic activity, led to two consecutive years of declining economic growth, and contributed to high inflation rates. Depressed food prices over 2017 led to a significant drop in inflation (from an average of 21.7% in 2016 to 12.3% in 2017), with a similar drop in interest rates.

GDP real growth rate:

4% (2017 est.)
2.3% (2016 est.)
3% (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

9.3% (2019 est.)
12.4% (2018 est.)
11.7% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 207

Credit ratings:

GDP (purchasing power parity) - real:

$22.42 billion (2017 est.)
$21.56 billion (2016 est.)
$21.08 billion (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$7.766 billion (2019 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,200 (2017 est.)
$1,200 (2016 est.)
$1,200 (2015 est.)
note: data are in 2017 dollars
country comparison to the world: 209

Gross national saving:

3.9% of GDP (2017 est.)
-2.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
2.8% of GDP (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 178

GDP - composition, by sector of origin:

agriculture: 28.6% (2017 est.)
industry: 15.4% (2017 est.)
services: 56% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use:

household consumption: 84.3% (2017 est.)
government consumption: 16.3% (2017 est.)
investment in fixed capital: 15.3% (2017 est.)
investment in inventories: 0% (2017 est.)
exports of goods and services: 27.9% (2017 est.)
imports of goods and services: -43.8% (2017 est.)

Ease of Doing Business Index scores:

77.9 (2020)

Agriculture - products:

tobacco, sugarcane, tea, corn, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava (manioc, tapioca), sorghum, pulses, cotton, groundnuts, macadamia nuts, coffee; cattle, goats


tobacco, tea, sugar, sawmill products, cement, consumer goods

Industrial production growth rate:

1.2% (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 150

Labor force:

7 million (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 64

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 76.9%
industry: 4.1%
services: 19% (2013 est.)

Unemployment rate:

20.4% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 191

Population below poverty line:

50.7% (2010 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2.2%
highest 10%: 37.5% (2010 est.)


revenues: 1.356 billion (2017 est.)
expenditures: 1.567 billion (2017 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:

21.7% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):

-3.4% (of GDP) (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 144

Public debt:

59.2% of GDP (2017 est.)
60.3% of GDP (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 75

Fiscal year:

1 July - 30 June

Current account balance:

-$591 million (2017 est.)
-$744 million (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125


$10.718 billion (2019 est.)
$10.326 billion (2018 est.)
$9.658 billion (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 96

Exports - partners:

Zimbabwe 13.1%, Mozambique 11.8%, Belgium 10.7%, South Africa 6.3%, Netherlands 5%, UK 4.7%, Germany 4.3%, US 4.2% (2017)

Exports - commodities:

tobacco (55%), dried legumes (8.8%), sugar (6.7%), tea (5.7%), cotton (2%), peanuts, coffee, soy (2015 est.)


$12.818 billion (2019 est.)
$12.372 billion (2018 est.)
$11.631 billion (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 97

Imports - commodities:

food, petroleum products, semi-manufactures, consumer goods, transportation equipment

Imports - partners:

South Africa 20.7%, China 14.2%, India 11.6%, UAE 7%, Netherlands 4.4% (2017)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$780.2 million (31 December 2017 est.)
$585.7 million (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 140

Debt - external:

$2.102 billion (31 December 2017 est.)
$1.5 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 151

Exchange rates:

Malawian kwachas (MWK) per US dollar -
762.4951 (2020 est.)
736.6548 (2019 est.)
732.335 (2018 est.)
499.6 (2014 est.)
424.9 (2013 est.)


Electricity access:

population without electricity: 16 million (2019)
electrification - total population: 13% (2019)
electrification - urban areas: 55% (2019)
electrification - rural areas: 5% (2019)

Electricity - production:

1.42 billion kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 144

Electricity - consumption:

1.321 billion kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 150

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170

Electricity - installed generating capacity:

375,000 kW (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152

Electricity - from fossil fuels:

1% of total installed capacity (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 211

Electricity - from nuclear fuels:

0% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 135

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:

93% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7

Electricity - from other renewable sources:

6% of total installed capacity (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100

Crude oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168

Crude oil - exports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159

Crude oil - imports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 159

Crude oil - proved reserves:

0 bbl (1 January 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 163

Refined petroleum products - production:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171

Refined petroleum products - consumption:

6,000 bbl/day (2016 est.)
country comparison to the world: 171

Refined petroleum products - exports:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176

Refined petroleum products - imports:

4,769 bbl/day (2015 est.)
country comparison to the world: 173

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164

Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 170

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 145

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 152

Natural gas - proved reserves:

0 cu m (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 165

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:

1.082 million Mt (2017 est.)
country comparison to the world: 167


Telephones - fixed lines:

total subscriptions: 14,357
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 184

Telephones - mobile cellular:

total subscriptions: 9,799,352
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 47.78 (2019 est.)
country comparison to the world: 87

Telecommunication systems:

general assessment: rudimentary; 2 fixed-line and 3 mobile-cellular operators govern the market; some mobile services to rural areas; in a resolution to discourage crime the regulatory has imposed SIM card registration since 2018; 50 licensed ISPs; DSL services are available; LTE services are available; mobile penetration low in comparison to the region average; potential for growth; national fiber backbone nearing completion; prospect of gaining access to international submarine fiber optic cables from neighboring countries (2020)
domestic: limited fixed-line subscribership less than 1 per 100 households; mobile-cellular services are expanding but network coverage is limited and is based around the main urban areas; mobile-cellular subscribership 48 per 100 households (2019)
international: country code - 265; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean, 1 Atlantic Ocean) (2019)
note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media:

radio is the main broadcast medium; privately owned Zodiak radio has the widest national broadcasting reach, followed by state-run radio; numerous private and community radio stations broadcast in cities and towns around the country; the largest TV network is government-owned, but at least 4 private TV networks broadcast in urban areas; relays of multiple international broadcasters are available (2019)

Internet country code:


Internet users:

total: 2,734,305
percent of population: 13.78% (July 2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 103

Broadband - fixed subscriptions:

total: 11,358
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2018 est.)
country comparison to the world: 168


National air transport system:

number of registered air carriers: 2 (2020)
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 9
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 10,545 (2018)
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 10,000 mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:

7Q (2016)


32 (2013)
country comparison to the world: 112

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 7 (2019)
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 25 (2013)
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2013)
914 to 1,523 m: 11 (2013)
under 914 m: 13 (2013)


total: 767 km (2014)
narrow gauge: 767 km 1.067-m gauge (2014)
country comparison to the world: 99


total: 15,452 km (2015)
paved: 4,074 km (2015)
unpaved: 11,378 km (2015)
country comparison to the world: 123


700 km (on Lake Nyasa [Lake Malawi] and Shire River) (2010)
country comparison to the world: 75

Ports and terminals:

lake port(s): Chipoka, Monkey Bay, Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Chilumba (Lake Nyasa)

Military and Security

Military and security forces:

Malawi Defense Force (MDF): Army (includes Air Wing, Marine Unit); note - a 2017 amendment to Malawi's Defense Force Act established a separate Army, Air Force, and Maritime Force within the MDF, but these services have yet to develop independent budgets, chains of command, and training institutions (2019)

Military expenditures:

0.9% of GDP (2019)
0.9% of GDP (2018)
0.8% of GDP (2017)
0.6% of GDP (2016)
0.6% of GDP (2015)
country comparison to the world: 128

Military and security service personnel strengths:

size estimates for the Malawi Defense Force vary; approximately 8,000 personnel (including about 200 in the Air Wing and 200 in the Marine Unit) (2019 est.)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions:

the Malawi Defense Force inventory is comprised of mostly obsolescent or second-hand equipment from France, Germany, South Africa, and the UK; since 2010, it has taken deliveries of additional second-hand equipment from South Africa (2012-15) and the UK (2015), as well as new patrol boats from China (2019) and non-lethal equipment donated by the US (2019) (2019)

Military deployments:

730 Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (2020)

Military service age and obligation:

18 years of age for voluntary military service; high school equivalent required for enlisted recruits and college equivalent for officer recruits; initial engagement is 7 years for enlisted personnel and 10 years for officers (2014)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international:

dispute with Tanzania over the boundary in Lake Nyasa (Lake Malawi) and the meandering Songwe River; Malawi contends that the entire lake up to the Tanzanian shoreline is its territory, while Tanzania claims the border is in the center of the lake; the conflict was reignited in 2012 when Malawi awarded a license to a British company for oil exploration in the lake

Refugees and internally displaced persons:

refugees (country of origin): 29,416 (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (refugees and asylum seekers), 10,838 (Burundi) (refugees and asylum seekers), 6,696 (Rwanda) (refugees and asylum seekers) (2020)