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Malawi :: Africa



Established in 1891, the British protectorate of Nyasaland 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. 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. 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

Area - comparative:

slightly smaller than Pennsylvania

Land boundaries:

total: 2,857 km
border countries (3): Mozambique 1,498 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
elevation extremes: 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%
arable land 38.2%; permanent crops 1.4%; permanent pasture 19.6%
forest: 34%
other: 6.8% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land:

740 sq km (2012)

Natural hazards:


Environment - current issues:

deforestation; land degradation; water pollution from agricultural runoff, sewage, industrial wastes; siltation of spawning grounds endangers fish populations

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


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 (July 2016 est.)


noun: Malawian(s)
adjective: Malawian

Ethnic groups:

Chewa 32.6%, Lomwe 17.6%, Yao 13.5%, Ngoni 11.5%, Tumbuka 8.8%, Nyanja 5.8%, Sena 3.6%, Tonga 2.1%, Ngonde 1%, other 3.5%


English (official), Chichewa (common), Chinyanja, Chiyao, Chitumbuka, Chilomwe, Chinkhonde, Chingoni, Chisena, Chitonga, Chinyakyusa, Chilambya


Christian 82.6%, Muslim 13%, other 1.9%, none 2.5% (2008 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: 46.53% (male 4,299,076/female 4,341,129)
15-24 years: 20.49% (male 1,889,240/female 1,915,843)
25-54 years: 27.26% (male 2,512,247/female 2,549,766)
55-64 years: 3.03% (male 268,691/female 294,713)
65 years and over: 2.69% (male 220,608/female 279,008) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios:

total dependency ratio: 94.5%
youth dependency ratio: 87.9%
elderly dependency ratio: 6.7%
potential support ratio: 14.9% (2015 est.)

Median age:

total: 16.5 years
male: 16.3 years
female: 16.6 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate:

3.32% (2016 est.)

Birth rate:

41.3 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate:

8.1 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 16.3% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.77% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population:

LILONGWE (capital) 905,000; Blantyre-Limbe 808,000 (2015)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth:

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2010 est.)

Maternal mortality rate:

634 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 44.8 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 51.5 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 38 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 61.2 years
male: 59.2 years
female: 63.2 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate:

5.54 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate:

46.1% (2010)

Health expenditures:

11.4% of GDP (2014)

Physicians density:

0.02 physicians/1,000 population (2009)

Hospital bed density:

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Drinking water source:

urban: 95.7% of population
rural: 89.1% of population
total: 90.2% of population
urban: 4.3% of population
rural: 10.9% of population
total: 9.8% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access:

urban: 47.3% of population
rural: 39.8% of population
total: 41% of population
urban: 52.7% of population
rural: 60.2% of population
total: 59% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

9.11% (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:

976,300 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

26,700 (2015 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and dengue fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
animal contact disease: rabies (2016)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate:

4.3% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight:

16.7% (2014)

Education expenditures:

5.6% of GDP (2015)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 65.8%
male: 73%
female: 58.6% (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):

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

Child labor - children ages 5-14:

total number: 993,318
percentage: 26% (2006 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:

total: 8.6%
male: 9.1%
female: 8.2% (2013 est.)


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)

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 (Republic Day), 6 July (1964)


previous 1953 (preindependence), 1966; latest drafted January to May 1994, approved 16 May 1994, entered into force 18 May 1995; amended several times, last in 2013 (2016)

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 Arthur Peter MUTHARIKA (since 31 May 2014); Vice President Saulos CHILIMA (since 31 May 2014); note - the president is both chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Arthur Peter MUTHARIKA (since 31 May 2014); Vice President Saulos CHILIMA (since 31 May 2014)
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 20 May 2014 (next to be held in May 2019)
election results: Peter MUTHARIKA elected president; percent of vote - Peter MUTHARIKA (DPP) 36.4%, Lazarus CHAKWERA (MCP) 27.8%, Joyce BANDA (PP) 20.2%, Atupele MULUZI (UDF) 13.7%, other 1.9%

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 20-22 May 2014 (next to be held in May 2019)
election results: percent of vote by party - DPP 22.0%, MCP 17.4%, PP 18.5%, UDF 9.6%, other 2.8%, independent 29.7%; seats by party - DPP 51, MCP 48, PP 26, UDF 14, other 2, independent 52

Judicial branch:

highest court(s): 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 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:

Alliance for Democracy or AFORD [Godfrey SHAWA]
Democratic Progressive Party or DPP [Peter MUTHARIKA]
Malawi Congress Party or MCP [Lazarus CHAKWERA]
People's Party or PP [Joyce BANDA]
United Democratic Front or UDF [Atupele MULUZI]

Political pressure groups and leaders:

Council for NGOs in Malawi or CONGOMA (human rights, democracy, and development)
Human Rights Consultative Committee or HRCC (human rights)
Malawi Economic Justice Network or MEJN (pro economic growth, development, government accountability)
Malawi Law Society (an umbrella organization of all lawyers in Malawi)
Public Affairs Committee or PAC (promotes democracy, development, peace and unity)

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 Virginia E. PALMER (since 5 February 2015)
embassy: 16 Jomo Kenyatta Road, Lilongwe 3
mailing address: P.O. Box 30016, Lilongwe 3, Malawi
telephone: [265] (1) 773-166
FAX: [265] (1) 770-471

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


Economy - overview:

Landlocked Malawi ranks among the world's most densely populated and least developed countries. The country’s economic performance has historically been constrained by policy inconsistency, macroeconomic instability, limited connectivity to the region and the world, 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 90% of export revenues. The performance of the tobacco sector is key to short-term growth as tobacco accounts for more than half of exports.
The economy depends on substantial inflows of economic assistance from the IMF, the World Bank, and individual donor nations. In 2006, Malawi was approved for relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program. Between 2005 and 2009 Malawi’s government exhibited improved financial discipline under the guidance of Finance Minister Goodall GONDWE and signed a three-year IMF Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility worth $56 million. The government announced infrastructure projects that could yield improvements, such as a new oil pipeline for better fuel access, and the potential for a waterway link through Mozambican rivers to the ocean for better transportation options.
Since 2009, however, Malawi has experienced some setbacks, including a general shortage of foreign exchange, which has damaged its ability to pay for imports, and fuel shortages that hinder transportation and productivity. In October 2013, the African Development Bank, the IMF, several European countries, and the US indefinitely froze $150 million in direct budgetary support in response to a high level corruption scandal, called “Cashgate,” citing a lack of trust in the government’s financial management system and civil service. Most of the frozen donor funds — which accounted for 40% of the budget — have been channeled through non-governmental organizations in the country. The government has failed to address barriers to investment such as unreliable power, water shortages, poor telecommunications infrastructure, and the high costs of services. Investment had fallen continuously for several years, but rose 4 percentage points in 2014 to 17% of GDP.
The government faces many challenges, including developing a market economy, improving educational facilities, addressing environmental problems, dealing with HIV/AIDS, and satisfying foreign donors on anti-corruption efforts.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$21.23 billion (2016 est.)
$20.67 billion (2015 est.)
$20.08 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):

$5.474 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

2.7% (2016 est.)
3% (2015 est.)
5.7% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$1,100 (2016 est.)
$1,100 (2015 est.)
$1,100 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving:

-4.4% of GDP (2016 est.)
3% of GDP (2015 est.)
3.5% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use:

household consumption: 75.1%
government consumption: 17.4%
investment in fixed capital: 11.9%
investment in inventories: 2.6%
exports of goods and services: 42.6%
imports of goods and services: -49.6% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin:

agriculture: 32%
industry: 17.5%
services: 50.5% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products:

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


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

Industrial production growth rate:

4% (2016 est.)

Labor force:

5.747 million (2007 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 90%
industry and services: 10% (2003 est.)

Unemployment rate:


Population below poverty line:

52.4% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 31.9% (2004)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

39 (2004)


revenues: $1.03 billion
expenditures: $1.247 billion (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:

18.8% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):

-4% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt:

61.2% of GDP (2016 est.)
54.2% of GDP (2015 est.)

Fiscal year:

1 July - 30 June

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

23.5% (2016 est.)
21.2% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate:

15% (31 December 2009)
15% (31 December 2008)

Commercial bank prime lending rate:

44.5% (31 December 2016 est.)
44.9% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money:

$550.8 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$512.3 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money:

$1.481 billion (31 December 2014 est.)
$1.2 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:

$711.2 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$724.5 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:

$753.6 million (31 December 2012 est.)
$1.384 billion (31 December 2011 est.)
$1.363 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance:

-$863 million (2016 est.)
-$533 million (2015 est.)


$1.277 billion (2016 est.)
$1.278 billion (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities:

tobacco 53%, tea, sugar, cotton, coffee, peanuts, wood products, apparel (2010 est.)

Exports - partners:

Belgium 15.8%, Zimbabwe 12%, India 6.9%, South Africa 6.2%, US 6%, Russia 5.6%, Germany 4.6% (2015)


$2.578 billion (2016 est.)
$2.607 billion (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities:

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

Imports - partners:

South Africa 26.4%, China 16.7%, India 12%, Zambia 10.3%, Tanzania 6% (2015)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$605.9 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$693.1 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.921 billion (31 December 2016 est.)
$1.715 billion (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:


Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:


Exchange rates:

Malawian kwachas (MWK) per US dollar -
671.6 (2016 est.)
499.6 (2015 est.)
499.6 (2014 est.)
424.9 (2013 est.)
249.11 (2012 est.)


Electricity - production:

2.1 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption:

1.9 billion kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports:

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports:

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity:

400,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels:

0.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels:

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants:

99.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources:

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports:

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports:

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves:

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production:

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption:

7,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports:

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports:

6,843 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production:

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports:

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy:

1.9 million Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines:

total subscriptions: 45,678
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

total: 6.116 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 34 (July 2015 est.)

Telephone system:

general assessment: rudimentary; two fixed-line and two mobile-cellular operators govern the market
domestic: limited fixed-line subscribership of about 1 per 100 persons; mobile-cellular services are expanding but network coverage is limited and is based around the main urban areas; mobile-cellular subscribership about 30 per 100 persons
international: country code - 265; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean, 1 Atlantic Ocean) (2015)

Broadcast media:

radio is the main broadcast medium; privately owned Zodiac radio has the widest national broadcasting reach, followed by state-run radio; about a dozen private and community radio stations broadcast in cities and towns around the country; the largest TV n (2014)

Internet country code:


Internet users:

total: 1.67 million
percent of population: 9.3% (July 2015 est.)


National air transport system:

number of registered air carriers: 1
inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 2
annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 6,010
annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 5,467 mt-km (2015)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix:

7Q (2016)


32 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 7
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 2
914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

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


total: 767 km
narrow gauge: 767 km 1.067-m gauge (2014)


total: 15,450 km
paved: 6,951 km
unpaved: 8,499 km (2011)


700 km (on Lake Nyasa [Lake Malawi] and Shire River) (2010)

Ports and terminals:

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

Military and Security

Military branches:

Malawi Defense Forces (MDF): Army (includes Air Wing, Marine Unit) (2012)

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)

Military expenditures:

0.93% of GDP (2012)
0.79% of GDP (2011)
0.93% of GDP (2010)

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): 11,315 (Democratic Republic of the Congo); 5,260 (Rwanda) (2015); nearly 11,500 (Mozambique) (2016)
IDPs: 107,000 (floods in 2015) (2015)