Malawi facts on every entity in the world

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 May 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 May 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 April 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 May 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

Area 100/257

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:

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)

Total renewable water resources

17.28 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)

total: 1.36 cu km/yr (11%/4%/86%)

per capita: 99.86 cu m/yr (2005)

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


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.)

Population 63/238


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 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 46.73% (male 4,175,706/female 4,218,955)

15-24 years: 20.38% (male 1,820,047/female 1,841,331)

25-54 years: 27.14% (male 2,418,126/female 2,457,419)

55-64 years: 3.06% (male 262,067/female 287,637)

65 years and over: 2.69% (male 213,735/female 269,674) (2015 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: 16.4 years

male: 16.3 years

female: 16.5 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 2/233

3.32% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 7/224

41.56 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 82/225

8.41 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 89/222

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 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: 0.98 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 (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth


note: median age at first birth among women 20-24 (2010 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 24/184

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

Infant mortality rate 42/224

total: 46.26 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 53.07 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 39.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 196/224

total population: 60.66 years

male: 58.67 years

female: 62.69 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 8/224

5.6 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

46.1% (2010)

Health expenditures 35/191

8.3% of GDP (2013)

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

10.04% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

1,063,900 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

32,600 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 168/191

4.3% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 52/138

13.8% (2010)

Education expenditures 60/173

5.4% of GDP (2011)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 11 years (2011)

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 after the East African Maravi kingdom of the 16th century; the word "maravi" means "fire flames"

Government type

multiparty democracy


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 (2015)

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]

Chipani Cha Fuko or CCP [Davis KATSONGA PHIRI]; note - party disbanded in fall of 2015

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


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) 143/230

$20.56 billion (2015 est.)

$19.77 billion (2014 est.)

$18.71 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$6.388 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 64/225

4% (2015 est.)

5.7% (2014 est.)

5.2% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 220/230

$1,200 (2015 est.)

$1,100 (2014 est.)

$1,100 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 155/179

8.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

6% of GDP (2014 est.)

6.6% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 77.5%

government consumption: 17.4%

investment in fixed capital: 12.4%

investment in inventories: 2.7%

exports of goods and services: 43.5%

imports of goods and services: -53.5%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 32.9%

industry: 17.1%

services: 50.1% (2015 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 52/202

4.1% (2015 est.)

Labor force 71/233

5.747 million (2007 est.)

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 90%

industry and services: 10% (2003 est.)

Unemployment rate


Population below poverty line

53% (2004 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 3%

highest 10%: 31.9% (2004)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 69/144

39 (2004)


revenues: $1.188 billion

expenditures: $1.388 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 170/219

18.6% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 115/220

-3.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt 60/176

61.1% of GDP (2015 est.)

60.9% of GDP (2014 est.)

Fiscal year

1 July - 30 June

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 220/226

22.2% (2015 est.)

24.4% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 10/156

15% (31 December 2009)

15% (31 December 2008)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 3/184

41% (31 December 2015 est.)

44.29% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 166/192

$456.9 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$549.8 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 164/193

$1.481 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$1.2 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 163/191

$647 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$800.2 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares 110/121

$753.6 million (31 December 2012 est.)

$1.384 billion (31 December 2011)

$1.363 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance 78/197

-$168 million (2015 est.)

-$216 million (2014 est.)

Exports 155/224

$1.185 billion (2015 est.)

$1.366 billion (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Exports - partners

Belgium 12.4%, Zimbabwe 10.4%, South Africa 6.8%, Germany 6.8%, Russia 6.6%, Canada 6.1%, US 6% (2014)

Imports 150/223

$2.664 billion (2015 est.)

$2.808 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Imports - partners

South Africa 26.2%, India 15.5%, China 10%, Zambia 9.8%, Tanzania 5.4% (2014)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 140/170

$743.4 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$625.2 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 150/206

$1.884 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

$1.558 billion (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad

Exchange rates

Malawian kwachas (MWK) per US dollar -

520.5 (2015 est.)

424.9 (2014 est.)

424.9 (2013 est.)

249.11 (2012 est.)

156.93 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 135/220

2.18 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 143/219

2.027 billion kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 167/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 173/219

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 151/214

302,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 211/214

0.7% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 138/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 5/214

99.3% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 199/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 165/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 158/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 95/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 165/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 209/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 165/212

6,000 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 201/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 153/213

6,059 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 100/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 169/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 143/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 98/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 168/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 150/212

1.91 million Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 153/219

total subscriptions: 64,200

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 117/217

total: 5.1 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 30 (2014 est.)

Telephone system

general assessment: rudimentary; privatization of Malawi Telecommunications (MTL), a necessary step in bringing improvement to telecommunications services, completed in 2006

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 25 per 100 persons

international: country code - 265; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean, 1 Atlantic Ocean) (2010)

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 network is government-owned, but two private TV networks now broadcast in urban areas and more plan to begin broadcasting in 2014; relays of multiple international broadcasters are available (2014)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 9, FM 5 (plus 15 repeater stations), shortwave 2 (plus one shortwave station on standby) (2001)

Television broadcast stations

1 (2001)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 171/232

1,099 (2012)

Internet users 135/217

total: 387,500

percent of population: 2.2% (2014 est.)


Airports 113/236

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)

Railways 99/136

total: 767 km

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

Roadways 120/223

total: 15,450 km

paved: 6,951 km

unpaved: 8,499 km (2011)

Waterways 75/107

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 104/132

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 (Congo, Democratic Republic of the); 5,260 (Rwanda) (2015)

IDPs: 107,000 (floods in 2015) (2015)