Mount Mulanje is a granite inselberg (isolated hill or mountain) in southern Malawi, Africa. At 3,000 m (9,824 ft) high, it is one of the largest inselbergs in the world as well as the tallest peak in south-central Africa. Inselbergs are stands of hard igneous rock that remain standing isolated on level plains, formed because their rock mass resisted erosion while the plains around them did not. The elevation of the mountain is high enough for it disturb upper level air flow and induce rain clouds to form around it, making it an important source of rain water at the head of almost every river that runs through this part of Malawi. The image is a visualization created by merging Landsat satellite imagery with radar elevation data from a space shuttle mission. This true-color image contains no vertical exaggeration. Image courtesy of NASA.
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Introduction

Background

Malawi shares its name with the Chewa word for flames and is linked to the Maravi people from whom the Chewa language originated. The Maravi settled in what is now Malawi around 1400 during one of the later waves of Bantu migration across central and southern Africa. Several of Malawi’s ethnic groups trace their origins to different Maravi lineages. A powerful Maravi kingdom, established around 1500, reached its zenith around 1700, when it controlled what is now southern and central Malawi as well as portions of neighboring Mozambique and Zambia before beginning to decline because of destabilization from the escalating global trade in enslaved people. In the early 1800s, widespread conflict in southern Africa displaced various ethnic Ngoni groups, some of which moved into Malawi and further undermined the Maravi. Members of the Yao ethnic group - which had long traded with Malawi from Mozambique - introduced Islam and began to settle in Malawi in significant numbers in the mid-1800s; in the late 1800s, members of the Lomwe ethnic group also moved into southern Malawi from Mozambique. British missionary and trading activity increased in the area around Lake Nyasa in the mid-1800s, and Britain declared a protectorate, called British Central Africa, over what is now Malawi in 1891 and eliminated various political entities that sought to retain their autonomy over the subsequent decade. The British renamed the territory Nyasaland in 1907 and it was part of the colonial Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland - including present-day Zambia and Zimbabwe - from 1953 to 1963 before gaining independence as Malawi in 1964.

Hastings Kamuzu BANDA served as prime minister at independence and, when the country became a republic in 1966, he became president. He later instituted one-party rule under his Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and was declared president for life. After three decades of one-party rule, the country held multiparty presidential and parliamentary elections in 1994 under a provisional constitution that came into full effect the following year. Bakili MULUZI of the United Democratic Front party became the first freely elected president of Malawi when he defeated BANDA at the polls in 1994; he won reelection in 1999. President Bingu wa MUTHARIKA was elected in 2004 and subsequently started his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party, in 2005. MUTHARIKA was reelected to a second term in 2009. 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 election in 2014. Peter MUTHARIKA was reelected in a disputed election in 2019 that resulted in countrywide protests. The courts ordered a new the election, and in 2020 Lazarus CHAKWERA of the MCP was elected president after defeating MUTHARIKA as head of a coalition of opposition parties. Population growth, increasing pressure on agricultural lands, corruption, and the scourge of HIV/AIDS pose major problems for Malawi.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.

Geography

Location

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

Geographic coordinates

13 30 S, 34 00 E

Area

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

Area comparison map
Area comparison map

Land boundaries

total: 2,857 km

border countries (3): Mozambique 1,498 km; Tanzania 512 km; Zambia 847 km

Coastline

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)

Climate

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

Terrain

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

Elevation

highest point: Sapitwa (Mount Mlanje) 3,002 m

lowest point: junction of the Shire River and international boundary with Mozambique 37 m

mean elevation: 779 m

Natural resources

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

Land use

agricultural land: 59.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 38.2% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 19.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 34% (2018 est.)

other: 6.8% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

740 sq km (2012)

Major lakes (area sq km)

Fresh water lake(s): Lake Malawi (shared with Mozambique and Tanzania) - 22,490

Salt water lake(s): Lake Chilwa - 1,040 sq km

Major rivers (by length in km)

Zambezi (shared with Zambia [s], Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, and Mozambique [m]) - 2,740 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Congo (3,730,881 sq km)
Indian Ocean drainage: Zambezi (1,332,412 sq km)

Population distribution

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

Natural hazards

flooding; droughts; earthquakes

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

Map description

Malawi map showing major population centers as well as parts of surrounding countries.

People and Society

Population

20,794,353 (2022 est.)

note: estimates for this country explicitly taken into account the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic

country comparison to the world: 61

Nationality

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 0.3% (2018 est.)

Languages

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

Religions

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% (2020 est.) (male 249,219/female 318,938)

2022 population pyramid
2022 population pyramid

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

Birth rate

27.94 births/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 38

Death rate

4.58 deaths/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 206

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 91

Population distribution

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

Urbanization

urban population: 18% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 4.41% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

1.222 million LILONGWE (capital), 995,000 Blantyre-Limbe (2022)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.02 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 0.99 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.97 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 0.9 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.64 male(s)/female

total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2022 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

19.1 years (2015/16 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 20-49

Maternal mortality ratio

349 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 31

Infant mortality rate

total: 33.43 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 37.86 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 28.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 43

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 72.44 years

male: 69.33 years

female: 75.59 years (2022 est.)

country comparison to the world: 154

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 96.7% of population

rural: 91% of population

total: 92% of population

unimproved: urban: 3.3% of population

rural: 9% of population

total: 8% of population (2020 est.)

Physicians density

0.05 physicians/1,000 population (2020)

Hospital bed density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2011)

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 59.9% of population

rural: 35.9% of population

total: 40% of population

unimproved: urban: 40.1% of population

rural: 64.1% of population

total: 60% of population (2020 est.)

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

note: on 21 March 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert for polio in Africa; Malawi is currently considered a high risk to travelers for circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV); vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened poliovirus that was initially included in oral polio vaccine (OPV) and that has changed over time and behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus; this means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with the stool or respiratory secretions, such as from a sneeze, of an “infected” person who received oral polio vaccine; the CDC recommends that before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series; before travel to any high-risk destination, the CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the full, routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine

Alcohol consumption per capita

total: 2.04 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

beer: 0.08 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

wine: 0 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

spirits: 0.25 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

other alcohols: 1.7 liters of pure alcohol (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 129

Tobacco use

total: 10.8% (2020 est.)

male: 17.5% (2020 est.)

female: 4.1% (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 132

Literacy

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: 8.5%

male: 6.7%

female: 10.6% (2017 est.)

Environment

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 precipitation patterns)

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands

signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 22.14 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 1.3 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 11.12 megatons (2020 est.)

Climate

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

Land use

agricultural land: 59.2% (2018 est.)

arable land: 38.2% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 1.4% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 19.6% (2018 est.)

forest: 34% (2018 est.)

other: 6.8% (2018 est.)

Urbanization

urban population: 18% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 4.41% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0.03% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 35

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

note: on 21 March 2022, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Travel Alert for polio in Africa; Malawi is currently considered a high risk to travelers for circulating vaccine-derived polioviruses (cVDPV); vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV) is a strain of the weakened poliovirus that was initially included in oral polio vaccine (OPV) and that has changed over time and behaves more like the wild or naturally occurring virus; this means it can be spread more easily to people who are unvaccinated against polio and who come in contact with the stool or respiratory secretions, such as from a sneeze, of an “infected” person who received oral polio vaccine; the CDC recommends that before any international travel, anyone unvaccinated, incompletely vaccinated, or with an unknown polio vaccination status should complete the routine polio vaccine series; before travel to any high-risk destination, the CDC recommends that adults who previously completed the full, routine polio vaccine series receive a single, lifetime booster dose of polio vaccine

Food insecurity

severe localized food insecurity: due to reduced incomes and shortfalls in cereal production - an estimated 1.65 million people are facing “Crisis” levels of food insecurity between January and March 2022, underpinned by localized shortfalls in cereal production and the lingering impact of an economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic; a moderate decline in cereal production in 2022, particularly in southern districts, and increasing food prices are expected to lead to an increased prevalence of food insecurity in the last quarter of 2022; the prevalence of food insecurity is likely to increase in the second half of 2022 and early 2023 mainly due to the high food prices and low cereal production in southern districts; in addition to the adverse impacts of the low cereal harvest in the south and high food prices across the country, a third factor that is foreseen to contribute to a worsening of food insecurity conditions is the forecasted slow economic growth in 2022, underpinned by the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s elevated debt levels (2022)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 1,297,844 tons (2013 est.)

Major lakes (area sq km)

Fresh water lake(s): Lake Malawi (shared with Mozambique and Tanzania) - 22,490

Salt water lake(s): Lake Chilwa - 1,040 sq km

Major rivers (by length in km)

Zambezi (shared with Zambia [s], Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania, and Mozambique [m]) - 2,740 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Congo (3,730,881 sq km)
Indian Ocean drainage: Zambezi (1,332,412 sq km)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 143.1 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 47.7 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 1.166 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

17.28 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Government

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

Capital

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

Independence

6 July 1964 (from the UK)

National holiday

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

Constitution

history: previous 1953 (preindependence), 1964, 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

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

Suffrage

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 0.8% (2020)

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]
People's Party or PP [Joyce BANDA]
United Democratic Front or UDF
United Transformation Movement or UTM [Saulos CHILIMA]

International organization participation

ACP, AfDB, AU, C, CD, COMESA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MINURSO, MONUSCO, NAM, OPCW, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNISFA, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Esme Jynet CHOMBO (since 19 April 2022)

chancery: 2408 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 721-0270

FAX: [1] (202) 721-0288

email address and website:
malawiembassy-dc.org

http://www.malawiembassy-dc.org/

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador David YOUNG (since 5 May 2022)

embassy: 16 Jomo Kenyatta Road, Lilongwe 3

mailing address: 2280 Lilongwe Place, Washington DC  20521-2280

telephone: [265] (0) 177-3166

FAX: [265] (0) 177-0471

email address and website:
LilongweConsular@state.gov

https://mw.usembassy.gov/

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

National heritage

total World Heritage Sites: 2 (1 cultural, 1 natural)

selected World Heritage Site locales: Lake Malawi National Park (n); Chongoni Rock-Art Area (c)

Economy

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.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$28.44 billion (2020 est.)

$28.22 billion (2019 est.)

$26.69 billion (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 139

Real GDP growth rate

4% (2017 est.)

2.3% (2016 est.)

3% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 74

Real GDP per capita

$1,500 (2020 est.)

$1,500 (2019 est.)

$1,500 (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2017 dollars

country comparison to the world: 222

GDP (official exchange rate)

$7.766 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

9.3% (2019 est.)

12.4% (2018 est.)

11.7% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 206

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.)

Agricultural products

sweet potatoes, cassava, sugar cane, maize, mangoes/guavas, potatoes, tomatoes, pigeon peas, bananas, plantains

Industries

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

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 76.9%

industry: 4.1%

services: 19% (2013 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 8.5%

male: 6.7%

female: 10.6% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 151

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 2.2%

highest 10%: 37.5% (2010 est.)

Budget

revenues: 1.356 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 1.567 billion (2017 est.)

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

Exports

$1.16 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$1.11 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$9.658 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 173

Exports - partners

Belgium 16%, United States 8%, Egypt 7%, South Africa 6%, Germany 6%, Kenya 5%, United Arab Emirates 5% (2019)

Exports - commodities

tobacco, tea, raw sugar, beans, soybean products, clothing and apparel (2019)

Imports

$3.2 billion (2019 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$2.92 billion (2018 est.) note: data are in current year dollars

$11.631 billion (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 155

Imports - partners

South Africa 17%, China 16%, United Arab Emirates 9%, India 9%, United Kingdom 8% (2019)

Imports - commodities

postage stamps, refined petroleum, packaged medicines, fertilizers, office machinery/parts (2019)

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: 152

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.)

Energy

Electricity access

electrification - total population: 13% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 55% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 5% (2019)

Electricity

installed generating capacity: 618,000 kW (2020 est.)

consumption: 1,117,378,000 kWh (2019 est.)

exports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

imports: 0 kWh (2019 est.)

transmission/distribution losses: 460 million kWh (2019 est.)

Electricity generation sources

fossil fuels: 11.8% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

nuclear: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

solar: 3.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

wind: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

hydroelectricity: 81.9% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

tide and wave: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

geothermal: 0% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

biomass and waste: 3.2% of total installed capacity (2020 est.)

Coal

production: 48,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

consumption: 47,000 metric tons (2020 est.)

exports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

imports: 0 metric tons (2020 est.)

proven reserves: 2 million metric tons (2019 est.)

Petroleum

total petroleum production: 0 bbl/day (2021 est.)

refined petroleum consumption: 9,400 bbl/day (2019 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate exports: 0 barrels/day (2018 est.)

crude oil and lease condensate imports: 0 barrels/day (2018 est.)

crude oil estimated reserves: 0 barrels (2021 est.)

Natural gas

production: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

consumption: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

exports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

imports: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

proven reserves: 0 cubic meters (2021 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions

1.542 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from coal and metallurgical coke: 203,000 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from petroleum and other liquids: 1.339 million metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

from consumed natural gas: 0 metric tonnes of CO2 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 165

Communications

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 10,004,680 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 52 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 89

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: with few resources, Malawi is one of the world’s least developed countries; there has been little investment in fixed-line telecom infrastructure, and as a result, the country’s two mobile networks Airtel Malawi and TMN provide the vast majority of connections for voice and data services; both operators have invested in LTE technologies to improve the quality of data services; the lack of market competition, together with limited international internet bandwidth, has also resulted in some of the highest prices for telecom services in the region; the government in late 2020 secured an average 80% reduction in the cost of data bundles offered by the MNOs; following continuing customer complaints, the regulator in mid-2021 ensured that costs were again reduced, this time by about a third; mobile penetration remains low in comparison to the regional average and so there are considerable opportunities for further growth, particularly in the mobile broadband sector; low penetration is partly attributed to the lack of competition, though there is the possibility that a new play come launch services by the end of 2022; the internet sector is reasonably competitive, with about 50 licensed ISPs, though the limited availability and high cost of international bandwidth has held back growth and kept broadband access prices among the highest in the region; these limitations are being addressed, with the second phase of the national fiber backbone having started in mid-2021. (2022)

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 roughly 52 per 100 households (2020)

international: country code - 265; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean, 1 Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced a downturn, particularly in mobile device production; progress towards 5G implementation has resumed, as well as upgrades to infrastructure; consumer spending on telecom services has increased due to the surge in demand for capacity and bandwidth; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home is still evident, and the spike in this area has seen growth opportunities for development of new tools and increased services

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 users

total: 2,608,025 (2019 est.)

percent of population: 14% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 119

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 12,255 (2020 est.)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 0.1 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 176

Transportation

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 (2018) mt-km

Airports - with paved runways

total: 7

over 3,047 m: 1

1,524 to 2,437 m: 2

914 to 1,523 m: 4 (2021)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 25 (2013)

1,524 to 2,437 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 11

under 914 m: 13 (2021)

Railways

total: 767 km (2014)

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

country comparison to the world: 99

Roadways

total: 15,452 km (2015)

paved: 4,074 km (2015)

unpaved: 11,378 km (2015)

country comparison to the world: 122

Waterways

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

country comparison to the world: 82

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 marine unit), Air Force (established as a separate service August 2019; previously was an air wing under the Army); Ministry of Homeland Security: Malawi Police Service (2022)

note: the MDF reports directly to the president as commander in chief; the Malawi Ministry of Defense was abolished in 2011

Military expenditures

0.9% of GDP (2021 est.)

0.9% of GDP (2020 est.)

1.1% of GDP (2019 est.) (approximately $90 million)

0.8% of GDP (2018 est.) (approximately $70 million)

0.7% of GDP (2017 est.) (approximately $60 million)

country comparison to the world: 140

Military and security service personnel strengths

information varies; approximately 8,000 personnel (including about 200 air and 200 marine forces) (2022)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the MDF's inventory is comprised of mostly obsolescent or second-hand equipment from Europe and South Africa; since 2010, it has received limited amounts of mostly second-hand equipment from China, South Africa, and the UK, as well as non-lethal equipment donated by the US (2021)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for men and women 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 (2021)

Military deployments

750 Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) (May 2022)

Military - note

the MDF’s primary responsibility is external security; it is also tasked as necessary with carrying out policing or other domestic activities, such as disaster relief; Malawi contributes regularly to African Union and UN peace support operations (2022)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

Malawi-Mozambique: the two countries have held exercises to reaffirm boundaries a number of times

Malawi-Tanzania: 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

Malawi-Zambia: border demarcation was completed in 2011; in 2018, the redemarcation exercise determined that some parts of Malawi actually belonged to Zambia

 

Refugees and internally displaced persons

refugees (country of origin): 34,643 (Democratic Republic of the Congo) (refugees and asylum seekers), 12,959 (Burundi) (refugees and asylum seekers), 7,738 (Rwanda) (refugees and asylum seekers) (2022)