Malawi Country Profile

Lake MalawiMalawi, officially known as the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique on the east and southwest, by Tanzania on the north and northeast, and by Zambia on the west and northwest. Lake Malawi, one of the largest and deepest lakes in the world, accounts for almost one-fifth of the country’s area. The lake is third largest of the East African Rift Valley and also known as the Lake of Stars as it is rated one of the most beautiful fresh water lakes in the world. Three regions demarcate Malawi – Northern, Central and Southern. Lilongwe City in central Malawi is the national and administrative capital. Blantyre City is the provincial capital of the Southern province and the country’s commercial and manufacturing hub. Mzuzu is the main town in the Northern province. Zomba, the former political capital and a trading centre between Blantyre and Lilongwe was declared a city in 2008.Malawi has a vast range of geographical features, with high plateaus in the north and central areas and mountains to the south.The country boasts a diverse array of flora and fauna made up of a variety of woodlands, tropical rain forests, open savannah high altitude grasslands and scrub. There are two main seasons, cold-dry and hot-wet. The hot-wet season is from November to April. Climate varies with topography with temperatures averaging 14 to 32 degrees Celsius. Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world, with a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.418, ranking 170 out of 187 countries (UNDP 2013 HDR). Life expectancy stands at about 54.8 years and the country is marked by high levels of vulnerability including poor nutrition. HIV/AIDS is among the most intense in the world with a prevalence of 10.6 percent and over a million people living with the disease.


After independence from the British in 1964 and more than 30 years of subsequent autocratic rule, Malawi conducted its first multiparty elections in 1994. The current President, His Excellency Prof. Peter Mutharika was elected in May 2014 in Malawi’s first ever Tripartite Elections in which presidential, parliamentary and local government elections were conducted at once. Mutharika replaced former president Dr. Joyce Banda who ascended to power in April 2012 following the sudden death of the then president, Bingu wa Mutharika, late brother to the current president. Hastings Kamuzu Banda led Malawi from independence in 1963 until 1994. In 1993, voters in a referendum rejected the one-party state led by Banda, paving the way for members of parties other than the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) to hold office. Following the referendum, Malawi held her first multiparty democracy elections in which Bakili Muluzi, leader of the United Democratic Front (UDF), was elected president. Muluzi immediately freed political prisoners and re-established freedom of speech. In 1999, Muluzi was re-elected for a second and final five-year term running until May 2004 general elections when late Bingu wa Mutharika won the presidency. Mutharika was re-elected to a second term in May 2009 but died in office on April 5, 2012, leading to the then vice president Joyce Banda ascending to presidency to finish his term. In May 2014, Prof. Peter Mutharika was elected President of Malawi.


Malawi has a GDP of US$3.5 billion and a per capita income of US$ US$290. With an estimated population of 14.8 million as of July 2012, almost 75 percent of the population earns less than US$1.25 per day. Agriculture is Malawi’s largest economic activity contributing 28.7 percent of GDP and more than 80 percent of export earnings. Malawi achieved encouraging economic results between 2006 and 2010, which averaged 7.5 percent growth but suffered serious setbacks in 2011 and 2012. Real GDP growth in 2011 slowed to 3.8 percent due to reduced donor inflows, shortages of foreign exchange, fuel, raw materials and other essential commodities. Government thus introduced the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) which sets out immediate, short term and medium term components that aim to restore external and internal economic stability. Growth in 2012/13 fell further to 1.8 percent, but was forecast to recover to 5.0 percent in 2013 and 6.1 percent in 2014. Average annual Inflation, which had declined from 17 percent in 2006 to 7.6 percent in 2011 rose to over 21 percent in 2012. The 49 percent devaluation of the Kwacha in early 2012 and subsequent depreciation of the currency inevitably contributed to the rise in inflation. Inflation, however, started to decline during the post-harvest season, with the year-on-year inflation falling from 37.9 percent in February to 35.8 percent as of April, 2013. Although, the direct impact of the recent global financial crises has so far been limited due to the relatively small and unsophisticated financial sector, it has impacted Malawi’s exports. These exports are dominated by tobacco, tea, cotton, coffee and sugar. Tobacco, which earned Malawi US$472 million in the 2007/2008 season declined in earnings and recorded $361 million earnings in 2013. Trade deficit as a percentage of GDP stood at 21 percent in 2010. Malawi’s net debt as percentage of GDP had fallen from 137 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2007 as a result of debt relief. However, this trend has been reversed largely due to an increase in government expenditure, increasing the ratio to 45 percent in 2009 and 38 percent in 2010.


Malawi’s 14.8 million population in 2012 is projected to exceed 29 million by 2030 and reach 45 million in 2050 at the present growth rate of 2.75 percent. The main determinants of the growth rate are high fertility rate due to low use of family planning. This is largely due to gender-related traditional and cultural practices, values and norms that make it difficult for women, and couples, to use family planning, exacerbated by the fact that adolescents have very limited access to quality family planning services, and that the illiteracy levels are high, especially among women. The current demographic profile shows 40 percent of the population as young people aged between 10 and 29 years (Population and Housing Census, 2008). The significant proportion of the youth in the population has long-lasting implications on the development of Malawi. The youthful population provides the country with a vast human resource potential, which, if properly nurtured and tapped can greatly contribute to national accelerated and sustained economic growth and development. The trends in population growth, recently confirmed in the 2008 Population and Housing Census, indicate that development gains – whether economic growth, food security or Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) achievement – will remain fragile and will not meet required levels due to the increased pressure of a growing population on a limited resource base. Given the current expenditure requirements for providing social services such as health and education and the level of revenues collected by Government, any population increases are going to build downward pressure on the quality of services.

 Malawi Map
Official Name The Republic of Malawi
Type of Government Presidential Republic
President Prof. Peter Mutharika
Vice-President Mr. Saulos Chilima
Administrative divisions 28 districts divided into 3 regions (Central, Northern, Southern)
Official Languages English, Chichewa
Total Population 14.8 million (2012)
Population Growth Rate 2.75%
Projected Population 45 million by 2050
% Urban Population 15% (2011)
Life Expectancy 54.8 years
Ethnic Groups 9 major groups: Chewa 32.6%; Lomwe 17.6%; Yao 13.5%.
Religions 80% Christian; 13% Muslim; others (Hindus, Rastafarians etc)
GDP $4,263,794,983 (2012)
GDP Growth 1.8% (2012)
HDI 0.418 (170th) in 2013
Poverty Rate 50.7% (2012 IHS3)
HIV prevalence rate 10.6%
Gender Inequality Index 0.573 (124th) in 2013
Under 5 mortality 112 per 1,000 (2012)
Maternal mortality ratio 675 per 100,000 live births (2012)
Total fertility rate 5.7 (2010)
Access to safe drinking water 74% (2011)
Access to sanitation 86.2% (2011)
Literacy rate 65.4% (2011):  74.4% for men; 57.2% for women
Net primary enrolment ratio 85.6% (2011): 84.5% for boys; 87% for girls
% Women MPs ?%

2012 Malawi Population Data Sheet 2008 Malawi Population and Housing Census Main Report 2008 Malawi Population and Housing Census, Preliminary Report