Malawi : Society


Population density (per sq. km): 


Life expectancy: 
55 years
Primary enrolment: 
97% (2009)

16,363,000 (2013); Malawi is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa but with only 16 per cent of people living in towns, one of the least urbanised; growth 2.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2013; birth rate 40 per 1,000 people (56 in 1970); life expectancy 55 years (41 in 1970).

The largest ethnic group is the Chewa, whose ancestors came from the Congo; the other main groups are Nyanja, Lomwe, Yao and Tumbuka.


Chichewa is the national language and widely spoken. English is the official language. Chinyanja, Chiyao and Chitumbuka (in the north) are major languages.


The population is made up of mainly Christians, who constitute 80 per cent of the total; 13 per cent of the population are Muslims (2008 census).


Public spending on health was seven per cent of GDP in 2012. Some 85 per cent of the population uses an improved drinking water source and ten per cent have access to adequate sanitation facilities (2012).

Malaria, dysentery, bilharzia, measles, tuberculosis and hepatitis are common. There has been a successful campaign against leprosy. Infant mortality was 44 per 1,000 live births in 2013 (205 in 1960). Since the 1990s, AIDS treatment has made very heavy demands on health resources. In 2012, 11 per cent of people aged 15–49 were HIV positive.


Public spending on education was five per cent of GDP in 2011. There are eight years of compulsory education starting at the age of six. Primary school comprises six years and secondary six, with cycles of four and two years. Some 51 per cent of pupils complete primary school (2010). The school year starts in January.

The University of Malawi comprises Chancellor College (located in Zomba); the College of Medicine (Blantyre); Bunda College of Agriculture (Lilongwe); and the Polytechnic (Blantyre). Mzuzu University (opened in 1999) and University of Livingstonia (2003, with campuses in Livingstonia and Ekwendeni) are located in the Northern Region. The female–male ratio for gross enrolment in tertiary education is 0.60:1 (2011). Literacy among people aged 15–24 is 72 per cent (2010).


he Daily Times and The Nation/Weekend Nation are dailies.

Radio is the principal source of information for most Malawians. The public broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, provides a national radio service and there are several private commercial and faith radio stations. The government launched Television Malawi in 1999, initially reaching the main population centres.

Some nine per cent of households have TV sets (2011). There are two personal computers per 1,000 people (2005).


Country code 265; internet domain ‘.mw’. Mobile phone coverage is good in urban areas. Internet connection is available in main towns and there are some internet cafés.

For every 1,000 people there are two landlines, 323 mobile phone subscriptions and 54 internet users (2013).

Public holidays: 

New Year’s Day, John Chilembwe Day (15 January), Martyrs’ Day (3 March), Labour Day (1 May), Kamuzu Day (14 June), Republic Day (6 July), Mothers’ Day (October), Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Religious festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Good Friday, Easter Monday and Eid al-Fitr/end of Ramadan.