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Malawi People - 2024


GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES  Spanish Simplified Chinese French German Russian Hindi Arabic Portuguese


21,279,597 (2023 est.)


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.)


English (official), Chewa (dominant), 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


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: 38.54% (male 4,073,674/female 4,128,035)

15-64 years: 57.64% (male 6,001,150/female 6,264,749)

65 years and over: 3.82% (2023 est.) (male 362,428/female 449,561)

2023 population pyramid:

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 84.7

youth dependency ratio: 79.7

elderly dependency ratio: 5

potential support ratio: 20.1 (2021 est.)

Median age

total: 20 years (2023 est.)

male: 19.7 years

female: 20.2 years

Population growth rate

2.28% (2023 est.)

Birth rate

27.3 births/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Death rate

4.5 deaths/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Net migration rate

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2023 est.)

Population distribution

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


urban population: 18.3% of total population (2023)

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

Major urban areas - population

1.276 million LILONGWE (capital), 1.031 million Blantyre-Limbe (2023)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.01 male(s)/female

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

15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.81 male(s)/female

total population: 0.96 male(s)/female (2023 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

19.1 years (2015/16 est.)

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

Maternal mortality ratio

381 deaths/100,000 live births (2020 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 32.7 deaths/1,000 live births (2023 est.)

male: 37.1 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 28.2 deaths/1,000 live births

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 72.7 years (2023 est.)

male: 69.6 years

female: 75.9 years

Total fertility rate

3.3 children born/woman (2023 est.)

Gross reproduction rate

1.64 (2023 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

65.6% (2019/20)

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.)

Current health expenditure

5.4% of GDP (2020)

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 (2023)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

vectorborne diseases: malaria, dengue fever, and sexually transmitted diseases: HIV/AIDS (2024)

water contact diseases: schistosomiasis

animal contact diseases: rabies

note: on 31 August 2023, 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

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

5.8% (2016)

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.)

Tobacco use

total: 10.8% (2020 est.)

male: 17.5% (2020 est.)

female: 4.1% (2020 est.)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

11.7% (2020)

Currently married women (ages 15-49)

60.7% (2022 est.)

Child marriage

women married by age 15: 7.5%

women married by age 18: 37.7%

men married by age 18: 7% (2020 est.)

Education expenditures

2.9% of GDP (2020 est.)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 67.3%

male: 71.2%

female: 63.7% (2021)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 11 years (2011)

NOTE: The information regarding Malawi on this page is re-published from the 2024 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Malawi 2024 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Malawi 2024 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 04 May 24, Copyright © 2024 ITA all rights reserved.