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Malawi: Malawi People Profile


Shared taxi,fully loaded truck,Cape Maclear Peninsula,Lake Malawi,Malawi,South East Africa


Malawi has a land area of almost 119,000 square kilometers, or 99th in the world, with an estimated 2014 people of 17.2 million which ranks 64th in the world. Malawi still has a fairly low people density of 129 people per square kilometer (86th in the world).

There are four cities in Malawi. The capital is Lilongwe (978,000 in 2014), while the major city is Blantyre (1.9 million in 2014) -- the commercial capital -- and Mzuzu (1.7 million in the outskirts, 130,000 in the city).

Malawi PopulationSource: UN World Population Prospects

Malawi Demographics

Malawi has several ethnic groups, inclunding the Chewa, Nyanja, Yao, Tumbuka, Lomwe, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, and Ngonde. There are sizable populations of Europeans and Asians. The official language is Chichewa, spoken by 57% of the people although English, Chinyanja, Chiyao, and Chitumbuka are spoken by a large % of people. There are as well several native languages, such as Malawian Lomwe, Kokola, Lambya, Ndali, and Nyakyusa-Ngonde.

The major religions are Christianity and Islam. There are no accurate estimates on the religious affiliation of Malawi\'s people, but it is estimated that 68% of the country is Christian while 25% is Muslim.

malawi population

Malawi People Growth

Malawi is one of the least developed nations in the world with an economy centered on agriculture and a people that is mostly rural. The government depends a great transaction of outside aid. There is a low life expectancy in Malawi with a high infant mortality rate and a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS (12% of the people).

Malawi is growing rapidly with a 3% annual increase rate. By 2050, the people is expected to hit 45 million, which is almost triple the 2010 people of 2010.

Ethnic groups and languages

Ten major ethnic groups are historically associated with modern Malawi—the Chewa, Nyanja, Lomwe, Yao, Tumbuka, Sena, Tonga, Ngoni, Ngonde, and the Lambya/Nyiha. All the African languages spoken are Bantu languages. From 1968 to 1994, Chewa was the only national language; it is presently one of the numerous languages used in print and broadcast media and is spoken by a majority of the people. In 1996 government policy indicated that education in grades 1–4 would be provided in the students’ mother tongue or vernacular language; from grade 5, the medium of instruction would be English, which, though understood by less than one-fifth of the people at independence in 1964, continues to be used widely in business, administrative and judicial matters, higher education, and elsewhere. Other major languages include Lomwe, Yao, and Tumbuka.


Some three-fourths of the people are Christian, of which the majority are members of independent Christian or various Protestant denominations and the remainder are Roman Catholic. Muslims constitute about one-fifth of the people. Traditional beliefs are adhered to by a small proportion of the people.

Settlement patterns

Although Malawi is one of the majority densely populated nations in southern Africa, it is as well one of the least urbanized, with additional than four-fifths of its people living in rural locations. It is urbanizing at a very rapid rate, however, with movement toward urban areas taking place at a pace far swifter than either the African or world averages.

A rural village—called a mudzi—is usually small. Organized around the extended family, it is limited by the all of water and arable land available in the vicinity. On the plateaus, which support the bulk of the people, the majority common village sites are at the margins of madambo, which are usually contiguous with streams or rivers and are characterized by woodland, grassland, and fertile alluvial soils. In highland areas, scattered villages are located near perennial mountain streams and pockets of arable land. The larger settlements of the Lake Malawi littoral originated in the 19th century as collection points for slaves and later developed as lakeside ports. Improvements in communications and the sinking of wells in semiarid areas permitted the establishment of new settlements in before uninhabited areas. Architecture is changing: the traditional round, mud-walled, grass-roofed hut is giving way to rectangular brick buildings with corrugated iron roofs.

Urban development began in the colonial era with the arrival of missionaries, traders, and administrators and was further stimulated by the construction of the railway. Significant urban centres include Blantyre, Zomba, Mzuzu, and Lilongwe. Although some district centres and missionary stations have an urban appearance, they are closely associated with the rural settlements surrounding them. Blantyre, Malawi’s industrial and commercial centre, is situated in a depression on the Shire Highlands at an elevation of about 3,400 feet (1,040 metres). Zomba, the capital of Malawi until 1975 and presently the seat of the University of Malawi, lies at the foot of Zomba Mountain. Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital since 1975 and a centre of agricultural industry, is located in the central region. Mzuzu, long associated with the wood industry, is situated farther north on the Viphya highlands.

Demographic trends

The people is growing at a rate above average for sub-Saharan Africa. The birth rate is part the highest on the continent, but the death rate is as well high, and life expectancy for both genders is significantly lower than the average for sub-Saharan Africa, primarily because of the incidence of HIV/AIDS. Nearly half the people is younger than age 15, and about three-fourths of the people is 29 or younger. A modest reduction in the country’s high fertility rates in the late 20th and early 21st centuries may be attributed in part to government policy aimed at improving female literacy and promoting additional-effective contraceptive methods. The Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare, and Community Services, guided by the National Gender Policy, has played a major role in this effort. 

malawi population stat globserver