National Profiles > Regions > Eastern Africa > Malawi
Search National Profiles:

Region: Eastern Africa
2015 Population1: 17,102,854
Total Area (sq.miles): 45,747
Life Expectancy at Birth2: 62.5
Gross National Income Per Capita (PPP 2016 US $)2: $1,140
Official Religion(s) or Church(es)3: None named

Compare country to:


Religious Regulation Index (2014)4:
RAS3 State Regulation of Majority or All Religions, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 156/253

[Further Detail]
Religious Minority Discrimination Index (2014)4:
RAS3 State Discrimination of Minority Religions, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 98/253

[Further Detail]
State Funding of Religions (2014)4:
RAS3 State Funding of Religion, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 128/253

[Further Detail]
Societal Discrimination of Minority Religions (2014)4:
RAS3 Societal Discrimination of Minority Religions, Summary Categories (0=None; 1=Low; 2=Medium; 3=High)

Ranking: 148/253

[Further Detail]


Malawi, officially the Republic of Malawi, is a landlocked country in southeast Africa that was formerly known as Nyasaland. It is bordered by Zambia to the northwest, Tanzania to the northeast, and Mozambique on the east, south and west. The country is separated from Tanzania and Mozambique by Lake Malawi. Malawi is over 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 16,777,547 (July 2013 est.). Its capital is Lilongwe, which is also Malawi's largest city; the second largest is Blantyre and the third is Mzuzu. The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is also nicknamed "The Warm Heart of Africa". The area of Africa now known as Malawi was settled by migrating Bantu groups around the 10th century. Centuries later in 1891 the area was colonized by the British. In 1953 Malawi, then known as Nyasaland, became part of the semi-independent Central African Federation (CAF). The Federation was dissolved in 1963, and in 1964, Nyasaland gained full independence and was renamed Malawi. Upon gaining independence it became a single-party state under the presidency of Hastings Banda, who remained president until 1994, when he lost an election. Prof. Peter Mutharika is the current president. Malawi has a democratic, multi-party government. Malawi has a small military force that includes an army, a navy and an air wing. Malawi's foreign policy is pro-Western and includes positive diplomatic relations with most countries and participation in several international organisations. Malawi is among the world's least-developed countries. The economy is heavily based in agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Malawian government depends heavily on outside aid to meet development needs, although this need (and the aid offered) has decreased since 2000. The Malawian government faces challenges in building and expanding the economy, improving education, health care, environmental protection, and becoming financially independent. Malawi has several programs developed since 2005 that focus on these issues, and the country's outlook appears to be improving, with improvements in economic growth, education and healthcare seen in 2007 and 2008. Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. There is a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which is a drain on the labour force and government expenditures. There is a diverse population of native peoples, Asians and Europeans, with several languages spoken and an array of religious beliefs. Although there was periodic regional conflict fuelled in part by ethnic divisions in the past, by 2008 it had diminished considerably and the concept of a Malawian nationality had re-emerged. Malawian cultural practices and Malawian cuisine are rich in local, southern African, and overseas influences, as well as this, they have many peculiar forms of cuisine found no where else. These include eating ants, honey soaked beetles and a type of native fish which is dried, baked in spices and then soaked in goat milk and various leaves for up to two days creating a type of tea flavored jerky, though this is only prevalent in rural areas within small communities.5



1.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Demographics reports the estimates of religious demographics, both country by country and region by region. The RCS was created to fulfill the unmet need for a dataset on the religious dimensions of countries of the world, with the state-year as the unit of observation. It estimates populations and percentages of adherents of 100 religious denominations including second level subdivision within Christianity and Islam. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson the principal investigator of the World Christian Database and the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database.

2.  Relying on agencies from each country, as well as a synthesis of data from United Nations divisions, Eurostate Demographic statistics, the U.S. Census international database, and its own data collection, the World Bank's Open Data site offers free and open access to data about development in countries around the globe.

3.  The Religious Characteristics of States Dataset Project: Government Religious Preference (GRP) measures government-level favoritism toward, and disfavor against, 30 religious denominations. A series of ordered categorical variables index the state's institutional favoritism in 28 different ways. The variables are combined to form five composite indices for five broad components of state-religion: official status, religious education, financial support, regulatory burdens, and freedom of practice. The five components' composites in turn are further combined into a single composite score, the GRP score. The RCS Data Project would like to acknowledge, recognize, and express our deepest gratitude for the significant contributions of Todd M. Johnson, the principal investigator of the World Christian Database, the co-principal investigator of the World Religion Database, and co-author of the World Christian Encyclopedia series.

4.  The Religion and State (RAS) Project is a university-based project located at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel. Its goal is to create a set of measures that systematically gauge the intersection between government and religion. Specifically, it examines government religion policy. Round 3 of the RAS dataset measures the extent of government involvement in religion (GIR) or the lack thereof for 183 states on a yearly basis between 1990 and 2014. This constitutes all countries with populations of 250,000 or more as well as a sampling of smaller states. This dataset, featuring this and other international measures highlighted on the country pages, may be previewed and downloaded here. Used with permission.

5.  Note: All country histories and flags were obtained from, 2015. (

Bookmark and Share