Malawi population at 17,563,749 up from 13,029,498 in 2008

By Duncan Mlanjira

Preliminary results for the 2018 Population and Housing Census puts Malawi’s total population at 17,563,749 up from 13,029,498 in 2008, growing  by 35 percent.

According to the preliminary results issued by the National Statistical Office (NSO), the population for males is 8,521,456 representing 49 percent of the total population while the population for females is 9,042,293 representing 51 percent. 

At regional level, the results show that the Southern Region has the highest number of people with 7,750,629 or 44 percent, the Centre being the second most populous with 7,526,160 people representing 43 percent of the total population while 2,286,960 people (13 percent) live in the Northern Region.

Among the districts, Lilongwe rural has the highest population standing at 1,637,583 followed by Mangochi at 1,148,611. Likoma district on the other hand has the lowest population of 14,527. 

Goodall Gondwe was in charge of the exercise

Lilongwe City continues to be the biggest city in Malawi population wise with a total population of 989,318 followed by Blantyre with a population of 800,264. 

Mzuzu City is the third largest with 221,272 people followed by Zomba with 105,013 people.

In the preliminary report’s preface, Minister of Finance Economic Planning and Development, Goodal Gondwe, the 2018 Population and Housing Census (PHC) provides a strategic opportunity to enumerate past achievements and benchmark future development monitoring and evaluation plans and strategies. 

“This is why the Government of Malawi and Development Partners have provided a lot of resources towards the implementation of the 2018 PHC [and] I am personally gratified that it was a success and that reliable and timely data has been made available to the general public and that more reports will be generated by the National Statistical Office and experts from various sectors including the academia.

City population

“I would like to thank UNFPA for its coordination role throughout the phases of the census and for its financial support towards the implementation of the 2018 Population and Housing Census. 

“Let me recognize the US Census Bureau for their technical support in all phases of the census. I would also like to extend my gratitude to DFID, USAID, Government of Norway, Government of Ireland,

German Government, Government of Iceland, the People’s Republic of China, the UN family and the Standard Bank of Malawi for their financial contributions in support of the 2018 PHC.

He also applauded the NSO for a job well done as it demonstrated the highest level of professionalism, dedication and hard work which has enabled the country to obtain these reliable results that shall be a very critical development tool for the next decade also,” Gondwe said.

The 2018 PHC is the sixth in the series having conducted the previous ones in 1966, 1977, 1987, 1998 and 2008. The 2018 Population and Housing Census was the first one to be conducted on Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) programme. 

“The data was collected and captured on tablets and transmitted to the NSO server electronically via internet,” said Mercy Kanyuka NSO’s Commissioner of Statistics. “This process is very efficient and reduces time for data processing and cleaning as these processes are done at data capture stage in the field.”

She said the main census process started in 2016 with the drafting of the Main Census Project Document which was approved by the Cabinet the same year. 

“Prior to this, the Census Mapping Strategy was developed in 2015 and implementation started the same year. NSO conducted census mapping using satellite imagery, the first such maps to be produced for the whole country. 

“The country was demarcated into Enumeration Area (EAs) in the computer lab and teams were only sent to the field to verify. 

“Technical support for census mapping was provided by the Regional Centre for Mapping of Resources for Development (RCMRD) based in Nairobi, Kenya, a regional mapping group to which Malawi is a member state. The design of the questionnaire and CAPI programme started in January 2017.

Market day

“The programme was pre-tested three times in June and July 2017 and in April 2018. The CAPI census was piloted in September 2017 exactly one year prior to the main census. 

“The pilot census was a dry run of the main census aimed at assessing the completeness of preparations from technical, to logistical and

administrative arrangements. Another key component for the success of the census was community mobilization and census publicity.”

The preliminary report says the questionnaire development was a very consultative process where stakeholders were consulted on questions they would like to be included in the census and topics included were among others: household and housing characteristics, migration, mortality, fertility, economic activities, and disability. 

“For disability, set of questions recommended by the Washington Group on disability was used. Notably the 2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census included questions on albinism and garbage disposal,” the report says.