Internet penetration in Malawi is less than a quarter of population

By our News Team | 2023

Analysis finds social media used by less than 4% of people, while mobile phone connections are equivalent to less than 60% of Malawians.

Internet penetration in Malawi is at less than 25% of the population, while social media usage is at just under 4% of people. The total number of active cellular mobile connections is equivalent to 57.2 % of the total population.

This is according to a report published in February by the website DataReportal, a global digital insights website. The figures are for early 2023.

Digital Marketing

Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile from Pexels

The analysis indicates that internet users in Malawi increased by 126 000 (+2.6 %) between 2022 and 2023.

“For perspective, these user figures reveal that 15.62-million people in Malawi did not use the internet at the start of 2023, suggesting that 75.6 % of the population remained offline at the beginning of the year,” notes the report’s author, Simon Kemp.

“However, complexities associated with the collection and analysis of internet user data mean that it can often take several months before research is ready for publication. As a result, the latest published figures for internet use invariably under-represent reality, and actual adoption and growth may be higher than the figures shown here suggest.”

The reports adds that the number of social media users in Malawi at the start of 2023 was equivalent to 3.8 % of the total population, but it’s also important to note that social media users may not represent unique individuals. Some accounts, for example, could be ‘duplicate’or ‘non-human’ social media accounts.

“Data published in the ad planning tools of top social media platforms indicates that there were 757,000 users aged 18 and above using social media in Malawi at the start of 2023, which was equivalent to 7.3 % of the total population aged 18 and above at that time,” says Kemp.

“More broadly, 15.5 % of Malawi’s total internet user base (regardless of age) used at least one social media platform in January 2023. At that time, 34.8 % of Malawi’s social media users were female, while 65.2 % were male.”

Marketers debate the lessons to be learned

The figures sparked a debate among members of the Institute of Marketing in Malawi, with the Institute asking on its LinkedIn page: “To what extent can we say digital marketing campaigns are effective in Malawi?”

Said one respondent: “You are safe to do digital marketing for targeted campaigns. As for mass marketing and getting to [the] ‘hearts and minds’ of our nation? Surely traditional marketing is still King.” 

Others disagreed. “Digital marketing campaigns are effective in Malawi. It is time for organisations to embrace this and start using influencer marketing to add value to their orgs and grow the industry. Traditional marketing is phasing out; the world is going digital,” commented another.

Said a third: “Traditional marketing channels, such as radio and television advertising, remain relevant in rural areas where internet access is limited. A balanced marketing strategy that incorporates both digital and traditional channels can reach a wider audience and increase brand awareness.”

Dr Kin Kariisa

Group CEO - Next Media

Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

  • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
  • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
  • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
  • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
  • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.