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.”