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This article is about the city in Malawi. For other uses, see Blantyre (disambiguation).
Blantyre City.jpg
Blantyre is located in Malawi
Location in Malawi
Coordinates: 15°47′10″S 35°0′21″E / 15.78611°S 35.00583°E / -15.78611; 35.00583Coordinates: 15°47′10″S 35°0′21″E / 15.78611°S 35.00583°E / -15.78611; 35.00583
Country  Malawi
Region Southern Region
District Blantyre District
Founded 1895
 • Mayor Noel Chalamanda
 • Total 228 km2 (88 sq mi)
Elevation 1,039 m (3,409 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 1,895,973
 • Density 8,300/km2 (22,000/sq mi)
Time zone +2
Climate Cwa
St Michael and All Angels Church, built in 1888 to 1891
Brick making at about the time the church was being built: Dr James Johnston

Blantyre is Malawi's centre of finance and commerce, and its second largest city, with an estimated 1,068,681 inhabitants as of 2015. It is sometimes referred to as the commercial capital of Malawi as opposed to the political capital, Lilongwe. It is the capital of the country's Southern Region as well as the Blantyre District.

Mandala House, Blantyre's oldest building

The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the country's state broadcaster and the provider of one of Malawi's television channels, has its headquarters in Blantyre. The Supreme Court is located here. The city houses the College of Medicine, the Malawi Polytechnic and the Kamuzu College of Nursing, constituent colleges of the University of Malawi. The Malawi College of Accountancy is also headquartered there. Its rather unconventional location has meant that Blantyre is surrounded by Mount Soche, Ndirande mountain, Chiradzulu mountain and Michiru Mountain[1] which consolidates the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area.

Blantyre supports a small expatriate population of about 25,000, mainly from the United Kingdom, the rest of Europe, and South Africa.


Founded in 1876 through the missionary work of the Church of Scotland and named after the town of the same name in Scotland, Blantyre's historical importance is rivaled by no other Malawian city. It has many historic and cultural heritage resources, which constitute a vital part of the city and are crucial to its identity, cultural and social well-being and attractiveness to business and tourism. It became a British consular in 1883 and attained municipality status by 1895, making it Malawi's oldest municipality.[2]

Blantyre is one of the oldest urban centre in east, central and southern Africa; it predates Nairobi, Harare and Johannesburg, hence has the longest historic and cultural heritage in the region. The Chichiri Museum is next to the Civic Centre offices at Chichiri and constitutes a valuable asset of the city.

The city's status as Malawi's centre of commerce and industry began through its role as a centre for colonial trade in ivory. Thus, Blantyre quickly established itself as a crossroads for trade in Southern Africa. Today the city is Malawi's main manufacturing core with shoes, cotton, metal- and plastic-producing factories.

From 1876 to 1905, urban development in Blantyre was confined to three distinct areas within 2 km of each other: Blantyre Mission at HHI, Mandala (European commercial venture), and the government zone and commercial centre triangle marked by Haile Selassie Road, Glyn Jones Road and Hannover Street. In Limbe development started in 1906 following the establishment of the Shire Highlands Railways Company headquarters and repair and servicing facilities and Imperial Tobacco Group (ITG) packaging and tobacco grading factory nearby. As a result of the establishment of these big operations, easy accessibility and flat topography, Limbe experienced a development boom of Indian wholesale and retail shops. By 1910 Limbe town surpassed Blantyre town. Low- and medium-density housing for the European and Asian staff was in Mpingwe, ITG and Mudi in Limbe and in Mount Pleasant, Sunnyside, Namiwawa, Kabula and Mandala in Blantyre. The Indian shops included accommodation at the rear or on top floor. High-density housing for the African workforce was far away except the Chiwembe compound in Limbe.

The development history of Blantyre was principally dictated by piecemeal uncoordinated development as a result of individual and interest group decisions relating to evangelism, commerce, farming, industry and administration.[3]

Blantyre is named after the town in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, where the explorer David Livingstone was born. Livingstone's missionary endeavours saw the establishment of the St Michael and All Angels church. The church dates from 1891 and was famously built by a team of local workmen with no knowledge of European architecture or building techniques.[4] Urban development was further stimulated by the construction of the railway.[5] In 1956 it was merged with its sister city, Limbe, to form one city.

The current level of protection and conservation of resources is inadequate, mainly because of inadequate financial resources, lack of a comprehensive conservation plan for the city, and the seemingly low priority accorded to the issue by government. Blantyre City has a total of eight gazetted National Monuments, mostly buildings of historic importance.[3] The City Assembly has nominated two sites for designation as National Monuments and another 23 sites for investigation with regard to their eligibility for designation as national and local monuments.


Blantyre City, the largest commercial and industrial capital of Malawi, is in the Shire Highlands and geographical centre of the Southern Region of the country and lies at 35° east of Greenwich Meridian and 15° 42" south of the Equator. It is a transport communications node with road, rail and air links to all parts of the country and neighbouring countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania. It covers an area of 228 km2. The city is classified as a ‘National Urban Centre’ within the designated six hierarchical levels system of urban centres of the country and is the regional administrative headquarters of the Southern Region.

The geology of the city consists of two principal types of rocks of an ancient Basement Complex, a result of a process that took place during the late Pre-Cambrian period about 500 million years ago. The most extensive rock formation consists of pyroxene granulite gneiss which covers more than 50% of the city area, from the northwest to the east and extends in two small bands southward in the western part of the city. Syenitic gneiss accounts for about 40% covering the southern, western and north-eastern corner of the city and also in form of scattered small intrusions into the pyroxene granulite gneiss. In their unweathered state, both rock types are impervious hence poor aquifers, but they provide a valuable resource for road and building construction. Blantyre City is on the eastern edge of the southern branch of the Eastern African Rift, and thus some prominent faults occur within and in the vicinity of the city rendering it prone to earthquakes. The main faults and associated zones of deeply fractured bedrock run from the north of the city in a southwesterly direction and are potential aquifers for groundwater.

Blantyre City lies in a hilly area; it has varied topography ranging from an elevation of about 780 to 1,612 metres above sea level. There are three main types of topographical features, which have major implications for the development of the city: the hills, plateau and ridge, and the natural drainage system.

The most conspicuous and dominant physical features are the numerous hills found in all parts of the city. The main hills are the headwaters of several rivers and streams which originate and radiate from the city, forming a natural drainage system with nine distinct catchment areas: Likhubula, Lunzu, Mombezi and Khombwi, which drain the northern part of the city, and Mudi, Chisombezi, Limbe, Luchenza and Mwampanzi draining the middle and southern parts. Because of the hilly topography, these natural drainage channels are narrow and have steep sides and gradients.

The plateau and ridge comprises all the land that is suitable for urban development including extensive relatively flat land, the mountain piedmonts and plains, and long narrow watersheds and strips of land which separate the rivers and streams.


The climate of Blantyre is classified by Köppen-Geiger climate classification system as a humid subtropical climate (Cwa) and is greatly influenced by its location in the tropical zone and altitude. The city experiences the tropical continental climate with two distinct seasons in the year (three proper seasons). The rainy season is from November to April, with continuing light cold showers locally known as chiperoni from end of May to July. The dry season is from May to October. The mean annual rainfall is 1,122 mm (44.17 in), of which about 80% falls within 3½ months between November and March.

The city is generally cool with mean monthly temperatures ranging from 19 °C (66 °F) during the cool season (May to July) to 26 °C (79 °F) during the hot season (September to November). There are particularly two spells of uncomfortable weather; the hottest season associated with high humidity soon before the onset of the first rains (end October to November), and the frost along rivers, mist and chilly showers and winds characteristic of the cold season in June and July.

Climate data for Blantyre (Chileka International Airport)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 28.4
Daily mean °C (°F) 23.5
Average low °C (°F) 20.1
Average precipitation mm (inches) 198.0
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.3 mm) 16 14 12 6 2 2 2 1 2 4 8 14 83
Average relative humidity (%) 79 80 78 75 69 66 64 50 52 53 61 75 67
Mean monthly sunshine hours 198.4 182.0 217.0 237.0 260.4 237.0 232.3 260.4 270.0 275.9 228.0 198.4 2,797
Mean daily sunshine hours 6.4 6.5 7.0 7.9 8.4 7.9 7.5 8.4 9.0 8.9 7.6 6.4 7.66
Source: NOAA[6]



Blantyre City, the commercial and industrial capital, has a strong solid economic base for sustained economic growth and a diversified modern economy offering a wide range of employment opportunities. The commerce, trade and industry sector is the leading driving force of economic development in Malawi, second only to agriculture and, therefore, a major contributor to GDP. It is by far the major employment generator in the city and has the greatest multiplier effect on the urban economy. The city is Malawi's industrial centre with many manufacturing plants. There are eight designated industrial areas:Makata, Ginnery Corner, Maselema, Limbe, Chirimba, South Lunzu, Maone and Chitawira. Of these Makata, Ginnery Corner, Maselema, Limbe, Chirimba and Maone are actively hosting industries whilst South Lunzu is yet to be developed.

The existing industrial sites are further categorized into heavy and light sites. Makata and Limbe, for example, are the sole heavy industrial sites hosting more than thirty companies.

While Chirimba industrial area is designated a heavy industrial area, it is the least developed in terms of number of industries. Apart from Makata, Ginnery corner industrial site is another active site followed by Limbe and Maselema. The least are Chirimba and Maone industrial sites. Chitawira and Maselema are classic examples of light industrial areas.[7] All the industrial areas are located along the banks of the main rivers or streams of Blantyre city. Makata industrial area lies between Mudi and Nasolo streams whilst Ginnery Corner industrial area is along Mudi River. Maselema industrial area exists along the Naperi river and Chirimba stream hosts Chirimba industrial area.

There are several rules for treatment of wastes in the industries,[8] but disposal of untreated wastewater into drains and, subsequently, into the city's major streams is very common, thus posing a potential health and environmental risk to the people in Blantyre and downstream. Other sources of water pollution in the city such as runoffs from domestic and agricultural activities and vehicle emissions[9] have been identified. Previous studies have indicated substantial heavy metal pollution in the city's water bodies including streams.[10] Major changes in industrial activities have occurred in the city including decrease in volumes of wastewater generated by David Whitehead company which used to be a major contributor of wastewater effluent in Makata industrial area; change of ownership and wastewater management of Cold Storage Company; closure of the Shire Bus Line; doubling of wastewater generation from both Carlsberg and Chibuku Products due to increase in production and installation of some industrial pretreatment plants such as at Chibuku, Plascon and Dulux.[11]

Manufacturing contributes approximately 14% to GDP. In the period 1996–1999 the sector showed 0% growth, partly due to the rapid liberalisation of markets exposing Malawi’s manufacturers to competition from South Africa and Zimbabwe. The sector is still hampered by monopolistic behaviour (cotton), trade barriers, lack of access to capital, illegal imports, and unpredictable implementation or lack of implementation of existing bilateral trade agreements.[12]

The employment structure includes formal and informal sectors, together offering employment that is estimated to be between 50,000 and 55,000 jobs and absorbing 62% of the labour force. The formal sector employment consists of primary, secondary and tertiary industry subsectors, and the informal sector is principally small-scale business operations. The tertiary or services industry subsector is leading in terms of employment creation and importance to the economy of the city; it employs 26,074 people accounting for 56.5% of total formal employment. The secondary industry subsector employs 18,824 people principally in manufacturing and accounts for about 41% of the total employment. Information on informal sector activities is scanty or non-existent. But a recent study by Africon and field investigation under the Blantyre City Environmental City Profile, leads to the conclusion that it is a substantial and vibrant economy, offering employment to about 4,500 people who would otherwise be unemployed.[3]

Blantyre is home to the Malawi Stock Exchange located on Victoria Avenue, the heart of the city. It opened its doors in November 1996 and operates under the Capital Market Development Act 1990 and the Companies Act 1984. Before the listing of the first company, the major activities that were being undertaken were the provision of a facility for secondary market trading in Government of Malawi bonds namely, Treasury Bills and Local Registered Stocks.[13]

As Malawi's main economic and financial hub, the city plays host to an annual international trade fair each May. The event seeks to showcase the best of Malawian commerce, industry, agriculture and information technology and opened under a theme of “Building Productivity Capacity to Achieve Export Competitiveness” in 2007.[14]

On January 15, 2007, it was revealed that Zimbabwe-based bus and truck building firm AVM Africa (Pvt) Limited will be investing over K100 million to buy and renovate a site in Makata with the intention of building buses and trucks in Blantyre. The company plans to employ about 1,000 people — all locals, in the manufacturing venture and AVM Africa is expected to subcontract about 10,000 others for production work.


The city has a reasonably well-developed system of physical and social infrastructure including roads, reticulated water, electricity, sanitation, fire protection, health, education and commercial and recreational facilities. But most of these essential services are characterised by many problems especially low level of coverage, poor state of maintenance and disrepair, frequent disruption of service and management shortcomings.[citation needed]

Malawi's largest stadium, Kamuzu Stadium, which holds and estimated 60,000 is in Chichiri. International football games are played here as well as major Malawian events such as presidential inaugurations and Independence Day celebrations.


Blantyre City is served by a road network totaling about 554 kilometres (344 miles) consisting of six categories of roads: designated, collector, distributor, residential, industrial and access (in descending order of importance or traffic volumes). Very few formal footpaths exist in the city besides sidewalks, although the predominant mode of travel is walking.

Traffic has increased tremendously in the past few years mainly due to the liberalisation of the economy and overall economic development growth. The most noticeable are private cars and minibuses which have completely replaced buses as means of public transport in the city. Minibuses, a main fixture in most African cities, begin services from the early hours while the last services usually finish by 7:00pm. The taxis mainly found outside the city's top hotels, Mount Soche and Ryalls, provide an alternative mode of transport to the residents of Blantyre.

Railway services contribute enormously to the city's status as Malawi's main commercial and industrial hub. The Central East African Railway, formerly Malawi Railways, has its headquarters in Limbe. It operates through Blantyre to Nsanje, near the southern border with Mozambique which connects Malawi with the Mozambican ports of Beira and Nacala; Mchinji, near the border with Zamibia; Salima and Lilongwe; and between Nkaya and Nayuchi on the eastern border with Mozambique, covering a total of 797 kilometres (495 miles).[15] There is a rail-lake interchange station at Chipoka on Lake Malawi, from where Malawi Railways vessels operate services to other lake ports in Malawi. In September 2007, President Bingu wa Mutharika commissioned locomotives donated by the Taiwanese government which will provide passenger train services from Blantyre to other parts of the country. Prior to this, a government subsidised passenger rail service operated three times weekly from Blantyre to Makhanga and the border with Mozambique at Nayuchi.

Chileka International Airport, located approximately nine miles from Blantyre city centre, has two runways which serve Blantyre with flights to South Africa and other African countries. The airport is the main base for the country's flagship airline, Air Malawi. Chileka airport also houses important weather stations. In 2007, the Government of Malawi proposed expansion plans that are yet to be realised. In 2009 it was announced that the Government of Malawi was seeking partners for a $1 billion rehabilitation of the airport which will include the construction of a new terminal building and the widening of the current runway.[16]

The city has coach services which run from the city centre and Wenela bus station to Lilongwe, Mzuzu and other African cities including Johannesburg and Harare.


As the commercial center of Malawi, travelers come in from all over the region (including neighboring Mozambique) to stock up on supplies — food, construction materials, electronics, etc. The downtown area is full of Asian (Indian) run shops, as is nearby Limbe. A bustling market area popular with locals offers all kinds of fruit, vegetables, used clothing, construction materials, etc. at a cheap price.

Newer Western-style shops are available at Chichiri Shopping Center, arguably Malawi's largest mall. The mall offers consumers a wide range of facilities: banking and ATM services from First Merchant Bank (FMB), Standard Bank, NBS Bank, MSB Bank, National Bank of Malawi, Western Union and other Forex bureaus, telecommunication services such as Zain, Telekom Networks Malawi, MTL, many fast food restaurants such as Nandos, Hungry Lion, Jungle Pepper Pizza, Curry Corner Indian Food, Shoprite, Games Stores, a movie theater, furniture shops, clothing stores, book stores, pharmacies, dental surgery, optician, Digital Photo Express, florist and hair dressers.

Alternatively, Savers Choice is a well-stocked Asian-run store heading toward Limbe that caters to the expat community with hard-to-find food items, a good bakery, an ice-cream bar and candy shop.


Malawi Polytechnic

Blantyre City has a wide range of educational facilities comprising primary school, secondary school and tertiary education as well as pre-school. These are provided by the government, City Assembly, missionary institutions and the private sector.

Tertiary education includes technical and vocational training and higher learning institutions mostly in the Chichiri-Ginnery Corner area (Malawi Polytechnic, College of Medicine, Kamuzu College of Nursing, Blantyre School of Health Sciences and Malawi College of Accountancy), Telecommunications National and SADCC Multi-Country Training Schools, Technical School, Police Training School and Blantyre Teacher’s College. Some private companies offer tailor-made training to their staff (Malawi Railways, ADMARC, banks, etc.) while individual entrepreneurs provide specialised training in varied fields such as management, secretarial, business, accounting, and computers.

There are 50 primary schools in the city with a total enrollment in 1999 of approximately 134,000 pupils. This is less than 40% of the required schools resulting in excessive overcrowding of classrooms, long distances to/from school, unacceptably high pupil/teacher ratios and high proportion of pupils who hold classes outside. The combination of overcrowding, inadequate and poorly maintained pit latrines, and learning in the open is exacerbating health hazards and deterioration of environmental quality in public school.

In spite of this, Blantyre city probably has the most number of schools out of any other Malawian City offering international standard education. These include Saint Andrews International Primary and Saint Andrews International High School, Central High School, Nyasa Junior Academy, St Patrick's Primary School, St Patrick's Academy, South End Secondary School, Phoenix Primary School, Hillview International Primary School in Limbe and Kalibu Academy.


The health care delivery system in the city has both curative and preventive health care services, and this is provided through a network of hospitals and health centres/clinics which are distributed in different parts of the city. The government runs Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH), the biggest referral hospital in the country, which has a total of 1,000 hospital beds, and the three private hospitals, have a total of 122 hospital beds. The 18 public clinics are run by the District Health Office in partnership with the Blantyre City Assembly and service Bangwe, Chigumula, Chilomoni, Chirimba, Limbe, Ndirande, Manyowe, Masala, Mapanga, Misesa, Mzedi, Nancholi, Nkolokoti, Ntenje, Ntonda, South Lunzu, Zingwangwa and Civic Centre.

There are several clinics run by religious organisations where people get paying health care services and those owned by statutory corporations/companies (serving their staff) such as ADMARC, Malawi Railways, Portland Cement, Lever Brothers, Tobacco Processors, and National Seed Company of Malawi. Following the liberalisation policy, the city has witnessed the establishment of many private clinics and hospitals (including Blantyre Adventist Hospital and Mwaiwathu PVT Hospital, arguably the country's best medical facilities) which complement the few limited old facilities. The majority of these offer out-patient services while the few well-established ones offer both. Besides the city-based health services, many city residents make regular use of mission hospitals which are outside the city to the extent that these form part of the health delivery system of the city (Mlambe Hospital and Nguludi). In addition, traditional healers (herbalists) and traditional birth attendants play an important role in providing health care to the city residents.

The health delivery system of the city is grossly inadequate. The public hospital wards are very congested and long queues are characteristic of outpatient services. The average clinic-population ratio for the city is between 25,000 and 28,000 persons per clinic, and the unplanned settlements are the least served with over 40,000 persons per clinic, compared with the recommended urban planning standard of 10,000 persons per clinic.

Mwaiwathu Private Hospital and Blantyre Adventist Hospital provide the best medical services in the city, with many residents of Lilongwe travelling to Blantyre to receive treatment from them. There is also the Beit CURE International Hospital, one of the very few hospitals where hip and knee replacement surgery can be done in Sub-Saharan Africa.[17]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Blantyre is twinned with:

Notable people from Blantyre[edit]


  1. ^ "Michiru Mountain — Malawi". Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  2. ^ [1]Template:Date=July 2009</
  3. ^ a b c "Tp/Hq/Conf" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-01-07. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  4. ^ Bsac Travel Club - Malawi Archived October 17, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "Malaŵi — Britannica Online Encyclopedia". 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  6. ^ "Chileka Climate Normals 1961–1990". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved March 8, 2015. 
  7. ^ Blantyre City Assembly, 1999.
  8. ^ Local Government Act, 1982; Blantyre City Assembly, 1999
  9. ^ Lakudzala et al., 1999; Masamba and Chimbalanga, 2001, Sajidu et al, 2007
  10. ^ Lakudzala et al., 1999; Sajidu et al., 2007; Kaonga et al., (2008)
  11. ^ "Temporal And Spatial Physicochemical Water Quality In Blantyre Urban Streams Abstract" (PDF). 2009-01-23. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  12. ^ [2][dead link]
  13. ^ "Malawi Stock Exchange". Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  14. ^ [3][dead link]
  15. ^ "Reuters AlertNet — Malawi". Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  16. ^ Anonymous. "Malawi seek partners for $1bn upgrade of region's oldest airfield". Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  17. ^ "Beit Cure International Hospital Malawi". Retrieved 2011-04-20. 
  18. ^ "Hanover — Twin Towns" (in German). © 2007-2009 - Offizielles Portal der Landeshauptstadt und der Region Hannover in Zusammenarbeit mit Retrieved 2009-07-17.  External link in |publisher= (help)

External links[edit]