Lilongwe, (named after the Lilongwe River) is the capital and largest city of Malawi. The city is located in the central region of Malawi, near the borders with Mozambique and Zambia. The city has an estimated population 781,538 as of 2012.
Lilongwe has existed for centuries as a small fishing village on the banks of the Lilongwe River.
During the British colonial period in the beginning of the 20th century, Lilongwe was chosen as British colonial administrative centre, due to its desirable geography. The area had an easy navigable route to Lake Malawi, and connected to Lusaka (in Zambia), Blantyre and Mzuzu. The administrative area where located in what is now known as the City Centre. Up until the 1930s Lilongwe had at most a population of 5000.
After the independence in 1964, Zomba became the capital until 1974 when Hastings Banda made the decision to shift the capital city from Zomba to Lilongwe (against vociferous objections from the British preference for the economically and well developed Blantyre). Lilongwe has seen a rapid population growth and has since 2008 become the most populous city. While Blantyre remains the commercial capital, Lilongwe is gradually replacing Blantyre as the economic capital of Malawi.Lilongwe covers 6,159 km2.
Lilongwe is divided into a New and Old City. The former has hotels, embassies and offices while the latter has markets, bus stations, cafes and restaurants. The modern shops of the City are contrasted by the street and walled markets of Old Town. The Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary is between the Old and New towns and included a "People and Wildlife" animal rescue and education facility.
City Centre is the most modern and developed area of Lilongwe. Many banks (Stanbic - or Standard Chartered, National Bank of Malawi, NedBank, the Reserve Bank of Malawi), diplomatic missions, exclusive hotels (Sunbird Capital Hotel), airline offices (including South African Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines, British Airways, Kenya Airways) and international corporate offices are located in City Centre. Close to City Centre, on an elevated ground, lies Malawi's Capital Hill which is a large campus of Government Ministries. There are over a dozen office blocks on Capital Hill, including Office of President and Cabinet, Ministries of Finance, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Agriculture, Education, Works and Transport, Health, Home Affairs and Ministry of Economic Planning. Capital Hill is surrounded by a fence and a ring road, with a maze of streets connecting the office blocks.
The city is divided into districts known as Areas. There are over fifty Areas and more are added as the city grows. City Centre, however, is not included in a numbered Area. The Areas are not necessarily consecutively numbered from one area to another.
Some notable areas in Lilongwe are:
- Area 3 and Area 9: Old Town (West of A1) - Old Town can be further divided in a northern and a western part; the northern one is situated adjacent to City Centre and is popular for bicycle accessories, building supplies, car parts, western-style groceries, local food and clothing. Lilongwe’s main market and two historical mosques are also located here. The western region is more luxurious and features many expatriate bars, western-style restaurants and shopping, wealthy residential suburbs, and some grand hotels like Lilongwe Hotel.
- Area 47: Home to African Bible College, and its inexpensive missionary clinic which is typically staffed by American doctors. There is also a small stadium (Silver stadium). Children of the Nations, a non-profit organisation dedicated to caring for orphaned and destitute children, is also headquartered in Lilongwe.
- Medium to low density residential areas are Areas 6, 12, 11, 43, 10, 44. Areas 15 and 18 are medium to high density. Area 15 has about 250 bungalows and houses medium earners.
While the areas mentioned above are quite wealthy, safe, and modern, many citizens of Lilongwe live in sub-standard/non-permanent housing in a variety of Areas, often without electricity or running water.
Lilongwe is located on plateau situated at 1,050 m (3,440 ft) above sea level.
Lilongwe features a humid subtropical climate that borders on a subtropical highland climate, with pleasantly warm summers and mild winters. Due to the altitude, temperatures are lower than would be expected for a city located in the tropics. Lilongwe features a short wet season that runs from December to March and a lengthy dry season that covers much of the remainder of the year, particularly June and July which are cooler than the rest of the year. However, the city sees heavy downpours during its rainy season, seeing around 200 millimetres (7.9 in) of rain in a month during the wettest months.
|Climate data for Lilongwe, Malawi|
|Average high °C (°F)||27 |
|Average low °C (°F)||17 |
|Precipitation cm (inches)||20 |
|Source: Weatherbase |
Economy and Infrastructure
Society and Culture
Due in part to the growth of the expatriate community and the increasing importance of tourism, the number of international restaurants has risen very rapidly over recent years. The city now offers a rich and internationalized diversity of cuisine
Tourism and Places of interest
The city features a Wild Life Centre which provides shelter to the orphaned and the rescued animals and comprises both permanent and rehabilitated wild life. Kambuku the Leopard and Bella the lion are its permanent residents. The place also contains hiking trails.
There are several youth centres in this town. The city assembly runs the Lilongwe community ground located close to police unit south east of the main bus terminal. The youth centre is surrounded by a wall 10 metres high. Local teams and youth use the facilities to play basketball, football, karate, boxing, volleyball, and many other games.
Another major youth centre is Don Bosco Youth Centre located at Area 23, on the outskirts of the town. It is run by the Salesians of Don Bosco. Young people come to this place to play and pray. In addition to the good grounds and courts that it has, there is a technical school that holds over 600 young people who train in different trades.
Lilongwe's Kamuzu International Airport (LLW) fields regular flights to Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Nairobi and domestic services to Blantyre. The airport is located to the north of Lilongwe, approximately 20 kilometers from the City Centre.
Buses, minibuses and Taxis
Lilongwe is served by Axa Bus company, and local buses and minibuses run between Old Town, City Centre, Kamuzu International Airport, and other urban centres, including Mzuzu and Blantyre. Taxis are available from hotels and a taxi rank on Presidential Way, North of City Centre Shopping Centre. Most major urban roads are severely congested. Nevertheless, recently, most of the roads have been expanded into dual carriage ways (Paul Kagame Road running from Area 15 to Lilongwe Hotel in Area 3, Capital Hill to City Centre Road. The flow of traffic has been greatly improved lately with traffic lights (called robots by locals) installed in strategic intersections, unlike a few years ago when traffic lights were a rarity in Lilongwe. Kamuzu International Airport, located about 35 km north of Lilongwe in the suburb of Lumbadzi, offers local turbo-prop flights.
Lilongwe is served by Malawi Railways
News and Media
Lilongwe has a considerable number of newspapers available. English-language newspapers, with online presences, include The Nation and The Times.
The 2009 landfall of a trans-Indian Ocean backbone cable has, in theory, made Internet access much more readily available in Lilongwe, but the roll-out to end-users has been slow, partly because of spotty telephone line coverage, partly due to the substantial prices and long contracts demanded for purchase of bandwidth for small ISPs. Mobile-telephone access to the Internet ("3G") is heavily advertised in the city, although still relatively expensive.
Lilongwe is also an educational centre of Malawi. The city is home to many Educational Institutions, including:
- University of Malawi
- Bunda College
- The Malawi Institute of Management (MIM)
- Kamuzu College of Nursing
- Lilongwe Technical College
- World Gazetteer: Malawi: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population "Malawi: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population". World Gazetteer. http://www.world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=&men=gcis&lng=en&dat=32&srt=pnan&col=dq&geo=-150 World Gazetteer: Malawi: largest cities and towns and statistics of their population. Retrieved 16 August 2012.
- "Weatherbase: Weather for Lilongwe, Malawi". Weatherbase. 2011. http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weather.php3?s=619980&refer=&units=us. Retrieved on November 22, 2011.
- "Don Bosco Youth Technical Institute - Lilongwe }". dbc-malawi.org. 2012. http://www.dbc-malawi.org/. Retrieved 5 April 2012.
- Gerke, W.J.C. & Viljoen, Charl J. Master Plan for Lilongwe the Capital City of Malawi (Johannesburg: Swan Publishing, 1968)