What You Need To Know

Lilongwe is the largest and capital city of Malawi. The city is located in the central region of Malawi, near the borders with Mozambique and Zambia, and it is an important economic and transportation hub for central Malawi. It is named after the Lilongwe River.

Lilongwe had existed for centuries as a small fishing village on the banks of the Lilongwe River. During British Colonial Rule, the settlement became an administrative centre due to its strategic location. Formally founded in 1906 as a trading post, Lilongwe was officially recognised as a town in 1947. After gaining independence, it increasingly developed into an important trading centre in Malawi’s central region. Its growth was encouraged when the country’s former head of state, Hastings Kamuzu Banda, established it as Malawi’s new capital city in 1975. The last government offices have been relocated to Lilongwe in 2005. The city’s population is increasing rapidly, with an annual growth rate of 4.3.

Population: 1,077,116 (2015)


The Malawian Kwacha is the currency in Malawi (MW, MWI). The symbol for MWK can be written MK. The Malawian Kwacha is divided into 100 tambala.


Lilongwe features a humid subtropical climate that borders on a subtropical highland climate (Köppen: Cwa), 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 millimeters (7.9 in) of rain in a month during the wettest months.


While Blantyre is the commercial Capital of Malawi, Lilongwe’s economy is dominated by the government and public institutions. Kanengo District in the north of the city is the main industrial area, where food processing, tobacco storage and sales, maize storage and other light industries take place. Finance, banking, retail trade, construction, transport, public administration, tourism, and tobacco manufacturing are the main economic activities in the city. 76 percent of Lilongwe’s population live in informal settlements, while poverty stands at 25 percent and unemployment at 16 percent. The civil service employs about 27 percent of all formal workers, while 40 percent work in the private sector and 2 percent are self-employed.

Getting  Around

The town is very spread out so getting around can be a bit of a chore. You can pick up taxis from the Lilongwe Hotel (in the Old Town) and the Capital Hotel (in the Capital City). If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a minibus. It’s very cheap, but you will be getting very familiar with your fellow passengers. There are several routes you can take, including one that goes from the large blue bank in the new town and drops you off in the heart of the old town, next to Shoprite supermarket.


There are 38 private and 66 public primary schools with a total of 103,602 pupils as well as 29 secondary schools with 30,795 students in Lilongwe.