Biggest Cities In Malawi

A street scene in Lilongwe, the capital and largest city of Malawi.
A street scene in Lilongwe, the capital and largest city of Malawi.

Malawi is a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa which was established as a British protectorate in 1891 under the name Nyasaland. The country gained independence in 1964. Most of the cities in modern day Malawi were built during the colonial era and continued to grow in the post-independence period. Like most developing countries, the economy of Malawi is predominantly agricultural with the main crop being tobacco. Most of the cities in Malawi serve their earlier functions as well as new functions. Lilongwe, Malawi's political capital, and Blantyre, the nation's center of finance and commerce, are by far the two largest cities in the country.

The Four Biggest Cities In Malawi


Lilongwe is the largest city and the political capital of Malawi. The city was established before the colonial era and served as a fishing town. During the colonial era, the town became an administrative center and later a trading center. Lilongwe was officially recognized as a town in 1947. The growth and expansion of this town continued after independence as an important trading center. The city was established as Malawi’s capital in 1975 after which it has remained a major administrative city. The city has a population of about 1,077,116 people which is expected to continue growing. Apart from administrative and trading the city also serves other functions including education, transportation, entertainment and sports.


Blantyre is Malawi’s financial and commercial capital and the second largest city with a population of about 1,068,681 people. The town was established in 1876 by the missionaries from the Church of Scotland and named after a town in Scotland. The city has a long and unprecedented cultural history among other cities in the region. Blantyre served as the ivory trading center during the colonial periods. Later it served as a commercial and industrial town mainly using tobacco as the raw product. Currently, the city serves and provides employment for a majority of the Malawian nationals in the industries and commercials centers. The biggest problem facing this city is pollution due to industrial waste as well as poor management of the historical sites and monuments in the city.


Zomba is the third largest city in Malawi and the former administrative capital with a population of about 101,140 people. The city has a lot of British architecture where the expatriates resided during the colonial era. The British and Dutch farmers who lived in the city practiced tobacco farming which has remained the primary activity in the city to date. Trade has also blossomed in the town especially markets for fish, imported products. Other activities in the town include banking, health, tourism (the Zomba Plateau), education, transport, and religious functions.


Kasungu is a town in central Malawi with a population of about 59,696 people. The town is the fourth largest town in Malawi. Kasungu is poorly developed with few social amenities, poverty and high rates of child labor. The children are used to provide labor in the tobacco plantations that dominate the town. The soils in this town are poor and infertile with forests extensively destroyed. The people of this town are poor and vulnerable to famine and disease outbreak as they cannot afford proper Medicare or sanitation facilities. The town serves other functions such as transport, leisure and entertainment, sports, administrative, and health.

Cities With Problems

Other famous towns in Malawi include Mangochi, Karonga, Salima, Nkhotakota, Liwonde, and Nsanje. In general, Malawi’s towns are faced with the common problem of environmental degradation through pollution, unsustainable land use programs as well as congestion in the larger cities leading to the spread of communicable diseases.

Biggest Cities In Malawi

Rank Biggest Cities in Malawi Population
1 Lilongwe 1,077,116
2 Blantyre 1,068,681
3 Zomba 101,140
4 Kasungu 59,696
5 Mangochi 51,429
6 Karonga 42,555
7 Salima 40,106
8 Nkhotakota 33,150
9 Liwonde 29,489
10 Nsanje 27,131

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