Malawi: Blantyre City

Blantyre (UK: /ˈblænˌtaɪə/) 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 and industrial 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

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. City house, College of Medicine, Malawi Polytechnic and 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 which consolidates the Michiru Mountain Conservation Area.

Blantyre supports an expatriate population of about 25,000 , mainly from Europe and South Africa. According to the Mercer 2017 Cost of Living Rankings, Blantyre is the city with the fifth-lowest cost of living for expatriates in the world.

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 large 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.

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. Urban development was further stimulated by the construction of the railway. In 1956 it was merged with its sister city, Limbe (7 miles (11 km) to the East, founded in 1909), to form one city. Here, it became the "headquarter of Malawi (then Nyasaland) Railways."

Blantyre City has a total of eight gazetted National Monuments, mostly buildings of historic importance. 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 is the commercial and industrial capital. 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 categorised 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. 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, 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 have been identified. Previous studies have indicated substantial heavy metal pollution in the city's water bodies including streams. 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.

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,) 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.

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