Bulawayo is the second largest city in Zimbabwe, and the largest city in the country's Matabeleland. The city's population is disputed; the 2012 census listed it at 653,337, while the Bulawayo City Council claimed it to be about 1.2 million. Bulawayo covers an area of about 1,707 square kilometres (659 sq mi) in the western part of the country, along the Matsh' Amhlope River. Along with the capital Harare, Bulawayo is one of two cities in Zimbabwe that are also a province.
Bulawayo was founded around 1840 as the kraal of Mzilikazi, the Ndebele king. His son, Lobengula, succeeded him in the 1860s, and ruled from Bulawayo until 1893, when the settlement was captured by British South Africa Company soldiers during the First Matabele War. That year, the first white settlers arrived and rebuilt the town. The town was besieged by Ndebele warriors during the Second Matabele War. Bulawayo attained municipality status in 1897, and city status in 1943.
Historically Bulawayo has been the principal industrial centre of Zimbabwe; its factories produce cars and car products, building materials, electronic products, textiles, furniture, and food products. Bulawayo is also the hub of Zimbabwe's rail network and the headquarters of the National Railways of Zimbabwe. In recent years, the city's economy has struggled, as many factories either closed or moved operations to Harare. Still, Bulawayo has the highest Human Development Index in the country, at .649 as of 2017.