Empangeni is a centre for sugar, cotton, cattle and timber and is situated in the province of KwaZulu-Natal on the crossroads of the R102 running between Empangeni and Cape Town and the R34 which runs between Vryheid and Richards Bay.
A small village near Empangeni houses a sugar mill labour force. The sugar mill here is one of the largest in the country.
In 1851 the Norwegian Missionary Society established a station in the valley of a stream named eMpangeni from the number of mpange trees (Olinia Cymosa) which grew there and the settlement that formed around the station took the slightly Anglicised name of the river.
The mission was later moved to Eshowe, but in 1894 a magistracy named Empangeni was established in the valley and this was the beginning of the modern town.
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