Economy Butterworth is the main service area for Mnquma municipality, contributing 77% of the GDP in the municipality and is an important town in the new South Africa. It now has several major industrial sites, including Zitulele and Ibeka, on its outskirts. Its industries produce processed food, beverages, tobacco products, beer, textiles, clothing, leather goods, wood and wood products, chemicals, rubber and plastic products. It is on the Mthatha-East London railway line.
Butterworth's town area is relatively small, including a small business district of middle-to-high income housing. The central town, established exclusively “white” before 1976, has since been occupied largely by black high-income groups. White occupancy has not been re-established post-1994. Development in Butterworth has followed the line of the N2 and thus resulted in a long, narrow settlement east of town towards Walter Sisulu University (WSU), about 5 km away. The N2 also runs through the CBD, which results in a clash of uses and congestion, with high speed road transport seeming to use the same space as pedestrians, hawkers and public service functions.
Butterworth is also home to the first shopping centre in the area, the Fingoland Mall development which extends over 12,700m². As of 2014, there were 51 tenants, which includes but is not limited to major national retailers, as well as accommodating no less than 10 micro-businesses. On completion of the third phase, Fingoland Mall is expecting a minimum total of 100 shops. The development has already created approximately 350 jobs, and by the end of the third phase, the total number of jobs created is expected to reach 1,000.
Butterworth has a population of over 44,040 people. Butterworth also forms the centre of the wider Mnquma municipality which has a population of over 252,390 people.