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Why African cities are ranked so low

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Cape Town’s city hall in South Africa. The city is ranked 94th in the world on quality of living. FOTOSEARCH

Cape Town’s city hall in South Africa. The city is ranked 94th in the world on quality of living. FOTOSEARCH 

By Maryanne Gicobi

Posted  Saturday, March 18   2017 at  13:39

In Summary

  • Expatriates look at a city’s supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports, among other features.

If you are an expatriate and have the luxury of choosing the country to be deployed to, you may as well pick Vienna, the capital of Austria.

For eight years in a row, it has been ranked the world’s number one city offering quality living for expatriates by Mercer, an international human resource consultancy, in its 19 Annual Quality Living Survey released this week.

But one can see why the Austrian capital offers quality life. The country is rich in history and art, offering a vibrant culture scene; its rents and public transport costs are relatively cheap compared with those in other Western capitals.

Vienna prides itself of being place where the cafe society was invented. Nowhere has the art of relaxing over coffee or hot chocolate been elevated to such heights, or accompanied by such good cake and quite so much whipped cream. 

From the survey, Vienna is closely followed in the category of quality of life by Zurich in Switzerland and Auckland in New Zealand, Munich in Germany and Vancouver in Canada.

Africa's five

In Africa, only five cities, three of them in South Africa, feature in the top 100 ranking of quality living.

These are led by Port Louis in Mauritius, topping the Africa chart and taking position 84 globally.

Durban is ranked highest in quality of living in Africa and is ranked 87th globally, closely followed by Cape Town at 94 and Johannesburg at 96.

Durban is friendly for expatriates because it offers easy access to properties, permits, international schools and unusual services like where to get prescription drugs for pets. The city has an online community for international workers where they share experiences and recommend places to get good service.

There are no internationally agreed standards on what constitutes a liveable city, however, Mercer says international workers are keen on a country’s infrastructure when determining the quality of a city they are moving to.

Expatriates also look at a city’s supply of electricity, drinking water, telephone and mail services, and public transportation as well as traffic congestion and the range of international flights available from local airports.

Why East African cities fail

It is in these qualities that many cities in the region fail. Nairobi, Kampala and Dar es Salaam suffer frequent power outages, along with some of the worst traffic gridlocks on the continent, with Nairobi residents spending almost six hours a day in traffic, costing the economy Ksh37 billion ($370m) annually.

“Before I moved to Kenya, I had no idea that errands could consume so much of my life. Recently, I had to apply for a new Congolese visa, which meant going into Nairobi’s city centre. Getting there means enduring some of the worst traffic in the world,” The Economist’s Africa correspondent Daniel Knowles wrote recently. “A journey that should take 15 minutes in smooth traffic can take several hours.

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