The latest Quality of Living city rankings, published by Mercer, is dominated by European cities, with Vienna topping the list of best places in the world to live. However, the study also offers insights into the quality of life on offer in African cities.
Five African cities remain in the top 100 and South Africa contributes three of those cities alone. While it’s Mauritius’ Port Louis that ranks as the highest African city in the study, coming in at 84th place.
Then we have the worst performers: Brazzaville (224) in the Democratic Republic of Congo; N’Djamena (226) in Chad; Khartoum (227) in Sudan; and Bangui (230) in the Central African Republic ranking as the lowest African cities for life quality.
Of course, there are plenty of other African cities between the two extreme ends of the ranking – so what (if anything) does this tell us about the quality of life on offer in Africa’s major cities and how it compares to other regions of the world?
The 2017/2018 Quality of Living Ranking
This visual representation of the top and bottom ranking cities from the study reveals an unsurprising trend. The best performing locations are shared between the world’s most developed regions while the Oceanic neighbours of Australia and New Zealand offer the only two cities in the Southern Hemisphere to rank in the world’s top ten.
At the bottom end of the list, Haiti is the only non-African on Middle Eastern country included in the list of worst ten cities. Africa contributes six cities to the bottom ten with Bangui in the Central African Republic finishing just one place above Baghdad in Iraq.
Africa’s best cities for quality of living
The highest-ranking of Africa’s cities in the Mercer study is Port Louis in the island nation of Mauritius (84). South Africa’s Durban (87), Cape Town (94) and Johannesburg (96) remain in the top 100 while Victoria (98) in the Seychelles is the fifth and final African city in double-digit positions.
From there, you have to venture down to 130th place to see the next African city on the list: Windhoek in Namibia. Here’s where each African city included in the study ranks:
130. Windhoek, Namibia
141. Gaborone, Botswana
150. Lusaka, Zambia
163. Dakar, Senegal
164. Libreville, Gabon
165. Cairo, Egypt
166. Accra, Ghana
173. Kampala, Uganda
179. Blantyre, Malawi
181*. Cotonou, Benin
181*. Maputo Mozambique
184. Algiers, Algeria
185. Banjul, Gambia
186. Nairobi, Kenya
187. Djibouti, Djibouti
192. Kigali, Rwanda
194. Yaounde, Cameroon
199. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
201. Luanda, Angola
206. Lome, Togo
208. Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire
209. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
210. Harare, Zimbabwe
212. Lagos, Nigeria
213. Abuja, Nigeria
216. Antananarivo, Madagascar
217. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
219. Niamey, Niger
220. Bamako, Mali
221. Nouakchott, Mauritania
222. Conakry, Guinea
223. Kinshasa, Democratic Rep. of the Congo (DRC)
224. Brazzaville, DRC
226. N’djamena, Chad
227. Khartoum, Sudan
230. Bangui, Central African Republic
For East Africa the highest representative is the Ugandan capital of Kampala, coming in at 173. Then you have Kenya’s Nairobi placing at 186, which highlights how far behind the global average East African cities remain. Djibouti’s aptly named Djibouti City (189), Rwanda’s Kigali (192), Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam (199), Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa (209) and Sudan’s Khartoum (227) complete the list of East African cities to qualify at all.
Sadly, there’s no place for the troubled nations of Burundi, Eritrea, Somalia or South Sudan on this quality of living ranking.
What are the criteria for this study?
When looking at any study of this kind, you have to consider the criteria to get an idea of how credible the results may be. In the case of Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking, the study is designed to grade the standard of living for expats in each country on the list – not for local residents.
Mercer says it evaluates local living conditions in more than 450 cities worldwide, analysing 39 factors in 10 different categories. The categories listed are as follows:
1. Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement, etc.).
2. Economic environment (currency exchange regulations, banking services).
3. Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom).
4. Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution, etc.).
5. Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools).
6. Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion, etc.).
7. Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure, etc.).
8. Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars, etc.).
9. Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services).
10. Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters).
It’s also worth noting that Mercer is a UK company that specialises in providing healthcare, pension plans and other services for employees at international companies. These are highly educated, qualified industry members who are working and/or retiring overseas. So, while the criteria listed above are fitting for the analysis of living standards, they probably aren’t considered from the perspective of those who actually live in the lower-ranking cities in the study.
More to the point, there are almost 4,500 cities around the world, which means Mercer’s data from 450 and a study comprising of less than 300 clearly doesn’t give the full picture – like most studies of this nature.