Thinking about making a move to the continent for business, family, or adventure? Here is the insider information you need to make the best decisions about your move in our list of the most liveable cities in Africa
1. CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, let alone Africa, having already won a number of prestigious international travel awards. It’s where most people in South Africa wish they lived. It possesses all of the amenities and sophistication of a urban area, yet the pace is decidedly relaxed, with the city being nestled between the ocean and the mountains, creating an ideal mix of work and play. A short drive away and you can find yourself in one of the hundreds of vineyards that produce some of the world’s top wines. While summers (October–April) are lovely, winters can be dreary with much fog, rain, and wind. That’s why some would prefer to call Cape Town the “Windy City”—it’s in fact known at the “Mother City” and is the caretaker of the insurance and now burgeoning digital sector. It’s also where you’ll find the advertising execs and creatives, with many retailers and fashion designers headquartered there. Housing options vary, from Tuscan-styled homes (a trend seen across the country), funky “SoHo”-style downtown lofts, and gated urban estates. While crime rates remain high, security is generally considered to be less of a concern than in Johannesburg, and is evidenced through the conspicuous absence of the ubiquitous high walls and electric fences on each and every home as seen in some parts of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Like many 2010 World Cup host cities, Cape Town’s public transport infrastructure was given a boost, primarily through the MyCiTi rapid bus service. Routes are still limited though, so unless you’re willing to commute via railway or chance the minivan taxis, it still is the kind of city where it’s best to have your own car to get around.
2. ACCRA, GHANA
In addition to being a wonderful urban home for roughly 20 percent of Ghana’s 20 million total population, Accra has become the leisure destination of choice for upscale Nigerians who take a quick 45-minute flight to spend time at their Accra weekend homes. Ghana’s capital city is a sophisticated urban area, with a full range of restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and increasingly, shopping malls. There are many affluent areas, including East Legon—the location of the city’s only traditional shopping complex, Accra Mall. Another popular option is Osu, locally referred to as “Oxford Street”, where many go to shop and hang out. The downtown area has seen much development over the last decade and the range of serviced high rise apartments makes it an easy location to set up home quickly. The warmth of the Ghanaian people is an asset and is an important part of what attracts Nigerians to want to spend their leisure time here. The tropical climate makes it all the more appealing. Things are changing for the better, and fast. Many citizens who left to the West are returning home, bringing with them enthusiasm, fresh ideas, and degrees from top universities abroad. Coupled with the government’s commitment to Investing proceeds into social and physical infrastructure, one can only imagine that Accra will become even more liveable in the years to come.
3. NAIROBI, KENYA
Nairobi is fast becoming the African city of choice for multinational companies seeking a foothold for their African operations. Nairobi is a gracious city that possesses much of the sophistication of the large South African cities, but provides these offerings in a “kinder and gentler” way. General Electric and the Rockefeller Foundation recently chose Nairobi to anchor the African operations, so too the likes of China’s CCTV news broadcaster. While there is some tension surrounding the upcoming elections, the government is generally considered stable. Housing options include many comfortable suburban style homes at affordable prices relative to other African cities, often with a reasonable amount of land. Apartment compounds have also sprung up in recent years, many with the comforts of swimming pools and fitness centres. The technology industry offers much promise, and internet connectivity is considered tone he best on the continent today. Getting around remains tricky. Best to buy your own vehicle though with import taxes, it’s fairly expensive. Other options that offer quite an experience include the mini-bus matatu to boda-boda motorcycle taxi—both mainly used by locals
4. GABORONE, BOTSWANA
Though young—having only gained independence from Britain in the 1960s—Gaborone has flourished. Politically stable and economically buoyant, Botswana’s capital is considered to be a peaceful city. It’s likely partly due to it being small in size, with a population of just over 230,000, but still offers a diverse mix of people, and places to see. Gabs, as it is popularly known, is located in a country known for being one of the world’s largest producers of rough diamonds. The precious stone continues to play a major role in the city’s development. Just recently, leading diamond producer de Beers announced it would be moving some of its operations to the sub-Saharan country from London. Apart from diamonds, the economy is also driven by its beef exports, the majority of which is sold in Europe as well as the growing tourism industry. The development of modern sports facilities saw the city successfully hosting the Africa Junior Athletics Championships in 2011. Gaborone is also well connected to South Africa’s capital, Pretoria. It’s strategic location means that you’ll find South African stores in Gaborone’s many large malls. It shares many similarities with its neighbour, though is considered to be somewhat safer.
5. LIBREVILLE, GABON
Modern and vibrant, the country’s largest city is home to just over half a million people. They’re young (nationally, half are 19 and younger) and urbanized. School enrollment rate in Gabon is over 70 percent and literacy is close to 90 percent. In Libreville, it’s over 63 percent, which translates into a most capable service staff in restaurants, hotels, and shops. The French influence extends beyond being the official language, providing for a very stylish city that boasts a grand boulevard with beautiful architecture and monuments. This city on the beach makes the transition from work to play very easy. The country recently hosted the African Cup of Nations. Preparation for the sporting event saw increased government Investment in improving roads and other public spaces. More property development projects are also popping up across the city to keep up with rapid urbanization. Oil has been the main driver of economic growth here, but with reserves declining, there’s increased efforts to investment in other mining production projects. Away from the mines, you’re spoilt with vast natural landscapes. The country’s government made a commitment a decade ago to set aside more than 10 percent of total land for national parks and nature reserves. Close to Libreville, there’s the Akanda National Park, one the more than a dozen across the country that helped it become a popular eco-tourist destination.
6. TUNIS, TUNISIA
A lot has changed here since the Arab Spring unrest started nearly two years ago. While unemployment remains a concern and the new government still works toward stabilizing the economy, the smallest country in North Africa is becoming one of the fastest developing., There’s a rich diversity in the culture here—African, Arab and European. Along modern infrastructure, the old world remains through the Medina of Tunis, one of the first Arabo-Muslim towns, and now also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People live long—there’s a life expectancy of 74.6 years. It might have something to do with the picturesque setting of the Mediterranean Sea as a backdrop. People here are happy too, says the Happy Planet Index (HPI). Measuring sustainable well-being, Tunisia was named the second happiest place in Africa (after Algeria). Once on the wealthiest cities in the Muslim world, Tunisia’s capital is now also considered to be the least expensive city (for expats) in the region. Getting around is fairly easy with the extensive rail network that links the capital to other parts of the country.
8. DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA
Dar es Salaam is a rapidly growing city, from the new infrastructural projects to its people, literally. With an annual population increase of over three percent each year, it’s the third fastest growing city in Africa—and one of the fastest in the world! It also has a large expatriate community. Though no longer the country’s capital, Dar es Salaam is the largest city in Tanzania and remains the political and economic hub. There has been great Investment in education here, with an extensive programme to provide free primary schooling, efforts that were lauded by international bodies when enrolment rates reached over 90 percent. There’s also the Institute of Technology (DIT), one of the leading institutions providing technical training in the region. There’s also plans to revamp the neglected railway transport network. Millions has also been spent over the past five years to improve the cities roads, making travelling a lot more efficient. Situated close to the equator, the city enjoys tropical conditions for most of the year. Though Dar es Salaam has its own magnificent beaches (including many exclusive resorts), the island of Zanzibar is also just a short ferry ride away.