Thinking of taking your family on an adventure, immersing yourself in a new culture, or taking on a new business venture in Africa? Here are the 16 most livable cities in Africa to do it in.
Sources: huffingtonpost.com, cnn.com, counterpunch.com, whc.unesco.org, madote.com
This article was first published on Aug. 15, 2014.
Cape Town has won several international awards and boasts all the luxuries and amenities of the best urban areas around the world. Located between the ocean and the mountains, the city is awash in hiking and water sports, plus it’s near hundreds of vineyards that produce some of the world’s best wines. Cape Town is the center for the insurance and digital sectors in Africa and recently, the city’s public transportipon underwent some impressive improvements.
Accra is a weekend-getaway destinations for privileged Nigerians and understandably so, for its vibrant culinary scene, nightlife, and world class shopping. There are several affluent areas including East Legon—home of the famous Accra Mall—and Osu, often called “Oxford Street” for its high-end shops. Comfortable high rises are available throughout the shopping districts, and the tropical climate makes this a joy of a place to live.
Recently, several multinational companies have opened up branches in Nairobi, including Rockefeller Foundation, General Electric and China’s CCTV news broadcaster. As for the housing options, there are spacious suburban-style homes at prices quite affordable compared to other African cities, as well as luxury apartment complexes with swimming pools and fitness centers. Nairobi has a promising technology industry and reputably some of the best Internet connectivity in Africa.
Johannesburg is home to one of the best airports in the developed world—O.R. Tambo International Airport— and a compact central business district with scores of stores and restaurants. Recently, the government invested in building up the inner city, and today you’ll find cleaner streets and renovated buildings. The city is also home to world-class malls like Sandton City and Eastgate. When you’re craving some fresh air, Johannesburg claims the title to having the largest man-made forest in the world.
The capital of Botswana enjoys political stability and economic strength—partly because it is one of the largest rough diamond producers in the world. The economy is also driven by beef exports — most of which are marketed throughout Europe — and a rapidly growing tourism industry. Thanks to the development of modern sports facilities, Gaborone played host to the Africa Junior Athletics Championships in 2011.
Libreville is a young city with more than half the population under age 20. Literacy rates are extremely high, which means it has some of the most competent service staff in every type of business. Libreville also enjoys a strong French influence, some of which you’ll find in the stunning architecture and monuments. And the beach makes this an easy place to have fun on weekends. Property development is cropping up across the city, but still, you’re never far from gorgeous natural landscapes. In fact, the government puts aside 10 percent of total land for national parks and natural reserves.
Tunisia may be one of the smallest countries in North Africa, but it’s seeing a lot of development. Recently, its gross domestic product grew by 4 percent, with a steady increase in manufacturing. Tunis is a city with strong French ties, but it’s culturally diverse. In fact it is one of the first Arabo-Muslim towns and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Life expectancy is remarkably high here, with the average person living to 74.6 years old. This could be because Tunis was ranked the second-happiest place in Africa.
Dar es Salaam sees a annual population increase of 3 percent, making it the third fastest-growing African city. The city is Tanzania’s political and economic hub and in recent years has seen great investment in education. A program that provides free primary schooling has driven enrollment rates up to more than 90 percent. Dar es Salaam is home to the University of Dar es Salaam, the largest and oldest Tanzanian public university, as well as the Institute of Technology. Located near the equator, the city enjoys tropical weather most of the year.
From the language to the architecture, German culture has greatly influenced Windhoek. Windhoek has a small-town feel, but is also home to nearly every national government institution, making it Namibia’s political, cultural, social and economic capital. Windhoek is famous for its beer—Windhoek Lager is sold abroad in more than 20 countries. The old brewery, still located in the city’s business district, today hosts trendy restaurants, bars and shops.
Loacted in the heart of Rwanda, Kigali is home to nearly 1 million people, many of whom are expats. There are two main scenes here: the old, and the new modern structures popping up in the central business district. The new Kigali Tower, a 20-floor office and retail complex, has had a lot of buzz. The country’s diverse wildlife is also buzzworthy—Rwanda is home to rare mountain gorillas.
While the city’s Paris-of-North-Africa reputation was born out of a painful colonial past, the visual splendor of Europe-meets-Arab World is fascinating. Algiers hosts beaches, sun, a thriving café life, and a buoyant economy for expats and employees living abroad. And if it’s your thing, the city is known for a socialist system where no class system is really stressed.
Situated in the Eastern Cape Province, Grahamstown — OK, it’s a town more than a city, but still — can be easily overlooked for the thriving multi-choiced appeal of Cape Town or Johannesburg. However, it’s a center for art, literature, academia (Rhodes University), and most notably, the National Arts Festival every summer. Also known as “City of Saints” because of its 40-plus religious buildings of various faiths, it is the only city in South Africa with education as its primary commerce sector. If you like studying, move to Grahamstown!
Many consider Ghanaians to be Africa’s friendliest people and the Ashanti, the friendliest of the friendly. Kumasi is in the Ashanti region. The Kejetia Market in the Kumasi city’s center is known as West Africa’s largest market with more than 10,000 stalls. Endless market shopping and friendly people make this a livable-sounding place. Kumasi is known as “The Garden City” because of its many beautiful plant and flower species.
Sure, there’s always the big-city life of Nairobi and Mombasa, but nestled along the Indian Ocean coastline is this UNESCO World Heritage site — a city with an easy seaside lifestyle. Antiquity is evident as well here. Lamu hosts the oldest and best-preserved old Swahili settlement in East Africa. Winding coral-stoned streets and donkey carts add to the allure.
Madote.com names this city “the safest in the world,” and although political problems and a great number of refugees abroad have stigmatized this country, there is said to be zero crime…ever. “The most dangerous thing that could happen to you in Asmara after dark was to stumble on a piece of broken paving” says Michela Wong, a British author. The city has beautiful architecture, a thriving Italian-Eritrean community from the colonial days, and is the country’s economic hub. Madote’s article with various testimonies can be found here.
Zimbabwe’s capital city has been named one of the least livable in the world, mostly on account of financial collapse a few years ago. However, a balancing effect — the move to call it one of Africa’s most livable cities — has been set off globally, according to Counterpunch. Lonely Planet calls it a “safe and laid-back city” with access to wildlife and a portal to Southern Africa. Not only does Harare boast the renowned University of Zimbabwe; it’s a hub for textiles, steel, and a trading center for citrus, tobacco, and many other African-grown products.