Ever dreamed of living and working abroad? Or are you finding it hard to find work where you currently live? Whatever your situation is, there are many opportunities out there, but also many barriers and difficulties. We at ELM don’t provide people with work, we aren’t an employment office. However, we do help people that move abroad looking for work, or those looking to enhance their international career with advice on the idiosyncrasies of each country that are relevant for succeeding abroad. We’ve helped au-pairs, professionals, students, and others by making their international adventure less daunting.
The last couple of weeks, the ELM Team have been writing a series of articles looking at the top cities to live and work abroad. We’ve already written about North America, South America, and Europe. Today we’ll be looking at the three top cities to live and work abroad in Africa. They are the South African cities of Cape Town, and Johannesburg, and Port Louis of Mauritius.
Introducing the three African cities
Cape Town is the most southern city of Africa, and one of the most multicultural cities in the world. The city attracts lots of immigrants and expats from all over the world, and is the main destination in Africa for people from abroad. Most people choose Cape Town over Johannesburg because of its proximity to the sea and beaches, and because it is considered a safer place to live.
Johannesburg is the largest city of South Africa, and is also the most populated city of the country with 3.9 million inhabitants, and more than 10 million if you take into account the metropolitan area. It is a very modern and wealthy African city, and serves as the country’s main economic and financial hub. Johannesburg was the only African city to make it to the top 50 of worldwide centres of commerce, in Mastercard’s survey.
Port Louis is the capital city of Mauritius, and has only about 150.000 inhabitants. It’s a beautiful coastal city in an island located east of Madagascar, bordering the Indian Ocean. Most of the city’s economy is driven by the city’s port, used mainly for international trade purposes. The weather is amazing throughout the year, rarely getting hotter than 30˚C, or colder than 15˚C.
Quality of Living in Africa
Africa has had many problems related to political and social instability, crime, corruption, and violence, since the time of European colonialism. Many places in Africa are not safe, and offer little to people looking for work abroad. However, let’s not paint all African cities with the same brush. The cities we have picked for this article offer a lot for internationally driven people and Mercer’s quality of living survey shows just that. All three cities score better than cities like Bogotá and Sao Paolo. Port Louis ranks the highest at 82, followed by Cape Town at 86. Johannesburg comes in last at 96.
Mercer takes into account many aspects that affect the quality of living. The ranking takes into account the political and social environment, the economic environment, health, recreation, education, natural environment, and housing.
Winner – Port Louis
Port Louis scores very well in Mercer’s survey. The city’s location is great for outdoor activities and sports. Many expats have good experiences in Port Louis. You can go to ExpatMauritius.com for more information. Make sure to check out the section about Expat Life.
Cost of Living in Africa
All three African cities are fairly cheap to live in and rank 100+. The most expensive of the three cities is Port Louis, which ranks at 132. Then comes Cape Town on the 151st position, and Johannesburg, being the cheapest of the three cities ranking at 171. We don’t think that the cost of living will be a major factor when choosing a city in Africa. In other continents, like Europe, where you settle can make a huge difference in terms of cost. In Africa, it is more important to focus on whether the location has an overall good quality of living, and whether there are good employment opportunities.
Winner – Johannesburg
The cheapest of the three cities is Johannesburg. When considering African cities for work or relocation, the cost of living might tip you one way or the other. But it shouldn’t be your prime concern.
Let’s start with Port Louis. The economy of Port Louis is strongly influenced and driven by its port. It handles almost all of Mauritius’ international trade, and serves as the centre point for the collection and storage of Mauritius’ raw materials. However, the island’s economy has slowly changed from being focused on the cultivation and exportation of sugarcane and other raw materials, to being focused on the tertiary sector, with 70% of Mauritius’ GDP generated by services. This highlights in many ways, Mauritius’ relatively highly educated workforce compared to other African countries. Mauritius is so small, that differentiating between its capital and the country is useless. Mauritius has about 1.3 million inhabitants, counting all four islands. Counting only the island with Port Louis you have a population of 1.25 million inhabitants. The GDP of Mauritius is around 11 billion Euros, which is expected to grow by about 4.5 percent in 2011. The unemployment rate in Mauritius is around 7.2 percent, as of March 2011. For more information about the economy of Mauritius, check out the country’s national investment promotion agency website.
Cape Town is the second major economic centre of South Africa, and the country’s major port. The port handles around 5 million tons of cargo every year, which makes transportation one of the important business sectors of the city. Other important industries in Cape Town are ship maintenance and repairing, wine production, fishery, tourism, and more recently IT, growing between 7 and 10 percent annually. The majority of job opportunities are found in the Cape Town Central Business District. The GDP of Cape Town is around 77 billion Euros (around 12 percent of the South African economy), which is expected to grow by 4.1 percent in 2011. The city’s unemployment lies between 16 and 18 percent, which is lower than the national average.
Johannesburg is the commercial, financial, and industrial centre of South Africa, and the country’s major contributor to GDP (16 percent). The city contains the major banks, and the major mining, insurance, construction, and retail companies. Johannesburg had one of the largest informal economies in the world, mostly run by street vendors, and traders. In 2007, Mastercard carried out a survey which showed the top 50 worldwide centres of commerce. Johannesburg was the only African city on Mastercard’s list, ranking at 47. Most of the major international companies like Google, IBM, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, have their headquarters in Johannesburg. This makes it attractive for those people that not only want to move to South Africa, but also work for one of the big multinationals. The GDP of Johannesburg is about 85 billion Euros, which is expected to grow by 3 to 4 percent in 2011. The unemployment rate in Johannesburg is around 40 percent, according to the Gauteng Planning Commission.
Winner – Cape Town
Both South African cities have bigger economic opportunities for people coming from abroad than Port Louis. However, the unemployment rate of Cape Town is far lower than in Johannesburg. Therefore, we believe Cape Town to be the best location in terms of economic environment.
Overall Winner – Cape Town
Cape Town does not attract many expats and foreign people for no reason. It is a far safer city than Johannesburg, which is one of the most important factors for people, and rightly so. It is also located close to the sea, and to the many beaches in the city’s vicinity. The quality of living is quite good in Cape Town, lagging only slightly behind Port Louis. In terms of economic activity, Cape Town is the second most important centre in South Africa, behind Johannesburg, but its lower unemployment rate is far lower. Overall, Cape Town is the best destination in Africa for people looking to live and work abroad.
Honorary Mention – Victoria, Seychelles
This week’s honorary mention is for those people looking for a real exotic location. Victoria, in the island of Mahé about 2000 kilometres east of the coast of Africa, is the capital and largest city of Seychelles. The city has 25000 inhabitants, and is one of the most beautiful locations in Africa. It ranks relatively well on the Mercer quality of living ranking, beating Johannesburg by one spot. Most of the economy of Victoria is based on tourism, and exports of local products, like coconut products, vanilla, tortoise shells, and soap. Probably not a great location for career driven people, but a lovely one for people that just want to get away to a relaxing lifestyle.
That’s all for this week. If you’ve liked this week’s article, you might be interested in looking at our other articles on North America, South America, and Europe. The ELM Team thanks everyone for sending us their recommendations and comments. Next week we’ll look at the best cities to live and work in Asia. Make sure not to miss it!
Joseph Cavanna, ELM Team