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Africa’s most costly cities to live in 2019

The African continent has experienced strong growth since 2000, leading to a so-called “rising Africa”, and this growth appears to have rubbed off on its cities as quite a number continue to rank high in cost of living surveys and are becoming costly for expatriates to live in, according to Mercer, a global human resources consulting firm, and other agencies

1. N’Djamena

Chad’s largest city, has been named as the most expensive city in Africa for expatriates. Despite remaining the highest-ranking city in Africa, N’Djamena dropped to the 11th position in the world.

Mercer says it made use of exchange rate figures (as at March 2019) and its international basket of goods and services from its Cost of Living Survey as base measurements for the ranking. The rankings also determined by measuring the comparative costs of more than 200 items in each place, including everything from housing and transportation, to food, clothing, and entertainment.

2. Kinshasa

The Capital of Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is also ranked high as one of the world’s most expensive locations for expatriates. To ensure that an employee’s spending power is maintained when they are sent on international assignment, a cost of living allowance is often provided as part of the pay package.

This allowance will be affected by differences in inflation levels as well as exchange rate movements between the employee’s home and host country. Kinshasa rose by 26 places over the past five years to top the global rankings in 2016.

3. Libreville

Capital and largest city of Gabon, Libreville is a choice expat destination in the region. Companies settled here offer job opportunities to foreign professionals at top management level, in human resources or administrative positions. Expatriates understanding or mastering French will make the most of their experience, enjoying all the city has to offer although the cost of living is ever increasing.

Mecer Report 2019 has ranked it 24th in the world in terms of expatiate appreciation. Meals, housing, transportation and education are some of the most costly  stuff in Libreville with, for instance, a couple’s three course basic meal in the capital costing around 45,000 CFAs (Sh7,994.24).

4. Lagos

In comparison with other cities in the world, Lagos continues to remain attractive for foreign investments despite being one of the most expensive in Africa. Mercer’s survey finds that a number of factors, including currency fluctuations, cost of inflation for goods and services, and volatility in accommodation prices, contribute to the overall cost of expatriate packages for employees on international assignments. The Nigeria’s commercial hub is one of the choice cities for expatriates given its growing economy and developed infrastructure.

5. Luanda

As at 2017, Angola’s business capital was ranked the most expensive city in the world. The ECA International Report said Luanda, ranked sixth globally, was no longer the most expensive city in the world primarily because of a downward trend in the housing market and the depreciation of the local currency to the US dollar, making it more attractive for foreign investments and also cheaper for foreigners to live in.

The Angolan capital has appeared in the ECA International global ranking as the top five most expensive cities since 2012. The Angolan currency, the kwanza, is being overvalued which increases related costs while the continuing instability of the black market exchange rate has also pushed up the price of goods that are imported.

6. Victoria

Is the capital and largest city of Seychelles. The quality of life is very high – the prices of everything are over the top at least according to expatriates. Cost of living in Seychelles is 83.84 per cent higher than in Kenya. Rent in Seychelles is 189.30 per cent higher than in Kenya on average. 

The larger restaurants hit you with “value added tax” and that tax can be very hefty. Food costs are already expensive in most of the big restaurants thus a dent for most visitors. Housing and education are also some costly products for expatriates.

7. Abidjan

Life in Abidjan, the economic capital of Ivory Coast, is pretty expensive although compared to expats salary packages it is well affordable. Keep in mind that many things are imported thus the high prices. The country has none to almost zero manufacturing industry so everything is imported.

Housing prices are relatively high, especially, due to the lack of housing and the recent influx of expats. Areas such as Zone 4, Bietry, Marcory are amongst the most expensive since they are the expats’ favourite areas in the south.

Also in the north of Abidjan, you have neighbourhoods such as Cocody, 2 Plateaux, Riviera that are expensive and secure. At all times, you need to keep safety on your mind, this is why you will need also security guards.

8. Brazzaville

This capital city of Congo Republic was a relatively well-developed and thriving city before the civil war began in 1997. Although there is still some fighting in the rural areas, it is a safe city to visit, but the infrastructure has been run down. Brazzaville is a very expensive city, as you will find all kinds of things but almost four times the price in Dubai or elsewhere. 

Medical facilities are limited in the city. Patients in need of complex operations or procedures requiring more sophisticated equipment will need to be transferred to a hospital in another country. Expats moving to Brazzaville should ensure that they have comprehensive healthcare insurance. International schools are the preferred option for many expat families in the city.

9. Yaoundé

This West African city is ranked 27th in the World as the most expensive place to stay in by expatriates. Cost of living in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon, is 24 per cent more expensive than in Nairobi. 

For example, you would need at least Sh619,736 (3,493,046 Franc) in Yaoundé to maintain the same standard of living that you can have with Sh501,000 in Nairobi. Incidentally the city infrastructure is still a challenge and compared to Accra or Lagos it is still a far cry in terms of modern development.

10. Nairobi

It has become costly for expatriates to live in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital city compared to other African cities. A report by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Worldwide Cost of Living survey says the cost of living in Nairobi has risen 13 places compared to the previous year’s ranking, placing it at position 69 globally. The report is usually used by companies to help calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. Appreciation of Kenyan shilling against the US dollar leaves expatriates worse-off because it means less money for them after conversion to the local unit. The shilling gained by one per cent against the dollar, becoming the only African currency to strengthen against the greenback in 2018.

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