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Cost of Living - Africa October 2012

Africa: Cost of Living Rankings for October 2012


Which cities / countries drop in the ranking, and which moved up?

  • The biggest mover down the rankings is Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, which has dropped to become the 717th most expensive location in the world.
  • The biggest mover up the rankings is Zambia, which has risen to be the 285th most expensive location.


Reasons for this movement:

Malawi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has faced increasing economic challenges for a number of years. Youth unemployment and underemployment remain major challenges.  While inflation was in single-digits at an average 7.6% for 2011, prices are now rising faster. Food costs are rising due to seasonal variations, fuel shortages, and foreign exchange problems. While this has resulted in hardship for local employee's earning Malawi Kwacha, expatriates paid in US Dollars have experienced a real reduction in local prices. In September 2011 US $1 could buy MWK 160, today that has risen to over MWK 280, increasing expatriate purchasing power by 75% in one year. The latest benchmark rental for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is just $1,090 in a central location, and $698 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities. However not everything is cheap. Imported products have become much more expensive in local currency.

Zambia, which has risen to be the 285th most expensive location (slightly higher than average in global cost terms) is becoming more expensive mainly due to food inflation which is running at over 7%. Housing is expensive, especially on the copperbelt. Benchmark rental in Zambia for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is $2,840 in a central location, and $1,617 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities.

Xpatulator’s Cost of Living rankings are released every quarter and measure the comparative cost of living for expatriates in 780 cities, covering every country worldwide.  The cost of 13 basket groups with over 140 items are compared in each location, these include alcohol and tobacco, clothing, communication, education, furniture and appliances, groceries, healthcare, housing, personal care, recreation and culture, restaurants-meals-out and hotels, and transport.

Luanda as the most expensive city in Africa has an overall cost of living index of 131.69 compared to New York with an index of 100, and Tokyo with an index of 139.89. Luanda’s cost of living index is similar to cities such as Hong Kong, Caracas, and Yokohama.

Luanda is the most expensive city because most agriculture, manufacturing and basic services stopped and basic infrastructure including roads, railways, electricity lines and water supplies were badly damaged during the long civil war between 1975 and 2002. Before the civil war Angola was a major exporter of products like coffee and cotton, and was mostly food self-sufficient. Today Angola imports approximately 80% of its consumer goods.

While you can shop around to find better prices, most expatriates by groceries form international shops as the quality and hygiene may be risky at local shops. Until it becomes cheaper to make products locally the high cost of importing consumer goods will continue.

It is hoped that in the near future the extremely high rental costs will decrease when more housing becomes available and the gap between supply and demand for rental accommodation reduced.

Particularly expensive in Luanda are the following basket groups clothing, groceries, Recreation & Culture, Restaurants Meals Out and Hotels.

In Luanda the benchmark price for an international brand of men’s jeans is $113, men’s leather shoes suitable for office wear $188 while a medium size international summer dress from a global chain store is $178. Groceries are very expensive. For example in a major international retail store 1 kg apples costs on average $10.03, oranges $12.54, 1 kg boneless, skinless, chicken breast $15.05, and 1 kg cheddar cheese $20.69. Eating out is also extremely expensive. A cappuccino (regular, medium) averages $4.37, coke/pepsi (330ml) $3.87, burger meal (international franchise or similar) $13.82, and a meal out (for 2 mid-range restaurant) $85.94. Rent for a secure upmarket unfurnished apartment (3 bedrooms) is $7,103 on average in a central location, and $3,611 in a suburban location, per month, excluding utilities.

To provide an assignee, sent from a low cost of living country to a more expensive country, with a similar purchasing power to what they have in their home country, requires an adjustment to their assignment salary.  The amount of adjustment depends on which country they come from. The larger the difference in cost of living, the larger the adjustment required to ensure a similar level of purchasing power in the host country.


The below ranking shows the overall Cost of Living Rankings in Africa by city:

  1. Angola, Luanda
  2. Nigeria, Abuja
  3. Congo Democratic Rep, Kinshasa
  4. Nigeria, Lagos
  5. Nigeria, Kano
  6. Nigeria, Ibadan
  7. Mozambique, Maputo
  8. Sudan, Khartoum
  9. Central African Republic, Bangui
  10. Ghana, Accra
  11. Sierra Leone, Freetown
  12. Zambia, Lusaka
  13. Eritrea, Asmara
  14. Saint Helena, Jamestown
  15. Djibouti, Djibouti
  16. Guinea, Conakry
  17. Equatorial Guinea, Malabo
  18. Liberia, Monrovia
  19. Tanzania, Zanzibar
  20. Gabon, Libreville
  21. Senegal, Dakar
  22. Chad, N'Djamena
  23. Benin, Cotonou
  24. Tanzania, Dar es Salaam
  25. Cape Verde, Praia
  26. Guinea-Bissau, Bissau
  27. Togo, Lome
  28. Libya, Tripoli
  29. Comoros, Moroni
  30. Congo, Brazzaville
  31. Somalia, Mogadishu
  32. Zimbabwe, Harare
  33. South Africa, Johannesburg
  34. Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou
  35. South Africa, Pretoria
  36. South Africa, Bloemfontein
  37. Niger, Niamey
  38. Libya, Benghazi
  39. Uganda, Kampala
  40. South Africa, Cape Town
  41. Kenya, Nairobi
  42. Mali, Bamako
  43. Namibia, Windhoek
  44. Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
  45. Cameroon, Douala
  46. South Africa, Durban
  47. Botswana, Gaborone
  48. Mauritius, Port Louis
  49. Burundi, Bujumbura
  50. Malawi, Lilongwe
  51. Egypt, Gizeh
  52. Gambia, Banjul
  53. South Africa, Port Elizabeth
  54. Cote D'Ivoire, Abidjan
  55. Madagascar, Antananarivo
  56. Swaziland, Mbabane
  57. Lesotho, Maseru
  58. Cameroon, Yaounde
  59. Rwanda, Kigali
  60. Seychelles, Victoria
  61. Morocco, Fez
  62. Egypt, Cairo
  63. Egypt, Alexandria
  64. Mauritania, Nouakchott
  65. Kenya, Mombasa
  66. Morocco, Rabat
  67. Morocco, Marrakech
  68. Algeria, Algiers
  69. Morocco, Casablanca
  70. Tunisia, Tunis


The below ranking shows the Cost of Living Rankings in Africa by city excluding housing, education, healthcare and transport basket groups:

  1. Angola, Luanda
  2. Central African Republic, Bangui
  3. Eritrea, Asmara
  4. Nigeria, Lagos
  5. Congo Democratic Rep, Kinshasa
  6. Nigeria, Abuja
  7. Nigeria, Kano
  8. Nigeria, Ibadan
  9. Sudan, Khartoum
  10. Sierra Leone, Freetown
  11. Congo, Brazzaville
  12. Chad, N'Djamena
  13. Senegal, Dakar
  14. Liberia, Monrovia
  15. Djibouti, Djibouti
  16. Togo, Lome
  17. Gabon, Libreville
  18. Niger, Niamey
  19. Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou
  20. Somalia, Mogadishu
  21. Burundi, Bujumbura
  22. Guinea-Bissau, Bissau
  23. Comoros, Moroni
  24. Guinea, Conakry
  25. Benin, Cotonou
  26. Cameroon, Douala
  27. Mali, Bamako
  28. Mozambique, Maputo
  29. Equatorial Guinea, Malabo
  30. Saint Helena, Jamestown
  31. Tanzania, Zanzibar
  32. Rwanda, Kigali
  33. Cameroon, Yaounde
  34. Namibia, Windhoek
  35. Zimbabwe, Harare
  36. Libya, Benghazi
  37. Ghana, Accra
  38. Kenya, Nairobi
  39. Cape Verde, Praia
  40. Zambia, Lusaka
  41. Libya, Tripoli
  42. Kenya, Mombasa
  43. Egypt, Gizeh
  44. Madagascar, Antananarivo
  45. South Africa, Pretoria
  46. Cote D'Ivoire, Abidjan
  47. Ethiopia, Addis Ababa
  48. Seychelles, Victoria
  49. Tanzania, Dar es Salaam
  50. Botswana, Gaborone
  51. Mauritania, Nouakchott
  52. South Africa, Johannesburg
  53. Lesotho, Maseru
  54. Malawi, Lilongwe
  55. South Africa, Cape Town
  56. Uganda, Kampala
  57. Morocco, Marrakech
  58. Gambia, Banjul
  59. Egypt, Alexandria
  60. Egypt, Cairo
  61. Mauritius, Port Louis
  62. South Africa, Durban
  63. South Africa, Bloemfontein
  64. Morocco, Rabat
  65. South Africa, Port Elizabeth
  66. Swaziland, Mbabane
  67. Morocco, Fez
  68. Algeria, Algiers
  69. Morocco, Casablanca
  70. Tunisia, Tunis

Head of Client and Marketing Services Denise McManus comments that: “Moving to Africa can be an exciting yet daunting prospect, you need to plan this move with the knowledge that your salary will cover your cost of living with the purchasing power you are used to.  This is where we come in, we provide the information that multinational companies and the man on the street can use to calculate the salary that the employee needs to earn to maintain their purchasing power.  More people are being deployed to work in Africa than we have seen in the past.  Corporations therefore need to ensure cost effective ways of deploying staff ensuring that they stay within their business strategy and budget and at the same time ensuring that the salaries offered reflect the difference in the cost of living between the home and host country. In these volatile markets and with the stunted economic growth in many countries this is no mean feat.  The Calculators we offer, ensure that the employee is adequately compensated for the move and will therefore be agreeable to an expatriate assignment.”

“Africa is a growing market with many employees being deployed to work throughout the continent, it does however have its own set of hardships and the cost of living for expatriates is extremely high.”

New York City is used as the base for the cost of living index rankings and the US dollar is used as the base currency. The cost of living data collected is representative of an expatriate lifestyle, where the local prices for fixed quantities of the same good and services at or near each location, and US dollar exchange rates are used.  Prices in each location are affected by availability (i.e. supply and demand) as well as local pricing regulations and taxes on goods and services (e.g. premiums on luxury goods).  Local inflation is usually representative of local price increases, which in turn impacts an expatriates purchasing power in the host country.  The exchange rate impacts both the price of imports to the host country and the expatriate assignment salary calculation between the home and the host country.  The cost of living has a significant impact on the purchasing power of an expatriate’s salary package.

This article may be freely copied as long as reference is made to http://www.xpatulator.com/