Saturday, July 30, 2011

Locals pay the ex-pat price

Luanda, Angola, is the world’s most expensive city in the world for expatriates. The survey’s designed for companies who want to do business in other countries, and need to factor in the costs of sending staff there. It measures things like the rent of a three-bedroom villa in an adequately secure environment, the cost of sending a child to an international school and the price of a meal in a good restaurant. The figures that inform the report would be completely alien to most of Luanda’s residents, who live below the poverty datum line. At an astonishing third in the world, is N’Djamena, the dusty Chadian capital, followed by Gabon’s Libreville at 12th place, Niger’s Niamey at 23rd. Johannesburg comes in at a distant 131st in the world, while Cape Town is only 158th.

Clearly, the costs outlined in the survey are about scarcity rather than quality. The top African cities in the list manage to combine severe poverty with extensive resource wealth, primarily through oil. As a result of this poverty, housing good enough for foreign marketing managers and their families is in short supply, allowing landlords to simply obey the laws of economics and jack the prices up as high as they possibly can go. Coupled with this is the fact that the types of corporations that operate in these oil-rich environments are multinationals extracting billions of dollars of local resources. When you’re dealing with figures this big, it becomes almost irrelevant whether their employees live in houses that cost R9,000 or $90,000 a month.

As foreign expatriates and the money which underpins them push prices of top end goods and services, so the local elites – who eat in the same restaurants and compete for the same properties – are forced to spend more and more. And to spend, they must earn. As elite salaries rise, so the inequality gap between the vast majority of the country and the few who have made it to the top gets wider and wider. In Luanda, it’s not unusual to see Porsche’s whiz through sprawling shanty towns, their drivers on their way to a top hotel for a R1,000 meal while onlookers ponder how to feed their families on the R10 they earned that day.

Top Ten most expensive African cities for expatriates

Luanda, Angola
N’Djamena, Chad
Libreville, Gabon
Niamey, Niger
Victoria, Seychelles
Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Djibouti, Djibouti
Lagos, Nigeria
Dakar, Senegal

From here

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