Cape Town has been rated as Africa’s most Liveable City, according to Africa.com‘s list of the Top 10 Most Liveable Cities in Africa. Coming in ahead of Accra, Ghana and Nairobi, Kenya, Cape Town is described as “one of the most beautiful cities in the world, let alone Africa”. Apart from the sophistication and amenties of being in an urban area, Cape Town’s public transport infrastructure is also acknowledged, in particular the MyCiTi bus system being rolled out.
Like many 2010 World Cup host cities, Cape Town’s public transport infrastructure was given a boost, primarily through the MyCiTi rapid bus service. Routes are still limited though, so unless you’re willing to commute via railway or chance the minivan taxis, it still is the kind of city where it’s best to have your own car to get around.
Lists and rankings of this nature are often controversial, with the perceived biases against non-English speaking cities in the Economist Intelligence Units’s liveable city rankings, and other broader measures like Quality of Life and Cost of living considered in the Monocle and Mercer City Surveys.
In response to the rankings of the most liveable cities in Africa, a blog called African Urbanism has questioned, in particular Accra’s position as the second most Liveable city. In an article entitled “How do we measure livability in African Cities?”, the author argues that less focus should be placed on attracting tourists and expats and more focus given to the daily lives of residents in a city. She states: “I also am a bit uncomfortable with the distinct emphasis on these cities as travel/relocation destinations (and leaving out any emphasis of these cities’ livability from the perspective of residents already living there).”
In cities like Accra, the author argues that economics and social conditions present for a resident can entirely define their livability or experience of livability. “One of the challenges for measuring cities’ livability is that in African cities like Accra or Lagos, the very livability of a city depends on one’s socioeconomic status, which in turn determines access to transportation, services, housing – which have concrete impacts on quality of life.”
So while rankings may provide a guide to a batch of cities, which offer a particular standard of living to residents and tourists, the path towards a liveable city for all residents should remain a priority. In a city like Cape Town with vast in equalities, elements like access to basic services, which has vastly improved in the last decade, define the starting point, not only of liveability, but of the constitutional rights of citizens to access water and sanitation services and so forth. Tracking the daily life of as many different citizens as possible provides a guide as to the areas in which a city can make significant differences or changes with tangible results. Consider a dark and dangerous path from a rail station to the home of a resident, which with better lighting and a more vibrant public realm can almost immediately shift the liveability of the journey home for the individual, and in fact most of their day, especially if a large amount of time is spent commuting.
It is likely that the debate around Liveability will go on, but we should not shy away from the various perspectives, as they may well help cities create their own, citizen-driven definition for what makes their city a great place to live, work, study, play and do business in.
1. Cape Town, South Africa
2. Accra, Ghana
3. Nairobi Kenya,
4. Johannesburg, South Africa
‘5. Gaborone, Botswane
6. Libreville, Gabon
7. Tunis, Tunisia
8. Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
10. Kigali, Rwanda
Image courtesy of Tsai Design