The 20 Worst Places to Live in Africa

Nouakchott, Mauritania

Africa is a continent of extremes. Many consider it to be one of the most beautiful and exciting places on earth, with breathtaking beaches, sweeping savannahs, spectacular displays of wildlife, enticing cuisine, thrilling cities, and vibrant cultures. But there’s another side to the story. Some of its countries rank as the poorest in the world. Draught, famine, economic instability, and civil war can turn even the most beautiful country into a no-go zone, and that’s certainly been the case in some of Africa’s most beleaguered nations. In some of its cities and rural areas, crime and poverty are endemic. The gulf between the rich and the poor continues to grow, and terrorist attacks and armed conflict pose a constant threat. Obviously, that’s not the case everywhere. Africa is home to some truly excellent places to live. Unfortunately, it’s also home to these 20 worst places to live in Africa.

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

20. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Over the past decade, Ethiopia’s capital city has been going through a building boom. New skyscrapers are going up, the city limits are being extended, and everywhere you look, there’s a new building to catch your eye. But while the infrastructure may be entering a new period of prosperity, precious little else is. Social friction between the government and citizens is running high, many people are living in extreme poverty, and the escalating cost of living is creating an ever greater gulf between the haves and the have nots. All in all, it’s not a place you’d want to spend much time.

Douala, Cameroon

19. Douala, Cameroon

Douala leaves a lot to be desired. According to How Africa News, its education system is unimpressive, its infrastructure is in desperate need of modernization, and its healthcare system requires urgent attention. The picture isn’t all bad – it’s one of the richest cities in the region – but the situation has worsened in recent years as increased political instability, a worsening humanitarian crisis, and an ever growing threat from the Islamic militant group, Boko Haram, has turned the formerly stable Cameroon into an increasingly troubled country.

Rustenburg City, South Africa

18. Rustenburg City, South Africa

If low crime is a priority, keep well away from Rustenburg City in South Africa. Carjackings, kidnappings, hijackings, and even outbreaks of political violence are all commonplace, leaving residents open and vulnerable regardless of how safety-minded they are. There might be worse places to live in Africa, but there are many, many better places too.

Tripoli, Libya

17. Tripoli, Libya

After the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, the capital of Libya fell to rack and ruin. Tripoli, once a proud, vibrant city, is now one of the least livable places in the world. Crime and corruption are rife. Poverty is everywhere. Women are becoming increasingly at risk of harassment and economic displacement. Armed fighting and terrorist attacks are a constant threat. If you value your safety, your security, your financial well being and your happiness, you’ll do what state.gov recommends and stay well away.

Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

16. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

As the capital of Kwa-Zulu-Natal Province, Pietermaritzburg is a big, sprawling city that has a reputation few cities would admire. Economic inequality is a major problem. Corruption is rife. The crime is out of control. Xenophobic attacks, robberies, drug dealing, car theft, rapes, assaults, homicides… if there’s an activity that’s likely to get you a jail sentence and a news headline, there’s a very good chance it’s happening in Pietermaritzburg.

Bangui, Central African Republic

15. Bangui, Central African Republic

What makes Bangui such a terrible place to live? For a start, the poverty level. Suffice to say, it’s extreme. Then there’s the political tension. Following the 2013 rebellion, half of the city’s residents fled their homes. As many as 600,000 now Iive in poorly funded refugee camps around the city. Human trafficking and exploitation are rife. Even the weather is no friend to the city, with torrential flooding over the last two decades leaving many in crisis.

Durban, South Africa

14. Durban, South Africa

As thesouthafrican.com notes, six cities in South Africa have made the list of the world’s most dangerous places to live. Durban has the misfortune of being one of them. Economically, it’s in a good place thanks to its status as the biggest commodity port in Sub-Saharan Africa. But there’s more to life than riches, especially when those riches are as unevenly distributed as they are here. The crime rate is so high, even taking basic precautions like avoiding nighttime travel and keeping your car doors locked in slow-moving traffic isn’t enough to protect you.

Lagos, Nigeria

13. Lagos, Nigeria

According to premiumtimesng.com, Lagos ranks as the second least liveable city in the world. The only worse city on the liveability scale is war-torn Damascus in Syria. In addition to high crime, poor healthcare, widespread corruption, and blanket censorship, the city’s stability is under continued threat from groups like Boko Haram. The city’s street gangs (or “area boys,” as they prefer to be called) are known as some of the most violent and unlawful gangs around. Pirates regularly invade waterfront compounds by boat, and it’s not uncommon to see armed robbers scaling perimeter fences. All in all, there are far, far better places to live.

N’Djamena, Chad

12. N’Djamena, Chad

According to naijaquest.com, the city of N’Djamena in Chad ranks as one of the poorest cities in Africa. If poverty was the only thing it had to worry about, it would be bad enough. Unfortunately, the dire economic situation is compounded by an increasing crime rate and the continued threat of terrorist organizations like Boka Haram.

Cape Town, South Africa

11. Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town may be South Africa’s legislative center, but that hasn’t stopped it from turning into one of the country’s most dangerous places to live. Even the short walk from your car to your front door puts you at risk of mugging, assault, or something worse. Drug dealing, gang violence, and vandalism are all rife, while the homicide rate is no one’s idea of acceptable. Factor in extreme economic inequality and corruption, and it’s easy to see what makes Cape Town one of the worst places to live in Africa.

Conakry, Guinea Republic

10. Conakry, Guinea Republic

Conakry may serve as the economic, financial, and cultural center of Guinea, but that doesn’t make it appealing. Blighted by crime, political instability, economic uncertainty, human rights violations, and corruption, the city offers anything but a fun time.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

9. Port Elizabeth, South Africa

It may be known as the “Windy City” in recognition of its windy coastal climate, but a strong breeze is the least you have to worry about in Port Elizabeth. Despite its rich culture and reputation as an educational hotspot, Port Elizabeth is a dangerous, crime-riddled city where murders, muggins, and assaults are common occurrences. It may offer plenty in the way of recreation, but unless you can turn a blind eye to the crime level, you’ll never get much rest if you make it your home.

Khartoum, Sudan

8. Khartoum, Sudan

Khartoum has long been a center of political upheaval. In 2008, it became the epicenter of combat between the Justice and Equality Movement and the government during the Darfur War. In 2019, more than 100 people were killed during the Khartoum massacre. Even outside of such major events, life in the city is grim. Over 26 percent of residents live in extreme poverty, while even those above the breadline have very little to their name.

Luanda, Angola

7. Luanda, Angola

As Angola’s capital and largest city, Luanda serves as the county’s industrial, cultural and urban center. It’s got museums, galleries, restaurants, offices, and attractions to spare. Unfortunately, it’s also got enough crime to turn your hair white. Walking the streets at night is something even the most street-wise local would balk at. Certain areas such as Rua Nehru, the Rua Houari Boumedienne, and the Rua Gamal Abdel Nasser are practically no-go zones, regardless of the time of day. Carjackings are common, with the result that anyone who cracks a window in slow-moving traffic is basically asking for trouble. Add to that a sky-high poverty rate, and it’s clear that whatever else Luanda is, a good place to live it isn’t.

Pretoria, South Africa

6. Pretoria, South Africa

Pretoria may enjoy a reputation as South Africa’s education hub. It may be home to the very excellent Tshwane University of Technology (TUT), the University of Pretoria (UP), and the University of South Africa (UNISA). It might even boast several world-class research centers (including the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the Human Sciences Research Council). But if you value your child’s safety, you’ll think twice about letting them study here. Why? Because Pretoria ranks as the third most dangerous city, not just in South Africa, not just in Africa, but in the entire world.

Brazzaville, Democratic Republic Of Congo

5. Brazzaville, Democratic Republic Of Congo

Over 1.8 million people live in Brazzaville, easily making it the largest city in the Democratic Republic Of Congo. Assumedly, a lot of those people have their reasons for being there, but it isn’t easy to see what they are. Despite having immense natural resources, Congo has slipped from being a middle-income country in the 1980s to one of the poorest countries in Africa today. Around 70 percent of Brazzaville’s population live on just $2 a day. The problems don’t end there. The health system is overwhelmed, the infrastructure is badly in need of investment, education standards are lousy, and even the electricity supply is unstable.

Nairobi, Kenya

4. Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi is the hub of Kenya’s economy, attracting hundreds of multinationals and foreign investors. It’s energetic, it’s modern, it’s got wildlife on its doorstep, nightlife in its downtown, and a culture and magic all of its own. The problem? Crime. The U.S. Department of State has assessed Nairobi as being a critical threat location. Basically, that means that snatch and grab thefts, pickpocketing, kidnappings, armed carjackings, assaults, murders, burglaries, and a whole lot more besides are a serious and constant concern. In the east of the city, terror-related incidents are a threat. In its slums (particularly Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa), poverty has added an extra level of desperation to affairs. For those who value safety, the advice is clear: stay away.

Benghazi, Libya

3. Benghazi, Libya

Named by WorldAtlas as one of the most dangerous cities in Africa, Benghazi is about as far from a good place to live as it’s possible to get. After Muammar Gaddafi was ousted from power in 2011, the country descended into civil war. The war may now be over, but in Benghazi, the effects are still being felt. Crime is high and growing higher by the data. Poverty is widespread, and the situation for women in particular is becoming increasingly desperate. If you have any choice in the matter, it’s best to steer clear.

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Of Congo

2. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Of Congo

With a population of 15 million, Kinshasa is one of the biggest cities in Africa. It’s also one of the most troubled. Over 30 percent of its residents live in poverty, something that’s in no way helped by the tribal conflict that continues to blight the country. Poor infrastructure, an underfunded, underdeveloped health care system and rising crime levels add to the grim picture.

Nouakchott, Mauritania

1. Nouakchott, Mauritania

The huge, sun-bleached landscape of Mauritania might look like something out of a movie, but there’s nothing remotely glamorous or starry about its poverty, food shortages, droughts, non-existent infrastructure, or overburdened health care system. The country is also facing an increasing threat from militant terrorist groups. Although the situation is grim across the entire country, the escalating tensions caused by the deteriorating economic situation are most noticeable in the capital city of Nouakchott. Unless high crime, soaring poverty levels, and crumbling services are your idea of fun, stay well away.

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