LUANDA, Angola – Luanda, Angola is the most expensive city in the world, yet is stricken with one of the highest poverty rates. Luanda achieved the title from its huge oil boom and consequent price surges, thanks to the foreign workers entering the city for oil opportunities.
Mercer’s Cost of Living Survey ranked Luanda the number one city in the world with the highest living costs for nonnatives in 2013 and 2014. The survey analyzes 211 cities across five continents, identifying the relative prices of over 200 products in each location; this includes household goods, entertainment, housing, transportation, food and clothing. The purpose of this list is to provide multinational companies and governments the optimal compensation budgets for their nonnative employees. Mercer’s survey also uses New York City as a reference point so that all other cities are compared to it.
To put it in perspective, a two-bedroom apartment in a luxury building costs $7,000 USD per month, while in New York, the same apartment costs $4,300. A music CD in Luanda costs $28 versus $15.99 in New York, and an international newspaper in Luanda costs $4.78 while it costs a mere $2.50 in the Big Apple. Further, a $76 pair of US Nike sneakers costs $135 in Luanda, and a bottle of Coca Cola in Luanda costs $5.69, while it costs $2.04 in New York.
ECA International also ranked Luanda as number seven in the newest list of the world’s most expensive cities.
With a history covering decades long in civil wars, Luanda is not what its price tag makes it seem. Angola’s civil war ended in 2002, leaving 1 million dead, 4.5 million internally displaced and 450,000 fleeing the country. Infrastructure in the country also collapsed, impacting many public health services.
The city has some of the highest infant mortality and lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Child and maternal mortality rates are also dangerously high: nearly 1 in 5 children die before the age of five, and the maternal mortality rate is 610 per 100,000 live births. The average fertility rate is 5.8 births per woman, which puts pressure on the already limited health system. According to USAID, 68 percent of the city’s 4.8 million population lives under the poverty line. The city is also heavily reliant on imports, taking in nearly 75 percent of the goods it consumes, according to Reuters.
Urbanization poses another challenge to Luanda’s development. Mass migration to the cities brings pressure and rapid degradation onto the city’s weak infrastructure. Luanda is a city built for 400,000 people, but now holds more than 4 million. About 70 percent of Angola’s citizens live in Luanda’s peri-urban shantytowns called musseques. There, public services are very limited, providing deteriorated facilities, resources and basic services. Negligence, lack of maintenance and an absence of quality employees are the main causes for poor economic levels in Luanda.
Poverty in Luanda can be addressed by increasing dialogue between the public and authoritative figures. Active citizenship and proper feedback loops with real change are crucial in creating sustainable change.
On the bright side, Luanda is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies in Africa. Its high rates in macro economic growth, partially due to its rising oil and diamond market, makes it a prime place for foreign investment.
– Lin Sabones