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Johannesburg is Africa’s most popular city for youth but Lagos is for its entrepreneurs

Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
It would be difficult to afford luxury cars on $2 a day.
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

The 2015 YouthfulCities Index this week named Johannesburg as the “most popular African city” overall for young people aged 15-29. Johannesburg outclassed its continental counterparts – Lagos, Casablanca and Nairobi.

The index, running for the second year, tracks the perceptions of youth on 20 attributes – ranging from creativity, employment, safety and entrepreneurship.

Africa is young. Over 40% of Africa’s working age population is between the age of 15 and 24, making Africa the youngest continent in the world. Consistent with this trend, is rapid urbanization – the majority of African young people live in cities.

Here are 3 charts that explain why Johannesburg–known as “Jozi” to locals–is the most popular city overall with African youth.

Commuting is affordable and efficient in Johannesburg

This attribute measures how much time young people spend commuting and how they commute – through bus, rail, walking and cycling. For any urbanizing city, an integrated public transport system is important, and getting around in Johannesburg is comparatively easier.

For efficiency and comfort, there’s the $2billion Gautrain – a high-speed train which transports 50 000 people across an 80 kilometer (50 mile) transit line through city. A more affordable commute option is the Rea Vaya project, an ambitious bus rapid transit system that covers 330 kilometers (205 miles) of the city, granting access to more than 80% of Johannesburg’s population.

You can access healthcare and facilities more readily in Johannesburg

Access to healthcare is important for any growing population. For this attribute, countries were ranked not only according to access and the presence of healthcare facilities, but also other health and livability aspects: such as smoking habits, mental health facilities and doctor density.

Despite being home to the largest hospital in the world, Johannesburg when compared to the global frontrunner London – which tops the global index at 60 out of 100 – fares poorly. The YouthfulCities Global Index 2015 report notes that scores for African and Asian countries are generally lower due to the shortage of primary healthcare professionals.

Johannesburg is diverse

Johannesburg not only tops the African cities list for being diverse, but it also has a high global ranking: 10th in the world, out of the 55 countries surveyed. Young people can speak (and vote in) more languages, there are diverse food offerings, and there’s an openness to gender and sexual issues rights.

The report notes that despite its ongoing xenophobia challenges, the city is dealing with its history of racial segregation well, by fostering a culturally diverse city.

“The economy, nightlife as well as cosmopolitan nature has accounted for the diversity that the city has experienced over the past couple of years” says Oyindamola Johnson, a Nigerian-born researcher for the YouthfulCities, who now lives and works between Johannesburg and Durban.

If you’re a young African entrepreneur, Lagos is the place to be

Lagos has a strong entrepreneurial culture, fuelled by the numerous business incubators that are popping up, added to that, registering and running a business is easier in Lagos. It is no wonder why in July this year, 1,000 youth entrepreneurs from 52 African countries will flock to Lagos for a 2-day entrepreneurial bootcamp. The bootcamp is part of the $100million programme for young African entrepreneurs, developed by the Tony Elumelu Foundation.


You’re more likely to live affordably in Casablanca as a young African

Given the incessant focus on sub-Saharan Africa countries – particularly countries in Southern and West Africa – it was great to see a North African city, Casablanca, top the list on a number of important attributes. Casablanca ranks the highest in access to financial services, safety, affordability and access to employment for young Africans.

The World Bank reports that despite the 2011-2012 Arab Spring in the region, Casablanca’s economy has been stable. The country (Morocco) was able to grow its real GDP by 2.7% in 2012 during the global economic slow-down and by 4.7% in 2013.

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