In looking over the latest Mercer Cost of Living Survey, the folks over at Afrik.com noticed an odd discrepency. According to the survey, African cities like Douala, Lagos, Abidjan and Dakar all ranked as more expensive to live in than American cities like San Francisco or Miami– and even Europeans cities too, like Luxembourg and Brussels– among a bunch of other anti-intuitive results.
What gives? Well, for one, the survey cleverly looks specifically at the costs for expats in cities around the world. Think of it like this (from Afrik.com):
An employee in Brussels who makes 2000 euros per month and spends 1200 on his basic necessities is more fortunate than his/her counterpart in Douala or Dakar who makes FCFA 100,000 and is expected to spend it all, if not more, on monthly rents alone, without talking about health or transport costs.
The article insightfully points out that what makes so many Africans so poor is essentially their inability to expatriate. The inability of Africans to flee their homes due to their expenses is a big part of what drives so many of them to corruption and poverty.
In other words, the ability to expatriate is a strong indicator of the wealth of a place and its inhabitants. Regardless of how good or bad the standard of living is, our ability to emigrate freely is what makes some city’s inhabitants truly rich.
It’s an interesting way of looking at how living in different locations can be valued! As those of us with expatriate spirits can attest, there’s no where worse than a place that makes you feel bogged down or stuck there. Places like that carry the biggest price tags, according to expat measurements.