By Simon Brandon
The largest city in South Africa has long been overshadowed by the internationally better-known Cape Town, and dogged by a reputation for crime. But Johannesburg — or Jozi, as locals call it — is a growing and increasingly important financial centre with a standard of living to match.
Growing financial clout
Johannesburg is Africa’s second most important financial centre after Casablanca in Morocco, according to the 2018 Global Financial Centres Index, and the biggest south of the Sahara. And it is growing: the city attracted $13.2bn of foreign investment between 2003 and 2016, double that of Cape Town.
Attractive cost of living
The average salary in Jozi’s financial services sector is $87,000, compared with $109,000 in London, according to salary comparison site Emolument. But those South African salaries go further: consumer prices in Johannesburg are almost half those in London, according to statistics provider Numbeo, while the cost of renting accommodation is more than a third cheaper than in Cape Town.
Jozi is making a name for itself as a cultural hub, so much so that it was named the number one city in the world to visit by Rough Guides in 2015. Residents can enjoy its attractions all year round, including the Apartheid Museum, Origins Centre, which explores the history of modern humankind, and the Standard Bank Gallery, which exhibits local artists as well as hosting international shows.
Gauteng, the province in which the city is located, had the highest rate of crimes against the person of all provinces in South Africa in 2017-18. But while parts of the city are blighted by poverty and crime, years of ongoing urban renewal have transformed the city centre. This is typified by the central suburb of Braamfontein, which has become known for its live music scene. The Orbit, Johannesburg's most famous jazz venue, is located here.
Walk on the wild side
For those looking to escape the city, Africa’s wildlife is not far away. At 7,500 square miles, Kruger National Park is one of the continent’s largest game reserves. It is a four to five-hour drive from Johannesburg, but plenty of flights operate daily from Johannesburg’s airport to Nelspruit on the park’s southwestern tip.
Photographs: Dreamstime; Alamy