Nairobi Climbs up List of Most Expensive Cities in the World

  • An aerial view of Kenya's capital, Nairobi.
    An aerial view of Kenya's capital, Nairobi.
  • Kenya's Capital City, Nairobi, climbed up in the latest list of most expensive cities in the world by two spots to rank at position 95.

    According to the latest Cost of Living Survey conducted by consultancy firm Mercer, Nairobi is the 15th most expensive city in Africa.

    Ndjamena, Chad is the highest-ranked city in Africa, currently ranked at position 15 globally.

    Nairobi County Headquarters at City Hall
    Nairobi County Headquarters at City Hall
    Simon Kiragu

    The top 15 African cities were ranked as highlighted below:

    Lagos, Nigeria, (18 globally), Kinshasa, Democratice Republic of Congo (24), Libreville, Gabon (33), Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire (36), Brazzaville, Congo (44), Bangui, Central African Republic (49), Yaounde, Cameroon (56), Accra, Ghana (57), Djibouti, Djibouti (58), Abuja, Nigeria (68), Douala, Cameroon (70), Dakar, Senegal (75), Conakry, Guinea (89), and Nairobi, Kenya (95).

    Tunis in Tunisia was ranked last in the list of most expensive cities in the world at position 209, just after Windhoek in Namibia ranked at position 208.

    The survey examines over 400 cities across the world. This year’s ranking included 209 cities in five continents and measured the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment.

    “Border closings, flight interruptions, mandatory confinements, and other short-term disruptions have affected not only the cost of goods and services but also the quality of living of assignees,” said Ilya Bonic, Career President and Head of Mercer Strategy.

    “Climate change, issues related to environmental footprint, and health system challenges have pushed multinationals to consider how a city’s efforts around sustainability can impact the living conditions for their expatriate workers. Cities with a strong sustainability focus can greatly improve living standards, which can, in turn, improve employee well-being and engagement," he added.

    Hong Kong tops the list of most expensive cities for expatriates, followed by Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in second position. Tokyo and Zurich remained in third and fourth positions, respectively, whereas Singapore was ranked fifth, down two places from last year. 

    Other cities appearing in the top 10 of Mercer’s costliest cities for expatriates are Shanghai, China (7), Bern, Switzerland (8), Geneva, Switzerland (9), and Beijing, China (10).

    Beijing, China.
    Beijing, China.
    Photo Courtesy of Sean Pavone

    The survey is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation strategies for their expatriate employees. 

    Expatriates living in Nairobi have seen their purchasing power rise significantly after the Kenyan shilling’s depreciation since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the country.

    The figures for Mercer’s cost of living and rental accommodation cost comparisons were derived from a survey conducted in March 2020. 

    The pandemic dragged the Kenyan shilling to yearly lows to sell at 106.60 against the US dollar by the end of March 2020.

    Analysts at NCBA bank say the drastic change follows a surge in demand for the safe-haven US dollar, which is considered much more stable globally.

    “Sudden changes to exchange rates has been mainly driven by the impact Covid-19 is having on the global economy,” said Yvonne Traber, Global Mobility Product Solutions Leader at Mercer. 

    A deserted Moi Avenue, in Nairobi - Stay Home.
    A deserted Moi Avenue, in Nairobi - Stay Home.