Tuesday, October 06, 2009

African Cities More Expensive than San Francisco?

If so, we've ironicaly made a move in the cheaper direction by relocating to the Bay Area. Not many people out there who can say San Francisco put some slack in their budget!

Read the full article "African Cities More Expensive than San Francisco?" (link found on Expatify).

This article backs up what I've been saying since moving to Maputo: life in the principal African capitals can be very, very expensive*. Angola is usually at the top of the list when it comes to absurdly inflated prices, but Mozambique isn't far behind. These days to rent an un-remodeled 2-bedroom apartment in a nice, central location in Maputo you are looking at around US$850 per month. A small, older house starts around $2,000. Newer or remodeled places easily go for upwards of US$3,500.

Rico and I did the math, and we paid much more to minimally furnish our flat back in Moz than we estimate we will pay to furnish our much larger house here in the Bay Area. Mozambique seems notorious for cheap, poor-quality furniture à la Home Center that costs an arm and a leg (with the only budget option being wicker furniture)...although there are certainly shops that cater to the high-end consumer (i.e. Bali) where you do get quality but pay through the roof.

Other things were also quite expensive: food (despite being such an agricultural paradise, most of the food - and even much of the produce - is imported in Mozambique), computers and electronics, vehicles, airfare (US$1,000 round-trip to go to Pemba at the end of 2008; US$450 round-trip Maputo/Joburg), hotels, office supplies, clothing, most household items, etc.

There are some great deals still to be found, though, make no mistake. We definitely appreciated the great price of: handcrafts (in particular those made with hardwoods), printed cloth (capulanas), labor in general (empregadas, nannies, guards, etc.), taxis, local fruit and veg when in season and, of course, the seafood. Ahhhhh, the seafood!

* I am primarily referring to expat life, as this is what I experienced first-hand. Of course, the mere presence of expats in many of these cities is what drives up the prices (i.e. inflated rent); however, obviously expats are not the ones affected by high cost of living in the middle and upper-class sectors of society. Locals must deal with high costs as well...and one of the things prominently left out of these cost-of-living surveys is the fact that local hires typically make far lower salaries than their expat counterparts. Some organizations/companies are taking steps to equalize salaries, however there is still a very real glass ceiling for many qualified local professionals. I mention this as a footnote here, but it really deserves a full post at some point.


Jo Ann v. said...

That's one of the rare occasions we Angolans come first !
Flats rent start at 2K$ no matter de size !

Gem said...


I have been reading your blog for a long time. My husband and I dream of relocating to California (specifically the Bay Area), we're in Texas. It seems so far beyond reach, and I see you settling in so nicely with Rico. You make it look so do-able, and I admire that. It seems impossible that we would be able to move, find jobs, and a house. How were you able to do it? I know you said your mom helped, but did she help financially as well, or is this mostly you and Rico's funds? I apologize if this is too personal, but any advice you could give would be extremely helpful. If you prefer to e-mail me, it's bohemianbahamian@gmail.com

Ali la Loca said...

~Jo Ann - I am always shocked at Angola's prices. Being first isn't always a good thing, for sure!

~Gem - I emailed you an answer...let me know if for some reason you didn't get it.