Joburg remains the economic hub, but Cape Town is catching up 

Johannesburg remains South Africa’s economic hub, with the largest urban economy in the country and 75 places above second place Cape Town.

However, the Mother City is catching up as Gauteng continues to suffer from mismanagement and poor service delivery. 

This was revealed in Oxford Economics’ Global Cities Index for 2024, which ranks the world’s cities based on their economic prowess, governance, quality of life, human capital, and environment. 

The research institute said that cities remain at the forefront of economic growth, underpinned by the nexus of business, educational institutions, and people. 

The institute said this agglomeration fosters creativity, innovation, and prosperity, which further enhances the attraction of diverse and skilled populations. 

In 2023, the 1,000 largest cities in the world accounted for 60% of the global GDP and over 30% of the world’s population. 

In the decade preceding the Covid-19 outbreak, 70% of cities outperformed their respective countries in terms of either GDP or employment growth. 

With regard to economic strength, cities in the United States dominate, making up seven of the top ten positions. 

New York remains the most important city economically, thanks to its position at the heart of global capital markets, followed by Los Angeles. 

The only non-American cities in the top ten are London in seventh position, Paris in ninth, and Tokyo in tenth. Cities outside the US, however, fare far better in other categories, such as human capital, environment, and quality of life. 

Overall, New York is the number one city in the world, followed by London and, strangely, San Jose in the United States. 

While many North American and European cities have consistently improved their overall scores, African cities are declining. 

Nearly all of the cities in Africa included in the index received a lower score in 2024 versus 2023. 

However, a few of the top cities in Central America & the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa outperform the weakest cities in North America and Western Europe. 

This suggests that while there are some regional effects at play, within-region and even within-country differences are significant.

Johannesburg retained its ranking as the best city in South Africa but dropped to 380th in the world, mainly due to its declining quality of life, which ranks 923rd in the world. 

The declining quality of life is largely attributed to failures in basic service delivery, from electricity to water and road infrastructure.

Joburg does punch far above its weight with regard to human capital, ranking 39th in the world thanks to its world-class educational institutions.  

Second-best in South Africa is Cape Town, with an overall ranking of 445th. The city also punches above its weight with regard to human capital while falling behind on quality of life. 

Cape Town also punches far above its weight in the environment category, ranking 83rd in the world. 

Interestingly, Pretoria beat Durban to third place in South Africa, ranking 588th in the world. 

According to Oxford Economics, Pretoria is a more important city economically and has a better quality of life and human capital. 

Below is a ranking of all the South African cities included in the index. 

City Overall ranking 
Johannesburg 380
Cape Town445
Pretoria 533
Buffalo City 899
Port Elizabeth938


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