Kampala was ranked 169th, ahead of Nairobi (184th), Kigali (191st) and Dar es Salaam (198th), making it East Africa's most comfortable city.
Clare Muhindo
Journalist @ New vision
Kampala was ranked 169th, ahead of Nairobi (184th), Kigali (191st) and Dar es Salaam (198th), making it East Africa's most comfortable city.

Uganda's capital Kampala is the best East African city to live in, according to the latest quality of living survey of the world's top 230 cities by Mercer, a global development consulting agency based in New York, US.

Kampala was ranked 169th, ahead of Nairobi (184th), Kigali (191st) and Dar es Salaam (198th), making it East Africa's most comfortable city.

Burundi's Bujumbura did not get any close.

South Africa's Cape Town (92nd) and Johannesburg (95th) were the only African countries that made it to the top 100, which were mainly dominated by cities in Europe, North America and East Asia.

Vienna in Austria was named as the world's best city to live, and Baghdad (Iraq) the worst.

This year's study was the 18th annual quality of living ranking done by the New York based consultation firm, which is also the world's largest.

The data published on the firm's website www.mercer.com was analysed between September and November last year.

The study is used by big companies to assess where they should locate and how much they should pay staff.

It also helps cities improve their standards of living, since the best and worst are named and shamed.


Benchmarks for ranking

Kampala may remain at the bottom of the table for someone who has been to Nairobi and Kigali, since the latter are better planned cities than it is.

However, the study on the quality of living proved that it is not just the infrastructure but also other socio-economic systems that make a city good to live in.

The survey examined social and economic conditions, terrorism threats, health, education, housing and the environment in making its judgment.

Personal safety in each of the countries was the first priority when ranking the countries; it is considered a top issue for multinational companies sending employees abroad, as security concerns increase throughout the world.

Experts speak out         
Discussing whether Kampala deserves its position as best in the East African community, Simon Kaheeru, a communication Specialist at Ssiyaya Tours says: "a city is about people, it is more than just the infrastructure."

Kaheeru argues that although Kampala's infrastructure has improved, Ugandans are always fantastic, polite and hospitable, making it the best city to live in.

"You can party in a club from morning to morning with people who you do not even know. You cannot move from place to place at night in other countries because of insecurity, not even in New York," Kaheru says adding that, unlike in most cities, in Kampala one does not have to worry about being shot at by random gunmen.

Even for Everest Kayondo, a businessman and Chairperson Kampala City Traders' Association (KACITA) Kampala remains the best city to live in, because of the low cost of living, which includes cheap prices of food, shelter, electricity, among others.

"Most of Uganda's population practices agriculture, therefore food prices are low, but also one can easily change diet at a cheap price, unlike some east African cities where people live on a specific menu," he says, adding that the business community is hospitable and favorable for all.

However, Dr. Fred Omoro, a lecturer of urban planning at Makerere University contends that quality of life in a city is also largely dependent on the quality of the environment.

He says that a lot needs to be done to improve Kampala, since "the street plans we rely on today were drawn so many years ago".

"We are one of the countries that do not care about (leisure) parks. Most of them are killed by the new structures each day.

Those that exist are gazetted and people are not allowed to go there. For instance City Square is so beautiful and green, but what is its role if people are not allowed to use it?" he retorts.