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Top business destinations in South Africa


Hosting a major sporting event can revitalise a country.

The 2010 World Cup, characterised by the sound of vuvuzelas, certainly seemed to have that effect in South Africa, palpably lifting the mood of the people and giving local businesses the chance to capitalise on the influx of thousands of football fans (although FIFA's strict licensing rules limited how much local entrepreneurs could take advantage).

South Africa is a nation of many diverse cultures and ethnic groups, with a staggering 11 languages officially recognised in the country. While South Africa is classed as a developing country, some areas, such as Cape Town, Johannesburg, Port Elizabeth and Durban, are well advanced. 

Cape Town

Cape Town was recently named the most entrepreneurial city in South Africa. According to research from the Scientific Dutch-government financed SMEs and Entrepreneurship Programme, which analysed five years of Global Entrepreneurship Monitor research, those aged between 18 to 64 are 190% more likely to pursue new business in Cape Town compared to the national average; in Johannesburg, the only African city to make Mastercard's table of the world's top 50 cities of commerce (coming 47th), those of working age were only 60% more likely to pursue a new business.

A significant proportion of businesses for sale in South Africa are to be found in Cape Town.

South Africa's most popular tourist destination, Cape Town boasts a breathtaking panorama, temperate climate and well developed infrastructure. The city originally served as a port for Dutch ships sailing to east Africa, and is now the economic hub of the Western Cape Province. 

Nicknamed the 'mother city', Cape Town is known for its iconic skyline, Table Mountain backdrop and Central Business District. The city serves as the regional manufacturing centre in Western Cape, and has recently enjoyed a surge in the real estate and construction market thanks to its hosting of the World Cup. 

Cape Town is known for its iconic skyline, Table Mountain backdrop and Central Business District

Cape Town is home to an estimated 3.5 million people, who pay an average of SAR1.3m (£118,000) for a one-bed city-centre apartment.


Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and one of the world's leading financial centres. Jo'burg, as it is colloquially known, is the capital of Gauteng, the wealthiest region in the country, with Johannesburg alone generating 17% of the country's GDP (gross domestic product), mainly through the manufacturing, retail and service sectors. The city also boasts Africa's largest stock exchange, the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange).

Nicknamed 'eGoli', which translates to the 'city of gold', Johannesburg is also home to some of the world's largest gold deposits and has a thriving diamond trade thanks to its location on the diamond-rich Witwatersrand hills. While gold mining no longer takes place on the site, many mining companies still base their headquarters in Johannesburg. 

Located in the heart of the country, Johannesburg is not geographically best located for businesses looking to export abroad.

The city also has one of the biggest informal economies in the world, which involves street traders and vendors who, after months of marching and protests, won their own allocated vending areas in the city's stadium precincts at the FIFA World Cup.

Port Elizabeth

Nicknamed 'The Windy City', Port Elizabeth stretches across 40km of unspoiled coastline and is one of the main seaports in South Africa, with the most significant ore-loading facilities in the southern hemisphere. The area, which has a population of just 750,000, is set to enjoy a growth in trade as the nearby industrial development zone, Coega, is being expanded, including the addition of a new seaport.

It's the second of two notable boosts to South Africa's second oldest town's fortunes, after the 2010 football World Cup left behind a state-of-the-art, 48,000-seater football stadium on Nelson Mandela Bay.

Port Elizabeth boasts the most car assembly plants of any city in the country and is home of South Africa's motor vehicle industry. Manufacturers of wiring harnesses, catalytic converters, batteries and tyres are stationed in the Windy City.

The area is popular with tourists, with the adjacent Algoa Bay the destination of choice for Watersports enthusiasts. Many tourists also walk the Donkin Heritage Trail, a 5km walk that tracks 47 historical sites. 

A typical one-bedroom rented apartment in the Cotswold, a suburb of Port Elizabeth, is approximately SAR2,400 (£220) a month. 


Outside of India, Durban has the largest Indian population worldwide, something reflected in its numerous spice markets, Hindu temples and mosques. 

Durban's economic strengths lie in manufacturing, tourism, transportation and finance, although the public sector accounts for the highest proportion of employment. The city is the second most important economic contributor in South Africa after Gauteng, accounting for 15% of national output, 14% of household income and 11% of national employment.

Durban boasts the busiest container port in South Africa and the International Conference Centre, the leading conference centre in Africa and ranked fourth in the world.

High crime rates act as a disincentive to growth, particularly in tourism. Nevertheless, Durban is home to the Golden Mile, a stretch of beachfront popular with tourists, particularly domestic and the metropolis is a hot spot for bars and clubs.

More than four million people live in Durban, and the city is the second-largest in South Africa, after Johannesburg.

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