The healthiest places to live in the Middle East and Africa

The healthiest places to live in the Middle East and Africa

7th June, 2013

What are the healthiest places to live in the Middle East? And what about Africa? This week I thought it would be interesting and useful to take a look at the best places to live in two more popular regions, for expats who already live there or are thinking about moving there. The study, by Mercer, compares the ‘livability’ of cities, ranking 221 cities on a point-scoring index. New York is the base city, with an index score of 100. 

The healthiest places to live in the Middle East

In the Middle East Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, scores the highest in the region at number 74 in the list. It is followed by Abu Dhabi, also in the Emirates, with a score of 78. By contrast war-torn Baghdad, in Iraq, sits at number 221, right at the bottom of the league.

Dubai, UAE

Dubai is the most densely populated metropolitan area in the UAE, home to more than three and a half million people and a vital, buzzy centre for international business. Once focused firmly on oil, these days Dubai’s economy is based on financial services, property and tourism. Apparently expats in the UAE in general can find it tough to make friends with local people and integrating into society can be a real challenge. On the plus side, the expat scene is lively and friendly with outdoor pursuits and water sports a big draw for the expat community.

Dubai’s oil and gas industries are a lot smaller than Abu Dhabi and the city’s port is the hub of its economic activity, construction being a particularly important sector. Dubai’s healthcare services are of a high standard, comparable to other developed countries.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s capital, an island just 250m from the mainland which produces more than half the nation’s GDP. The same cultural gaps and barriers apply but many expats who have lived in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai feel Abu Dhabi provides an authentic Arab experience, with fewer expats. Abu Dhabi is also a little less new, and because it’s smaller it is more intimate, with shorter commuting times.

Abu Dhabi is home to most of the region’s oil and gas, totaling 9% percent of the world’s oil and 5% of its gas reserves. But large investments in other sectors mean the country’s GDP is set to continue growing. Since January 2006, all Abu Dhabi residents have been covered by a comprehensive health insurance program, with the costs shared between employers and employees. And the country’s Ministry of Health is involved in a multi-million dollar expansion of the city’s health facilities and hospitals.

The healthiest places to live in Africa

Port Louis in Mauritius scores 82, the highest scoring African city. Cape Town, in South Africa, scores 88. Otherwise African cities tend to come towards the bottom of the list, with 18 of the least-healthy places to live being in Africa including Bangui in the Central African Republic at 220th, N’Djamena in Chad at number 219, Khartoum in Sudan at 217 and Brazzaville, in the Congo, at 214.

Port Louis, Mauritius

Bustling, hot and semi-arid Port Louis has an economy dominated by its financial centre, huge port, lively tourist scene and a well-known manufacturing sector including textiles, chemicals, plastics and pharmaceuticals. The city’s port is the biggest in the Indian Ocean and the city is one of Africa’s main financial centres. The island’s thoroughbred horse races, held at the world’s second oldest racecourse, the Champ de Mars, is a big tourist draw and the islanders’ love of football helps sport-loving expats build social bridges.

Mauritius’s GDP has grown faster than 5% annually for almost 30 years. And the island boasts a good health system, with free healthcare for all citizens.

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is South Africa’s second biggest city, the province’s capital and the first city of the Western Cape as well as home to the National Parliament and the country’s legislative capital. It is the continent’s most popular tourist destination and enjoys a lively expat scene.

Nominated World Design Capital for 2014, it’s a sophisticated international city of more than 3.5 million people, the economic hub of the Western Cape Province as well as the country’s second largest economic centre and the continent’s third. It is the regional manufacturing centre as well as home to international finance, publishing, design shipping, retail and more. The standard of healthcare in South Africa is the best on the African continent.

The importance of international health insurance

Don’t forget, as an expat, that wherever you have relocated to or are thinking about relocating to, getting good international health insurance should be at the top of your to do list. It will provide you with access to healthcare anywhere in the world, including your new and home countries.

Discover our expat country guides

Would you like to know more about expat living? Why not download our free eBook, The New Expat? It goes into detail about the medical side of expat life, family matters, accommodation, financial arrangements and more, designed to make your life easier in all sorts of ways. We also produce specific Country Guides each month, from A to Z, full of details to help you make the best decision and make the most of your new life.

Join the conversation

Do you live in Africa or the Middle East? We’d love to hear your experiences. You can join the conversation by leaving a comment below or connecting with us on Twitter: @now_health or on the Now Health Facebook page so we can share them with our readers.


*Mercer Consulting Quality of Living Survey.


Image source: Simon Lister

Recommended for you

Alison Massey

Group Marketing Director

Now Health International

Alison Massey is a 15-year digital marketing veteran, who has spent the last seven years using social media to help expats and soon to be expats find out what to expect from a life overseas. An expat living in Hong Kong herself, Alison is the Group Marketing Director of Now Health, the award-winning international health insurance provider.

Contact Alison Massey

Back To Top