How Joburg compares to the best cities in the world

South Africa’s biggest city has gained a reputation for many things: congestion, crime and pollution, among others – but the reality isn’t always what it seems.

PwC has released a new report looking at the perceptions vs the realities of the world’s best cities, investigating how people’s perceptions (through it’s “Best Cities” report) differ from reality (through its “Cities of Opportunity” report).

The former report is based on surveys from people across 16 different countries – while the latter report looks at objective, publicly available data.

Cities are rated on a variety of factors including its culture, entertainment, infrastructure, health and general happiness.

What PwC found is that in some cases, the perceived quality of a city – or the factors that go into determining that – are way off balance, which poses a problem for some metros which need to overcome a negative brand problem to benefit from global opportunities.

As an example, perceptually, London, Paris, and New York occupy the top three spots as the world’s “best” cities, respectively – yet in reality, based on solid data, they are first, fourth and sixth.

Singapore and Toronto take the second and third spots in reality – yet, perceptually, they land at eighth and seventeenth.

“For cities, perception and reality are, more often than not, not perfectly aligned,” PwC said.

A similar patter emerges when looking at Johannesburg – the only South African city analysed in the PwC reports – though to a smaller extent.

In the perceptions ranking, Joburg was placed 23rd on the list – but based on the objective data, it ranks one place lower at 24th.

While this discrepancy may not seem that large on the surface level, looking at at the individual metrics, a different picture emerges.

For example, Joburg is perceived to be the 16th most congested city out of the 30 cities covered – but in reality, the objective data shows it is in fact the 4th least congested city.

However things work the other way too – when it comes to sustainability and environmental care, Joburg is perceived to be 12th on the list – but in reality, it features far lower, at 19th position.


Ultimately, these mis-matches in perception vs reality have a significantly negative impact on some cities, which are competing on a global scale to draw investment, skills, tourism and development.

“With cities playing a more important geopolitical and cultural role in the world, it is increasingly important to create opportunities big and small to take advantage of their growing influence,” PwC said.

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How Joburg compares to the best cities in the world