Johannesburg is the best place for young people in Africa. This much was confirmed by the 2015 Youthful Cities Index, which recently found Joburg to be “the most popular city” in Africa overall for young people aged between 15 and 29.
The accolade comes as the City celebrates Youth Month and marks the 39th anniversary of June 16, 1976 Soweto uprising, during which hundreds of schoolchildren were shot dead by apartheid police for protesting against the use of Afrikaans – the language of the oppressor – as a medium of instruction in black schools.
The day dramatically changed the course of history and helped to quicken the pace of the struggle for liberation. Thirty-nine years on and 21 years into South Africa’s democracy, the day is used to reflect on the unique spirit of human endeavour and to draw inspiration from the courage of the youth of the time to forge a better country.
The index is compiled by Youthful Cities, a Canadian-based organisation that collects data through a survey conducted among 10 000 youths between the ages of 15 and 29 throughout the globe. In its second year, the index surveyed youths in 55 world cities, with New York taking pole position, followed by London, Berlin and San Francisco in second, third and fourth positions respectively.
Johannesburg was ranked the best African city for the youth, ranking highly particularly in terms of diversity, fashion and public space. Overall, Johannesburg ranked 35th on the list of 55 surveyed world cities. Ratings are based on 20 key attributes, including economic status, employment opportunities, digital access, culture and affordability.
By winning the African category of the most-sought after award, Johannesburg beat several thriving, exotic and tourist-popular cities such as Lagos in Nigeria, Casablanca in Morocco and Nairobi in Kenya.
“This is a perfect way for Johannesburg to celebrate its status as a youthful city, a city with a youthful population that contributes to its vibe and diversity,” says Johannesburg Tourism’s Laura Vercueil.
Vercueil says Johannesburg’s importance as the “epicentre of the struggle – most notably during 1976, when the youth were at the forefront” – is particularly relevant as the country celebrates Youth Month. “The June 16 1976 uprising has never been forgotten. It is imprinted on the international consciousness and has ensured Soweto’s iconic status,” she adds.
Being a relatively young city, at just 129 years old, Johannesburg’s appeal as a mecca of opportunities has made it a vibey cultural melting pot, one that has uniquely shaped the city into the continent’s “ultimate alpha attraction”. With an unlimited array of cultural, historical, social, entertainment and shopping opportunities and offerings, Johannesburg’s boundless energy has caught the attention of the international community and local residents alike.
Bursting with youthful exuberance and ingenuity, Johannesburg has several cultural and historical attractions that cater for all ages and interests.
Iconic attractions include Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto; the Maboneng Precinct on the eastern side of the city; Wits Origins Centre; Gold Reef City, Apartheid Museum, Liliesleaf Farm, Sophiatown Cultural Centre, to mention a few.
Top attractions for children in and around Johannesburg include the Sci-Bono Centre in Newtown, Wits Planetarium, Johannesburg Zoo, Montecasino Bird Gardens in Fourways, Lipizzaners in Kyalami and Johannesburg Youth Theatre in Parktown.
The latest recognition comes after a series of similar accolades over the past year. Last year MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index ranked Johannesburg as the most-visited city in Africa for the second year running, followed by Cape Town.
Prominent arts publisher Phaidon released a book titled Art Cities of the Future that named Johannesburg as one of 12 cities that will shake up the art world in the 21st century.
The Wall Street Journal also featured Joburg as one of the world’s “Four Emerging Art Cities You Should Know”.
Johannesburg has also been rated the second most inspiring city in the world by Good magazine’s annual Good City Index, just behind Hong Kong. Despite the challenges Johannesburg faces, the magazine describes the City as “good at finding new, sometimes unorthodox ways to fix itself, like freeing owls in the townships and starting a youth photography skills development programme called ‘I wasshot in Joburg:)’.”