African countries are often associated with lawlessness, instability, and violence. However, this is an overgeneralization.
While the continent does have its problem areas, many regions are considered very safe and are even among some of the world’s most beautiful yet under-traveled tourist destinations.
Unfortunately, Africa also features some of the world’s most dangerous cities that frequently make international headlines, scaring visitors off from the continent as a whole.
But the truth is you can still enjoy a safe African holiday exploring its untouched natural landscapes, abundant biodiversity, and beautiful white sand beaches simply by avoiding these problem areas that I will highlight within this list of the 18 most dangerous cities in Africa.
This list is created according to Numbeo’s current crime index levels, which take into account the variety of both violent and non-violent crimes in a city, their frequency and severity, along with the general perception of crime in a destination from first-hand accounts.
Multiple trusted sources and local news outlets have also been used to confirm current crime rates and overall danger levels.
The 18 Most Dangerous Cities In Africa
1. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
Crime Index: 82.36
Pietermaritzburg is both the capital and largest city of South Africa’s KwaZulu Natal Province and promises a great appeal in terms of tourist attractions, including cultural landmarks and historical museums.
Unfortunately, tourists are advised against visiting, as high crime levels have garnered Pietermaritzburg a reputation as being the most dangerous city in Africa, with a total crime index of 82.36.
Pietermaritzburg’s rough reputation is largely attributed to the city’s high crime rate, which is predominantly the result of the city employing inefficient law enforcement to govern its population of over 500,000.
Pietermaritzburg’s streets experience a wide variety of crime, both violent and non-violent, including assault, burglaries, sexual assault, armed robberies, carjackings, arsons, and much more.
While caution should be practiced at all times, these incidents are even more common after nightfall, and visitors should avoid walking around the city at night. Better yet, tourists should avoid traveling to these crime hotspots altogether.
2. Bangui, Central African Republic
Crime Index: 81.98
With ongoing armed conflicts between the local government and rebel forces, the Central African Republic as a whole is considered the 12th most dangerous country in the world. As both the capital and largest city in the county, Bangui has become a hotbed of this criminal activity, making it the 2nd most dangerous city in Africa with a crime index of 81.98.
As the center of the ongoing civil war, Bangui is no stranger to violence, with the possibility of armed conflict breaking out in the city at any given moment. Meanwhile, the country’s instability and poverty have given rise to criminal activity, with international visitors being targets of frequent pickpocketing and bag snatching. Abduction and assault are also not uncommon.
As a result of the civil conflict and high crime rates, all travel to Bangui and the Central African Republic should be avoided due to threats of terrorism, kidnapping, and violent crime.
3. Pretoria, South Africa
Crime Index: 81.84
The 2nd South African destination featured on this list, Pretoria is the country’s administrative capital and has become a hub of criminal activity, ranking as the 3rd most dangerous city in Africa, with a total crime index of 81.84.
Despite this, Pretoria remains a popular tourist destination, boasting a vibrant culinary scene, bustling nightlife, and lush garden areas complete with several wildlife sanctuaries.
However, while the city continues to welcome droves of international visitors, tourists are warned to practice caution, as Pretoria is known to host high levels of crime, both violent and non-violent.
The most common offenses affecting tourists include property crimes, such as pickpocketing, street scams, and bag snatching. However, violent crimes are known to occur, including sexual assaults, kidnappings, and gunpoint robberies.
Most of these incidents tend to concentrate around the Pretoria CBD, sunnyside, and Arcadia regions and can often be avoided by sticking to popular tourist areas, particularly Pretoria East and North.
4. Durban, South Africa
Crime Index: 80.86
Located just an hour’s drive west of Pietermaritzburg, Durban is yet another South African destination, securing its spot atop this list of the most dangerous cities in Africa with an overall crime index level of 80.86.
Along with its high levels of violent and non-violent crimes, Durban is among one of the continent’s most deadly cities, with a murder rate of 42.29 incidents per 100,000 people, ranking it as the 6th highest homicide rate in Africa. With a population of just over 3.9 million people, this amounts to an average of about 1,923 murders committed each year.
Along with its high murder rates, other common crimes in the city include muggings, assaults, drug trafficking, and molestation. Carjacking, theft, and vandalism are also not uncommon.
Despite this, Durban remains a popular tourist destination, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year thanks to its picturesque beachfront location and cultural attractions. However, while travel to this city should be avoided, those who are planning a trip should practice caution and avoid walking alone at night.
5. Johannesburg, South Africa
Crime Index: 80.78
Also cracking the top five most dangerous countries in Africa, Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, boasting an impressive population of over 4 million people. Along with being the country’s largest city, Johannesburg has also garnered infamy for its growing crime levels that have earned it its elevated crime index of 80.78.
Johannesburg is particularly known for its high sexual assault levels, which have earned it the unfortunate distinction of being known as the “World’s Rape Capital.” But this isn’t the only crime that runs rampant through the streets of the city, with armed robberies, carjackings, smash and grabs, and xenophobic assaults all being common.
Homicide is another common crime, with Johannesburg seeing about 2,547 murders in 2022. With a population of just over 6.1 million, this results in a homicide rate of 41.43 incidents per 100,000 people, which is ranked the 7th worst in Africa and 34th in the world.
6. Juba, South Sudan
Crime Index: 79.1
While the civil war ended with the formation of a transitional government in 2020, South Sudan remains in a state of instability, with frequent armed conflicts occurring between the new government and opposing groups.
What’s more, as the capital and largest city in South Sudan, Juba sits at the very heart of this conflict. However, thanks to a higher level of security in the city, political stability tends to be relatively calm in Juba, although it still remains unpredictable, and incidents are known to occur.
Meanwhile, in the face of these conflicts, crime in the city has been on the rise in recent years and has a more prevalent effect on visiting tourists. Petty crimes such as pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scams are frequent in tourist areas, while violent crimes are widespread throughout the country and include kidnapping, armed robbery, and carjacking.
Overall, it is best to avoid all travel to both Juba and the rest of South Sudan until the political climate begins to stabilize following its period of transitional government, which is set to end in 2025.
7. Rustenburg, South Africa
Crime Index: 77.23
Heading back over to South Africa, Rustenburg is the 7th most dangerous city in Africa, with a crime index level of 77.23.
Set at the foot of the Magaliesberg mountain range, Rustenburg is the largest city in the North West Province, boasting a population of 592,000 people. It is a popular tourist hotspot and serves as a doorway to the region’s historical landmarks and picturesque nature reserves.
However, despite its international popularity, visitors need to practice a high degree of caution, with the city boasting a high crime rate, with crimes such as theft, bag snatching, and scams being the most common ones affecting tourists. Violent crimes are also known to occur, with kidnapping, hijacking, and robbery not being entirely uncommon.
While the best option is to avoid traveling to the city, Rustenburg can be a moderately safe destination to visit, but a high degree of caution is necessary, and visitors should avoid walking alone at night.
8. Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), South Africa
Crime Index: 77.04
With a crime index of 77.04, Gqeberha’s nickname of “The Friendly City” seems to be an ironic take on its high crime levels. But perhaps it is a little more understandable when you consider it’s being compared to five other cities within the country featured higher on this list of the most dangerous cities in Africa.
Nevertheless, given a homicide rate of 53.25 per 100,000 people, Gqeberha is still the 8th most dangerous city on the continent. And murder isn’t the only crime you have to worry about. Both violent and non-violent crimes run rampant throughout the community, including pickpockets, muggings, and xenophobic assaults.
Still, despite its high crime rate, the city remains one of the most touristic cities in the country, and many travelers may better recognize it by its former name — Port Elizabeth. Renamed in 2021 to distance itself from its colonial history, Gqeberha is a beautiful tourist city boasting white sand beaches, world-class surf, and beautiful cultural attractions.
9. Cape Town, South Africa
Crime Index: 73.49
While Cape Town isn’t the last South African city you are going to see on this list, it is the last one to make the top ten, coming in as the 9th most dangerous city in Africa.
With a crime index of 73.49, crime is rampant in South Africa’s legislative capital. And, with a homicide rate of 63 murders per 100,000 people recorded in 2022, it is also the most deadly city on the African continent. Considering the city boasts over 4.7 million residents, Cape Town averages nearly 3,000 murders a year at this rate.
Of course, homicide isn’t the only crime you need to worry about in Cape Town. Drug dealing, assault, armed robbery, mugging, and theft are also all common in the city.
With that said, Cape Town is the most tourist city in South Africa. As such, it features higher tourist security, making it relatively safe for travelers. Still, visitors should avoid wandering into urban neighborhoods and stick to popular tourist areas along the waterfront.
10. Mogadishu, Somalia
Crime Index: 72.61
Once considered to be the most dangerous place in the world, Mogadishu has seen a slight improvement in recent years but is still far from being considered safe for travelers. With a crime index of 72.61, it is just the 10th most dangerous city in Africa, but with both violent and non-violent crimes running rampant, it definitely isn’t the most inviting destination.
Kidnapping, terrorist attacks, and murder are all fairly common. In fact, it has one of the highest murder rates on the planet, with approximately 73.8 incidents per 100,000 people reported between 2020 and 2021. Given the population of 2.38 million people, this amounts to about 1,762 murders a year.
Additionally, between the piracy that takes place along the Somalian waters and the high kidnapping risks that take place across the country, travel to Mogadishu or any other Somalian destination should just be avoided altogether.
11. Kinshasa, DR Congo
Crime Index: 71.32
With high levels of civil unrest, armed conflicts, and violent crime, the Democratic Republic of Congo is considered the 5th most dangerous country in the world, according to the World Population Review.
As the largest capital city of the country, much of this conflict and criminal activity is centered around Kinshasa, making it the 11th most dangerous city in Africa, with a crime index of 71.32.
Both violent and non-violent crimes plague the streets of the city and include violent robbery, kidnapping, burglaries, and vehicle thefts. Meanwhile, the chance of terrorist attacks poses further safety risks in the city.
All travel to Kinshasa should be avoided. However, if you absolutely must visit, it is advised to stick to the commercial and administrative center of the Gombe commune and avoid all travel after dark.
12. Bloemfontein, South Africa
Crime Index: 70.85
Heading back to South Africa for the final time as we explore the most dangerous cities in Africa, Bloemfontein comes in at number 12 with a crime index of 70.85.
Known as the City of Roses, Bloemfontein is the capital of the Free State province and is home to many gardens and parks, making it one of the country’s most beautiful cities. And while high crime levels slightly spoil the grandeur, the city remains one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
Violent and non-violent crimes are both common in the city, including pickpockets, mugging, and scams. Visitors should also be wary of growing terrorist activity.
Despite this, Bloemfontein is still considered one of the safer countries in South Africa and is even considered safe to walk in downtown areas during daylight hours. However, traveling at night should still be avoided.
13. Lagos, Nigeria
Crime Index: 67.95
With an estimated population of 16.5 million people, Lagos is one of the biggest cities in the world. And, as is the case with many cities of this size, the local population proves a challenge to regulate for local law enforcement, resulting in increased levels of crime, gang violence, and corruption.
Most of the city’s crimes involve Lagos’ drug trade, vandalism, or theft, with armed robbery, assault, and muggings all being common. Sexual assault and carjackings are also common, with banks, grocery stores, and airport roads being common places for targeting victims.
While travel to Lagos should be avoided altogether, those who do plan a trip to the city should stick to the tourist areas of Ikoyi and Victoria Island while practicing a high degree of caution and avoiding all travel at night.
14. Windhoek, Namibia
Crime Index: 67.63
As the capital city of Namibia, Windhoek is where most visitors arrive to begin their safari or tour of the country. It is home to many cultural attractions and historical landmarks and is one of the most beautiful cities in the world to visit.
However, with a crime index of 67.63, Windhoek is plagued with high crime levels, making it the 14th most dangerous city in Africa.
Most of the city’s crime involves property and includes robbery, theft, pickpocketing, and bag snatching. While less frequent, violent crimes are also not uncommon and include armed robberies, carjackings, and muggings.
To make matters worse, corruption levels are high in the city, with local police often working with criminals to exploit the unwary traveler.
For this reason, it is best to avoid traveling to Namibia’s capital city. Although, if it can’t be avoided, the safest areas to stay in are Ludwigsdorf and Klein Windhoek.
15. Luanda, Angola
Crime Index: 67.14
Luanda is the 15th most dangerous city in Africa, with a crime index of 67.14. Both violent and non-violent crimes are common and continue to occur at a constantly increasing rate across the city.
A portion of the city’s growing crime levels is attributed to the emergence of mafia-style groups dealing in firearms and ammunition smuggling within Luanda. As such, violent crimes, in particular, have experienced a notable increase in recent years, including armed robberies, carjackings, muggings, assaults, molestation, and organized crime.
A new criminal action being reported on the streets of Luanda involves criminals targeting slow-moving or stationary vehicles within traffic and stealing the possessions of the passengers via gunpoint.
Those traveling to the city should plan to stick to the popular tourist areas. However, while violent crimes are rarer in these areas, you should still practice caution for petty property crimes that include pickpocketing, bag snatching, and robbery. You should take extra caution when leaving a bank or making a withdrawal from an ATM.
16. Benghazi, Libya
Crime Index: 64.2
The Libyan government was thrown into a decade-long state of instability that continues to affect the country today following Muammar Gaddafi’s removal from power in 2011. And while the second civil war of the Libyan conflict officially ended in 2020, fighting has again resumed between the Government of National Unity and the Government of National Stability starting in 2022.
The backlash of the conflict is at its most evident in Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city with a population of 1.2 million, where the constant risk of Islamic terrorist attacks and rising crime levels have made it the 16th most dangerous city in Africa.
Along with the threat of being caught in the conflicts of the war or acts of terrorism, visitors to the city are also at risk of being victim to petty and violent crimes, with acts of carjackings, burglaries, gun attacks, and robberies running rampant in the streets.
17. Tripoli, Libya
Crime Index: 63.44
With a crime index of 63.44, Tripoli comes in just behind Benghazi as the 17th most dangerous city in Africa. However, as Libya’s capital city, Tripolis sits at the heart of the current ongoing conflict, putting it in the crosshairs of military actions and acts of terrorism.
As a result of being in the midst of an ongoing warzone, the local community has deteriorated into a haven of lawlessness, with extremely high levels of crime, including kidnapping, assaults, drug trafficking, corruption, and even murder. In fact, with a homicide rate of 30.17 per 100,000 people, Tripoli is the 10th deadliest city in Africa.
What’s even worse is that the security situation around Tripoli continues to dissolve, making traveling to the city an ever-worsening safety risk. As such, all travel to Tripoli and the rest of Libya should be avoided until the conflict is resolved.
18. Nairobi, Kenya
Crime Index: 59.15
Kenya, as a whole, is considered a safer destination than many of the surrounding African countries. Still, it is home to high poverty levels, which have resulted in increased crime rates in recent years, most notably within the country’s larger cities.
As the capital and largest city in Kenya, Nairobi sits at the very center of the country’s criminal activity, earning it a crime index of 59.15 and making it the 18th most dangerous city in Africa.
The leading security risk for visiting Nairobi is the threat of terrorist attacks in the area, which often target the city’s government buildings, places of worship, public areas, airports, or other transportation hubs.
Beyond the risk of terrorism, Nairobi also boasts high levels of street crime, with the most common incidents being muggings, violent robbery, carjacking, and assaults.
While it is generally considered safe to walk around the city alone in daylight hours, it is advised to always have a local guide with you. Better yet, if you are planning a trip to Kenya, it is probably better to just skip the capital city altogether and plan a visit to one of the country’s safer areas.