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The city of Durban is the capital of the province of KwaZulu-Natal on the eastern side of South Africa. KwaZulu-Natal borders Mozambique to the north and the land locked countries of Lesotho and Swaziland and also the provinces of Mpumalanga, Free State and Eastern Cape. To the east is the Indian Ocean.

Although there is evidence of habitation in the region dating back around 100,000 years, recorded information dates back to Christmas 1497 when the Portugese explorer Vasco da Gama discovered the area we now know as Durban, which at the time he named Terra do Natal. Modern Durban, which is also known as the eThekwini Municipality, is possibly one of the most culturally diverse cities in Africa with a large Asian community. In the 1860’s, indentured labourers were brought from India to work on the sugar plantations of which many never returned home. According to official website of South African Tourism, Durban’s urban area has a population of 3.7 million people.


The economy of Durban is based largely around transport, manufacturing, tourism and the service sector. The importance of the Port of Durban and transport links to the rest of the country interlinks with many areas of the economy. The Port allows for the manufacturing companies easy access to exporting their products and the roads and railways allow for efficient distribution with in South Africa. Durban is also a popular cruise port.

Large foreign companies such as Microsoft have offices in the city and in early 2007 the vehicle manufacturer Toyota opened a painting facility in Durban with an initial investment of around one billion Rand. For two years in a row, 2005-2006, Durban has won the Vuna Award for the Best Run Metropolitan Municipality. The awards began in 2003 to highlight the best of South Africa’s 284 municipalities.

Durban also has a not inconsiderable informal economy, which does bring revenue to the region, nonetheless there appears to be mixed opinions as to how much of a contribution it makes. In recent year’s Durban City council has looked at how best the informal economy can be integrated into the mainstream.

Standard Of Living

As with the other main cities in South Africa the standard of living is highly variable, for those who have money Durban has all that would be expected in a modern metropolis, but for those on low incomes life can be harsh.

Durban is, according to the city council South Africa’s largest domestic tourism location and with a number of projects underway aims to become a major international destination as well. As a Leisure and/or business destination Durban has a lot to offer. For business tourism it is fast becoming a place of choice for conferences, conventions and staff incentives with some excellent facilities available.

For the leisure tourist, the province has so much that it could take many visits to see just a fraction of what is on offer. Durban’s famous Golden Mile beach is a place to either play or relax, getting into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean is as safe as it can get with shark nets and lifeguards in place throughout the year. If fish watching is your thing then uShaka Marine world is worth a visit as it has snorkel and dive tanks where it is possible to swim among the tanks inhabitants. Durban is also home to around 15 museums of various themes and KwaZulu-Natal province has a plethora of sights to see, ranging from sites of historic battles to wildlife.

Eating out in Durban is an adventure, with the region having the largest Asian population outside of India travellers are spoilt for choice, everything from some of Africa’s top Indian restaurants to a local speciality, Bunny Chow, which is a loaf of white bread cut in half and hollowed out, filled with meat, vegetable or bean curry and finished by using the scooped out bread as a lid.


Currently Durban International Airport is the main airport but has limited capacity for the expansion needed to boost the economy of Durban and the wider province. The length of the runway is not sufficient to accept some of today’s larger aircraft, such as the A380 Airbus and due to surrounding residential and commercial areas close to both ends of the runway it is not economically viable to expand. In August 2007 the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) gave approval, with conditions, for the construction of a new larger airport 30 kilometres to the north, close to the town of La Mercy. The new airport, to be named King Shaka International Airport is part of the planned Dube Tradeport, which will include a trade zone and cyberport. The airport is due to be ready by 2010 with further expansion continuing until 2060. When opened, the new airport will allow for more direct flights to Durban, as currently many international flights arrive or leave with a stop at Johannesburg.

KwaZulu-Natal has two major seaports, the Port of Durban and Richards Bay. The port management company, South African Port Operations (SAPO) state that Durban is the busiest port in Africa, figures from the National Port Authority of South Africa show that in 2006 between January and December, the Port of Durban handled nearly two thirds of South Africa’s seabourne container traffic. The ports location and well-developed transport links by rail and road to the rest of the country, plays an important role in the economy of KwaZulu-Natal and Durban.

In mid 2007, Durban saw the launch of its ‘People Mover’ bus system, which aims to be a safe, comfortable and an efficient means of getting around the city. The buses are equipped with CCTV, and run at 15minute intervals.

According to Durban City council, Durban “has the best electricity distribution on the continent, a vast roads network, best & biggest water treatment & supply base” and a growing telecommunications network. As with other cities in South Africa a proportion of the improvements and upgrades to infrastructure are related to the preparations for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


In the region of a quarter of South Africa’s workforce are located in the Durban Municipal area. To quantify the size of the workforce in figures, it is difficult to come to an accurate number, because if the informal employment sector is to be included, by its nature it is in a state of flux.

Durban has two major universities, the Durban University of Technology and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, both of which were formed by the merger of older institutes of higher education. The Technikon Natal and ML Sultan Technikon in 2002 merged to form the Durban University of Technology and has six campuses. In January 2004 the University Durban-Westville and the University of Natal merged to form the University of KwaZulu-Natal consisting of five campuses. The universities ensure that Durban has a steady supply of highly educated workers entering the professions needed to take the economy forward.

Business Costs

According to the real estate advisory company CB Richard Ellis in mid 2006, prime office rent in Durban stood at €117.94 per square metre per year comparing favourably with its European counterparts. The occupancy cost in London (West End) was €1362, while Paris, Frankfurt and Munich were €678, €402 and €362 respectively.
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