A guide to serviced offices and office space for rent in Durban as well as general information that may be useful if you are thinking of renting offices in the city.
History & Geography
Durban is South Africa’s third largest and the busiest port in the country. It is located on the east coast of South Africa on the Indian Ocean and is situated in an area of low rolling hills interspersed with gorges and ravines. The area was first discovered by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who sailed along the coast in 1497 and dubbed it ‘Natal’, meaning Christmas in Portuguese. Durban’s modern history begins in 1824 when a party of settlers under British Lieutenant F.G Farewell. They established a small settlement in the area on the north shore of the Bay of Natal. An adventurer named Henry Francis Flynn struck a deal with the Zulu King Shaka whereby he was granted a 30 mile strip of coast. It was decided to build a town in the territory, which was promptly named d’Urban, after the then governor of the Cape Colony Sir Benjamin d’Urban. Meanwhile the Voortrekker, Dutch settlers, had a proclaimed the Republic of Natalia and laid claim to Durban. After two years of conflict however the Voortrekkers were decisively defeated by British troops. Durban thrived in its first few years of existence. A British governor was appointed a the area became known for its sugar cane industry. Because labour was scarce in the area thousands of indentured Indian workers were brought in by the British to work on the farms, and Durban to this day has the largest Asian community in Africa. Durban boomed and became one of the most important ports in Africa. At one time it was the largest sugar terminal in the world. After South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994 the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality Durban was formed. Today the city continues to thrive commercially due to its busy port and its booming tourism industry.
Durban has a fairly diversified economy with strong tourism, transportation, finance, manufacturing and government sectors. The city’s port is also a major contributor to its economy and is one of the busiest ports in Africa. This gives Durban a major advantage when it comes to export industries. Sugar continues to be a primary export and Durban’s port still has the largest sugar terminal in the world, which acts as a bedrock of the city’s economy. The Durban Metropolitan Area is the economic driver for the region of Kwa-Zulu Natal and contributes more than 50 percent of the area’s output, employment and income. However of late the population of the metropolitan area has been skyrocketing due to urbanization and high birth rates. This has placed stress on the economy and more job creation in the city is sorely needed. Durban is also one of the most visited cities in South Africa due to its mild climate, warm ocean and diverse population. It’s tourism industry is a major contributor to the local economy and has spawned an array of businesses. Additionally Durban is becoming more popular as the most popular city in South Africa to hold conventions, exhibitions and trade fairs.
Tourism & Culture
Today Durban is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa. It is primarily known for the Golden Mile, a stretch of beachfront which has been heavily developed. The beach itself, protected by shark nets and lifeguards, is popular with sun bathers and swimmers alike. Apartments and tourist hotels and resorts overlook the beach and newly built cycle paths run the length of the promenade. At the north end of the Golden Mile is the Suncoast Casino and Entertainment World which boasts its own beach as well as assorted bars, restaurants and cinemas. The uShaka Marine World resort park is also popular with tourists and consists of four different sections including a waterpark, beach and aquarium. Nature lovers usually visit the Umgeni River Bird Park whereas bargain hunters are to be found at the Markets of Warwick, the largest street market in South Africa. Recently Durban has become a favoured destination for international conventions, due in large part to the construction of the International Convention Centre, which was recently voted the fourth best convention centre in the world and has been the leading conference centre in Africa for over 7 years.
Durban is served by the King Shaka International Airport which has both domestic and international flights. Among the destinations it serves are Mozambique, Mauritius, Dubai and Swaziland. Durban also has good rail connections with two long distance services every day, one to Johannesburg and the other to Cape Town. Currently there is a high speed rail link between Durban and Johannesburg being discussed, however there has not yet been progress. The city itself is well served by a comprehensive bus system as well as taxis. Durban is also well known for its Zulu Rickshaws, however there are now only approximately 25 of these left in operation.
Durban’s central business district has declined significantly over the last decade due to high levels of crime and the erosion of public infrastructure. Today many companies have moved their operations out of the city centre to outlying suburbs like Umhlanga in the north of the city. A new business district located around the massive Gateway Theatre of Shopping has sprung up. The new Durban Point Waterfront project southeast of downtown is an effort to attract businesses back to city. However Grade A office space is still lacking in the city and there are few other projects in the pipeline to tackle the shortage.