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Among the best opportunities for development in South Africa lie along the East London coastline south towards Port Alfred. Until 1994 much of the surrounding area, included in the Ciskei and Transkei, was off limits to white business.

Today the city is a hub of African culture and is a popular starting point for visits into the former Transkei. East London was created as a British beachhead during the Frontier Wars with the Xhosa and was named after the empire's capital. The East was added because it is situated east of the Buffalo River. British connections are strong with the main road through the city named Oxford Street. Before the British or even the Xhosa arrived the area was populated by Khoikhoi and teemed with game.