The reality of living and working in Africa

Published:  9 Jul at 6 PM
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Tagged: USA, Canada, China
Africa isn’t the first continent which comes to mind as an expat destination due to its ongoing civil unrest and ever-present dangers.

The vast, untamed continent gives breathtaking contrasts between the first and third worlds but can be a world of opportunity for those adventurous enough to take it on. It seems every time an African state hits the international news, it’s for totally the wrong reasons. Another Ebola virus outbreak, Nigerian terrorists Boko Haram kidnapping more children, regular bombing of Christian churches and a slave trade which is still alive and well after centuries of attempts to stamp it out don’t do much to persuade expat professionals to give it a go. However, in spite of all the negative publicity, there’s a breed of international expat who simply can’t imagine doing what they’re good at anywhere else on the planet.

Even taking its very real disadvantages into account, sub-Saharan Africa’s growth rate in 2014 stood at six per cent and the continent contains seven of the planet’s fastest-developing countries, although the remainder are mostly shackled by corruption, greed and a lack of infrastructure. Africa’s strength is its huge number of under-exploited resources, with oil at number one and massive reserves of mineral wealth not far behind. For several decades, expats in the oil and gas mining sectors have flocked to Nigeria and Algeria, and China is now seen as replacing the USA as the continent’s most important trading partner. For expats, there’s a demand for skilled workers with experience in various industries as well as genuine university degrees.

Nigeria is the most risky destination, with Boko Haram the major threat, and Kenya is carving out a bad reputation for terrorism attacks as well as general violence between rival factors either tribal or criminal. Across North Africa, the Arab Spring still casts its shadow, with fringe Islamic groups the biggest threat. For those determined to think positively, West Africa is the best region, even although most expats need to be there to get a good job. Experience and a good degree in engineering open all doors in the region, and adventurous expats will find Senegal or Ghana a good base.
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