Africa keeps attracting countless expats who ply their profession while exploring the natural diversity of the world’s second largest continent. Though like a beautiful rose in a thorny thicket, there are a lot of trials faced by expats in Africa and many arrive ill-prepared to face them. No matter your profession, you’ll be tried and tested by these challenges but how you deal with them will determine your length of stay. For more than three centuries, millions have emigrated and settled in Africa, ending up calling it their home. Here are the major challenges you’re likely to encounter as an expat in Africa. Bear in mind that the extent of these challenges much depends on which part of the continent you choose to live.
Cultural and transition shock
According to the African Holocaust, our continent is home to more than 3000 ethnic groups whose cultures and norms are so intricate that they may appear ‘weird’ to foreigners. You’ll discover some primitive tribes dwelling in dense jungles while practicing bizarre norms and rituals like female genital mutilation, ancestor worshipping, etc.
As a novice, you’re likely to have personal disorientations due to the unfamiliar way of life in Africa. You’ll realize that concerns like gender inequality, laws about sexuality, dressing and grooming codes, respect for elders and beliefs, shape up public life in Africa. Overcoming cultural shocks requires a series of adaptation strategies that may involve compromise, adjustment, and adaptation to your newfound African life.
Undesirable standards of life
Africa is characterized by widespread underdevelopment, so expect to make substantial adjustments to your personal lifestyle. Except for bigger economies like South Africa and Egypt, Africa’s communication and transport sectors are in a deprived state. Flights within the continent are exorbitantly high while calling rates and internet access are also unreliable. Inadequate facilities depict the poor service delivery in public sectors like health and education. The high cost of living and income inequality on the continent have forced impoverished people into wickedness as a quick way of making ends meet. In fact, there are urban areas where expats are advised never to go such as slums.
More to that, most parts of Africa experience severe weather that brings along floods, droughts, famine, restricted movement, loss of life and damage to properties. The sight of street beggars seeking alms, piles of rubbish accumulating by the roadside, impassable roads, understaffed schools, hospitals and contaminated water might also give you a shocker but many expats have got used to all of this, so you can.
Greed and corruption
From the moment you land at an African airport, you’ll realize that corruption is the only way of getting around established rules. Sometimes, you might find yourself stuck in a dilemma and the only way out is by bribing someone in the authority, depending on your situation. To a foreigner who’s not used to such a phenomenon, you just have to bear in mind that moral decency in public dealings is almost non-existent. You might initially feel that it’s immoral to be corrupt, but later you’ll apprehend that it’s the only shortcut to get your way in most parts of Africa.
You should be aware of conmen and scammers who mostly target expats seeking to swindle them not forgetting that in the markets you’ll be asked for a higher price than locals b’se they think you’re rich. Many expats are harassed by authorities who concoct false claims with an aim of receiving bribes, for example, if you’re driving and come across a road checkpoint, you might have to bribe the traffic officer with some ‘tea or soda’ bribe as they term it. We have political heads who are rulers but not leaders and don’t be surprised that they live a lavish lifestyle while their nationals live in abject poverty.
Due to the high level of illiteracy especially in the undeveloped areas of Africa, expats will realize how difficult it is to communicate with the locals. Most expats to Africa are engaged in heavy industries like mining, oil exploration, and agriculture in rural areas where there’s a high level of illiteracy. More than 2000 languages are spoken across Africa and most are difficult to learn, so a few educated people have basic knowledge of foreign languages but don’t expect everyone to speak your language. You might need a spare time to learn a local language so as to be able to interact with the locals unassisted.
Many expats who’ve ignored this fact have ended up being lonely and sad b’se they can’t find a company from the locals but this can lead to homesickness, infinite regress, and boredom. Such expats have ended up restricting their movements within their own neighborhoods.
Insecurity and strife
Africa is riddled with constant communal conflicts that have hugely slowed down its development. Even if you settle in a peaceful community, you’ll always find yourself close to an uprising of any sort. From the civil unrests, inter-tribal conflicts, political strife, demos, wars, terrorism and rebellions, the continent has generally been considered unsafe for expats.
In Nigeria, many expats especially those working in the lucrative oil industry are kidnapped and released after payment of heavy ransoms. In South Africa, Xenophobia is real with hatred for economic migrants from other parts of Africa. In Kenya, ethnic conflicts are common in addition to terrorism threats by militants from the neighboring Somalia. Keep in mind that you should refrain from working in conflict-laden areas. Even in specific urban areas considered safe, crime rates can be high with murders, house break-ins and pickpocketing very prevalent.
These have plagued the continent for decades and expats need to be critically aware of them. Most of these endemic diseases include malaria, measles, tuberculosis, cholera, HIV/AIDS and many others. These are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene, ignorance, mosquitos and unsafe sex practices. Due to the heavily infested tropics, the majority of diseases are endemic to the sub-Saharan region of Africa. The way they’re handled should worry expats as health service delivery is considered poor and characterized by understaffing, lack of medicine, poor facilities and underfunding.
It is due to these anomalies that health insurance in Africa is high-priced but you’ll receive immediate medical attention to your ailments if you visit a private health facility since public health centers are unreliable. Bear in mind that most of the medication treatments are made outside of Africa, so due to import anomalies, these can be costly!
Despite these challenges, Africa still remains the number one destination for expats who seek to work while exploring the vast beauty of the world’s richest continent. None of the mentioned challenges should scare you, instead develop strategies that include preventive measures to keep you on the safer side. Like millions did before, you too can have a flawless privilege of calling Africa your beloved home. Karibuni Africa…