During a recent expat coaching session with a client interested in moving to Africa, I was asked if such a move was wise for a family of four. My client was concerned about traveling with her husband and two children to Africa mainly because of financial and safety issues. Both she and her husband would need to secure employment in order for their move to be economically viable.
While international travel for two or more people to many African nations can be quite expensive, the cost of living in most African nations is generally much lower than that of many westernized countries. In addition to the low cost of living, many employers in African countries pay their expat employees quite well and provide accommodations, transportation, and other allowances. So if you secure an expat job in an African country you will most likely have quite a bit of disposable income.
Also, safety is generally more of an issue within a local geographic area versus an entire country. In fact, some African nations are ranked higher on the global safety index than the U.S. Also, expat employers generally provide accommodations in safer regions of the African nations in which they operate. Or they will at least help you find safe, amenable accommodations.
However, beyond finances and safety, there are a number of other factors that should be considered when determining if a country is family-friendly or not. If you are moving with children you also need to think about health, education, activities, and entertainment among other things when deciding on the right country for your family. If it’s just you and your partner you generally only need to be concerned about employment opportunities, health, and entertainment.
Either way, the following list of African countries can accommodate the needs of many families who are interested in moving to the continent.
This country sits in the heart of southern Africa and it is surrounded by other well-known African nations including South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. It is a bit of a hidden gem as it is not talked about much in the African expat community. However, it offers a high quality of living for citizens and residents alike.
For the average expat, the cost of living in Botswana is fairly low in comparison to their passports countries. In terms of safety, it is considered one of the most secure areas of the continent to reside in. Drug crimes, terrorism, kidnappings, political violence, general threats are low to non-existent in this nation. Though expats and tourists should be aware of crimes of opportunity such as purse snatchings, smash and grabs, and home burglaries. Foreigners can be particularly susceptible to such crimes if they don’t follow basic safety guidelines.
In terms of health, modern, private facilities are available in major towns and cities in the country. The quality of healthcare is generally considered good in these areas. However, be prepared to pay a bit more for healthcare services and to pay for health insurance.
There are plenty of international schools in Botswana that are generally staffed by foreign and local teachers. Most international schools in this region offer American or British curriculums. The majority of international schools are located in the capital city and they can be expensive.
The capital city of Gaborone is not lacking in things to do around town. There are a variety of entertainment options in this area. However, outside of Gaborone city limits, typical western entertainment options may be a bit difficult to find. Though as a whole, this country is a gem for nature lovers. It boasts some of the most luxurious and abundant safaris, eco-lodges, and camping retreat locations on the continent.
Gabon enjoys a high level of safety relative to other African nations that often suffer from political instability, upheaval, and unrest. Economically the country has the highest GDP on the continent. However, a large proportion of the population still lives in poverty.
While better than many of its surrounding neighbors, the healthcare system in Gabon may be considered average by western standards. The healthcare sector is reasonably developed, however, there are still infrastructure issues in this area. And the vast majority of modernized healthcare services are only available in the capital city.
As in most African nations, international schools are available for expat children in Gabon. Some of them provide top-tier programs and activities such as drama, music, and art programs. But keep in mind that most curriculums in this country are based on the French or UK system. Gabon was colonized by the French so this is the predominant language and foreign culture found in the region.
In terms of recreation and entertainment, it is primarily centered around nature. The country has some of the most beautiful, untouched wildlife regions on the continent. Outside of the capital, you can spend time on gorgeous beaches, and at national parks and waterfalls. Though, the capital city of Libreville has a variety of entertainment options such as lively restaurants, casinos, and markets.
Morocco is probably one of the more well-known countries on this list as it is frequently talked about in international circles. This is primarily because of the film Casablanca named after one of the largest cities in the country. While African continently, there is a strong mixture of African, European, and Middle Eastern culture in this nation.
The country is generally considered safe for expats, however, non-Muslim women should be careful when moving around in the country alone. Women traveling solo are often thought of as prostitutes and are subject to harassment in this region. Otherwise, Morocco is considered one of the safest countries in northeast Africa.
The healthcare system in this country is very similar to that of many westernized countries. As of 2020, there were over 500 hospitals in the country. Many expats in Morocco enroll in international health insurance programs and usually seek service at private facilities. High-quality international schools are also easy to come by in this growing metropolitan region.
Unlike, many of the other countries on this list, Morocco has a robust entertainment section. Aside from nature-based and cultural activities, families can enjoy a variety of entertainment options including amusement and water parks, shopping malls, and plentiful restaurants.
Rwanda has been getting a good deal of attention from the expat community over the past few years or so. A number of YouTubers and other social media influencers have been doing a great job of profiling this nation. And, with good cause.
For many years, this small East African nation was a hidden gem for expats. Though the country was associated with the genocide that took place in 1994, it has come a long way since then. Current President Paul Kagame has made great strides in revitalizing his country making it a safe and thriving social, political, and economical hub for citizens and foreigners alike.
Healthwise, Rwanda has one of the more advanced healthcare systems on the continent. The country also has affordable, well-developed health insurance schemes that expats can take advantage of. As with many African countries, international schools are abundant in this nation and generally easily accessible. Curriculums are available in English and French.
Rwanda is a nature lover’s paradise. The nation has no shortage of national parks, waterfalls, lakes, and other outdoor activities. Expats can also check out the museums, art centers, markets, coffee shops, restaurants, and villages throughout the region.
Unlike the other countries on this list, Zambia is the least developed in terms of westernized standards. It doesn’t have as many modern-day amenities even within the capital city of Lusaka. Though, the country does have malls and restaurants. But other common entertainment options are limited unless you are a nature lover.
In terms of safety, it is relative safety. The locals are very welcoming and friendly to foreigners. There are few violent crimes and little to no political instability in the country. Zambia is considered one of the safer countries on the continent. However, because the majority of the population lives in poverty, petty theft, scams, and purse snatchings are a concern. So, keep your personal belongings in a safe place at all times.
Healthcare is considered basic in Zambia according to western standards, though the country does have a free universal healthcare scheme. Most expats seek basic, routine care at private clinics and travel out of the country for more complicated services. As with most African nations, international schools are available for expat children. However, they are primarily concentrated in the capital city.
Where Zambia lacks in entertainment, it makes up for in culture. If you enjoy cultural experiences that allow you to interact one-on-one with the local population, Zambia will serve you well. Because it is less developed than other African countries, it has been able to maintain its cultural integrity to a greater extent. This means that you are sure to have more authentic experiences when interacting with the local population.
In conclusion, the African continent is full of countries that offer some of the best expat experiences on earth. Aside from the countries mentioned in this article, you can find many nations that offer a high quality of living for foreign families. It is primarily a matter of doing your research and understanding what works for you. So, if you are considering moving to the continent I strongly encourage you to make that move.