“Since Africa is such a bad place, why are so many non-Africans moving here and doing all that is possible to stay longer?”
This was a question posed to me in a casual manner a few weeks ago. At first I laughed in my head while appreciating a disruption which allowed me time to think through a coherent response.
The question is not only logical but helps one to put a perspective on an issue which is rich food for thought.
There are varying kinds of non-Africans residing on the continent:
1. Ones working with organizations that have posted them within the region and they intend to leave as soon as they can.
2. Ones working with organizations that have posted them in the region and will do all they can to stay longer in their current posting or to move to another African nation.
3. Individuals/families who have paused or left behind life in their home country to move to Africa. Some may return home to retire while others plan to spend the rest of their life on the continent.
Persons falling within categories two and three are the ones to whom my friend’s question is most relevant.
After some exploration, I realised that the question was asked within the context of the complaints, gripes and criticisms levelled at many if not all African nations. It seems the most popular complaints surround the following beliefs:
- Corruption is high;
- Level of education of most Africans is subpar;
- Too many streets are lined with potholes;
- African politics is untidy and unpredictable;
- Rules keep changing for many aspects of life;
- Personal security is concerning.
- Access to quality education is a hit or miss;
- Access to a variety of foods is limited in certain countries.
While some of the complaints are legitimate, others are somewhat exaggerated but none seem to deter the growing number of foreigners swarming to the continent.
This is not colonial days when the inflow to Africa was primarily to conquer, explore and convert. Not at all. Conquering is already behind us and stakes have already been claimed for all the areas to be explored: minerals, oil and such delights.
In terms of conversion to Christianity, the majority of the work in that department is well underway. So what then is the draw to the so called “Dark Continent”?
In polite company what is often discussed is the hard life and bad weather across Africa. This is such a common conversation that when I speak of the wonderful weather in Rwanda there are those who look at me with disbelief until they visit and see for themselves.
Could the answer to the question be that many of us move to Africa and realise that in several nations, the quality of life is superior to that found in many European or North American nations? Could it be that the heart of the African people and the sense of possibilities is more than one could imagine? Could it be that the natives are nowhere as scary as depicted on our tv screens and on social media?
Outside of quite often not having access to many of the things which make our lives simpler and more decadent, the life in many African nations is wonderful for a foreigner.
For instance, back home (for many foreigners) there is no one to clean, cook, do the shopping and take care of the kids. In Africa, it is possible to pay staff to do all these tasks and more.
Wanting to go to a party that will run late? Worry not when living on the continent because the cost of a nanny is not prohibitive.
Too busy to walk your dog?
Worry not as an hour of your dog walker’s time is the cost of your morning latte at Starbucks. And the jackpot is when that African life takes you to a country where the systems work, the corruption is low, personal security is no great concern, the roads are paved and the weather is brilliant.
Imagine that life in a house bigger than you could ever dream of having back in the West. All while looking out from your porch unto rolling lush green hills.
Life in Africa is not bad at all for us foreigners. Let us return the favour by being kind, grateful and mindful.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.