After leaving Ghana in search of their permanent home on the African continent, Myra Parks (from The Repat Diaries) and her family visit 3 more countries, carefully weighing the pros and cons of each nation and seeing if any fulfill their requirements as a permanent place to settle.
In January of this year, our family left Los Angeles on an amazing journey. Our sights were set on making Accra, Ghana our new home. However, after deciding Ghana was not our cup of tea, we began an adventure to find an African country that fit us better. Since departing Ghana, we’ve been to three different African countries — Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal.
Each country has come with its own set of pros and cons when checking them against our “can we live here” checklist. Traveling to these countries and experiencing the environment, we have continued to reevaluate our wants. Some of the criteria we initially desired, we removed from the checklist and other factors we consider important have been placed higher.
Other than the need for basic necessities (i.e. fresh locally grown produce, consistent electricity, cleanliness, etc.), there are also some other key factors that we are looking at:
An easy and stable immigration policy: We are looking at whether or not the country’s immigration process is clear, simple, and enforced by the government. All of the places we have visited with the exception of Togo, had a clear process for immigrants, with Senegal being the easiest country to become a legal resident of.
Safety and security: We never faced any danger in the three countries we visited. However, looking around Lomé (capital of Togo), we noticed that the country is highly militarized and there is heightened security, which was a bit uncomfortable. In Abidjan (capital of Côte d’Ivoire), our main concern is that there could be tension with France again when elections come up in 2020 (like the Ivorian post-election crisis in 2010-11). Although many African nations share the same concerns when it comes to political instability, we are not interested in living in a country where violence may result from political developments. Senegal is the safest country we have been to outside of Ghana.
Traveling to these countries and experiencing the environment, we have continued to reevaluate our wants.
The people: Since leaving Accra, we’ve had the pleasure of meeting the most hospitable and courteous citizens. No matter where we traveled in Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, or Senegal, the people have been extremely helpful, engaging, and welcoming. Of course, we consider all of these countries to be family friendly as well. In Senegal, there are tons of kids around playing their hearts out and our son DJ has jumped right in with them.
Language and communication: We want to learn a native African language and use it with residents. As we all know, many West African countries have a huge French influence. We want to live in a country where there is pride in speaking the native language. Even though the residents speak French in Senegal, they primarily converse with each other in Wolof. Additionally, there is a large English speaking community in Senegal as well. These factors make Senegal appealing more so than Togo or Côte d’Ivoire, where hardly anyone speaks a language other than French.
Taking all these factors into consideration, we identified some major pros and cons in the 3 countries we’ve visited:
- Hospitable and courteous citizens
- Small town vibe making it a calm and relaxed environment
- Easy to find your way around
- Beautiful beaches
- No electricity outages (at least while we were there!)
- Clean environment
- Primary language is French and not much native language/English
- Restrictive business practices
- Expensive land lease prices (i.e. $20,000/plot in villages)
- Poor internet connectivity
Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire
- Hospitable people
- Decent connectivity and easily accessible internet services
- Rapidly growing economy
- Ease of doing business
- Simple immigration process
- Foreigners can purchase freehold land (except in villages)
- Consistent electricity (no outages)
- Primary language for country is French
- Potential for political instability
- Large city
- Internet services are expensive
- Community of English speakers
- Easy immigration policies
- Native language (Wolof) is the primary language spoken versus French
- The safest country we have visited (outside of Ghana)
- Great internet connectivity and easily accessible
- Consistent electricity (no outages)
- Easy to travel from Dakar to major US cities
- Dakar is a small city and easy to learn our way around
- Authentic African culture
- Easy to conduct and establish business
- Harsh “desert-like” climate (affecting allergies)
- A lot of the city seems old
- Limited produce grown locally
Four and half months on the African continent can seem like a lifetime, and despite certain challenges we have faced, our family is growing stronger by the day. Each day presents a new experience, new thoughts, and a new understanding of what factors are important in determining where we want to live. So far, we haven’t found a place that checks the “must have” boxes or at least most of them. But we’re not giving up — we will continue our travels until we do!
Want to follow Myra and her family on their travels in Africa? Keep reading for more stories in her “Back to Africa” segment on Miles Away.