Living and Working in Africa: 6 Guiding Themes

POSTED Mar 2, 2017 BY Ashish Misra

Earlier this week i was in contact with one of JobnetAfrica's followers Ashish Misra and he forwarded us a blog he had written. Since the work of JobnetAfrica is all about living and working in Africa, i was interested right away and i love the blog Ashish has written. Therefore, Ashish Misra is our guestblogger this week and you can read about his 6 Guiding Themes about Living and Working in Africa below.

1. There is more than one Africa – which one is yours

The second largest continent in size and population -54 countries and counting - Everybody and their distant relative has a view on Africa. But the real discovery and understanding of Africa begins when you begin to look beyond the clichéd, contrary perspectives. The resource endowed, poor Africa that’s also the home to the super-rich, a continent that’s the storehouse for global food commodities trapped in a cycle of famines, where regimes can change in the blink of an eye and big men rule till their last breath, the soul of ethnic rhythm and creativity bursting forth from a recently post-colonial body – one can continue. Ultimately, your real experience of Africa begins when you leave behind the constant comparisons with where your journey began. So don’t neglect your research and prepare for a career adventure! Know your imminent reality now - read local authors and periodicals [online] before you move.

2. Consider yourself lucky

I first came to Tanzania for a job and came to love the country, and my experience in Nigeria has been no different. Despite the pollution, the littered plastics and the teeming crowds you will come to love the place in the continent you are in. All you need is an open mind! I have spoken to a lot of expats and they are unanimous in their view – Africa is a land of immense beauty, of friendly people, of great work opportunities with strong remunerative potential. And remember, Africa is changing! For better or for worse its becoming more like the place you come from [apply that to people, infrastructure, malls and multiplexes]. Weigh that against what you leave behind. When you move across countries and continents perspective is important – use it or lose it!

3. Sharp people, Smart people

Remember smart, well educated people anywhere in the world are similar, driven by similar experiences, moulded by the same global influences. There is a common strand that runs globally connecting the educated upper middle class across the world. Similarity of education, exposure to global media, travel, art and ideas leads to a familiar incubation of innovation and entrepreneurship, though in a different hothouse – Think Africa, think telecom revolution and M-Pesa! Think Africa, think proliferating online retail! Think Africa, think bold advances in infrastructure, healthcare and Not for Profit ideas. Get ready to interact with sharper minds capable of immense, sustained effort – prepare for an education!

4. Crazy stuff happens

Yes, we do read the same newspapers! Ebola can break out, coups can happen, riots can erupt, leaders who lose elections can refuse to make way for winners, economies can collapse, currencies can devalue so fast your head spins, stories of corruption and economic divide swirl within feeling distance and gory reports of violence, tribal riots, abduction and mayhem will come flooding into your expat WhatsApp group mailbox. Learn to sift fact from cheap fiction! Decades ago colleagues in Uganda told me about going to bed every night with their passports and $ 500 under their pillow just in case a speedy exit was required. I have experienced an automatic weapon pointed generally in the direction of my midriff at a lonely highway checkpoint, bailed out colleagues from prison for no crimes committed, heard of professionals exiting in a hurry from Rwanda, Ethiopia, Angola, Sierra Leone – and then going back! In every crisis hides an opportunity...and when in doubt, listen to the music of Fela Kuti!

5. Be ready to build capability

Remember, like in any country, in your work and life interactions you will meet people with dissimilar levels of education, perspective, training, background, understanding, even language and accent from yours. Being understood is your responsibility – if your long winded tales are confusing telegraph them, if you expect to be understood psychically prepare to be misunderstood. Set clear expectations, communicate clearly, and train your team if you would like them to adhere to a system that you are familiar with and know that it works. As Nelson Mandela said – Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. Apply that to your operating microcosm!

6. Get ready for the hustle

Be prepared! The co-existence of acute, in your face income inequality and unemployment [particularly educated unemployment] can create an unnerving dynamic – especially in a new country. The social dynamic can and does engender aggressive behaviour, panhandling, robberies and worse. Please refer to the various safety and corruption indices online. Follow the common sense rules, avoid known trouble spots. My philosophy has been to exercise caution without succumbing to unnecessary fear – be friendly, smile, integrate! Connect with expat organisations like Internations, meet local colleagues socially. I have travelled across Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria without much event – and been robbed at home in a relatively safe country like Tanzania.

Travel light to Africa, my friends! You will find opportunity, innovation, food, friends, music and mosquito repellent here. And you really won’t need the excess baggage of pre-conceived notions and a misplaced sense of superiority! In the words of Nelson Mandela, It always seems impossible till it’s done.

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Warm Regards,