Expat Feedback From Africa

July 9, 2015 Updated: October 26, 2015

Recent information released by InterNations, the worldwide Expatriate Networking Organisation with 1.7 million members, from its “Expat insider 2014 survey” provides insights into expatriate opportunities and conditions in Africa.

Despite recent security concerns a quarter of a million or one in six of its members live in African countries. The majority of these people thrive in some of the continent’s largest economies where the highest percentage of expatriates (12 percent) makes more than 250,000 USD annually. This compares with 3 percent globally.

On the African continent, Senegal and Nigeria are high on the list for job satisfaction and personal finance according to the survey findings.

Nearly 80 percent of expatriate respondents living in Senegal rated their career prospects positively, 20 percent higher than expats worldwide. Job satisfaction in Senegal is also impressive, with 69 percent responding positively.

Nigeria follows closely in second spot, with 74 percent stating that they are satisfied with their job and 64 percent seem happy with their career prospects.

Kenya is in the top ten as well, with 60 percent positive about their job prospects and 70 percent are satisfaction with their employment.

Of the three destinations highlighted, the West African country Senegal is least know to the average expatriate but it is an interesting country. It is a former French colony with the major language still French. It has a 2,200KM border brushing against The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mauritania. The Capital and largest city is Dakar with 1.7 million people. Its main source of trade is Peanut Oil and Phosphates and 51 percent of its people rely on agriculture. More than half of its 13.3 million population are under 20 years old. It has good beaches and a wide diversity of cultures and habitat, with many interesting areas to explore. But its per capita GDP ranks 146th in the world at $1,032.

So What Takes Expats to Africa?

The number of expats finding their own employment in Africa is surprisingly high, 26 percent of respondents said they found a job on their own in Nigeria, and 25 percent said the same for Kenya, much higher than the global average of 16 percent. But an amazing 63 percent of expats moved to Nigeria for work related reasons and 58 percent said they moved to Kenya for that reason compared with 36 percent globally.

InterNations Ambassador in Nigeria Hashim Zein believes that, “Africa poses very interesting opportunities for expats; there is a dearth of specialized experience due to previous brain drains and the relatively rapid development in the continent.”

Key Occupations of Expatriates

Key occupations reported by respondents in Nigeria include telecommunications (12 percent), construction (13 percent), manufacturing and consumer goods (15 percent), and transportation, warehousing and logistics (12 percent).

The findings for Kenya include tourism, travel, accommodation and food services (12 percent); financial service, real estate and insurance (10 percent), and manufacturing and consumer goods (13 percent).

Senegal as a developing Nation shows manufacturing and consumer goods to be the highest category at 15 percent, with business services, professional consultancy and coaching next at 13 percent, but telecommunications is still significant at 10 percent.

Between 60 and 70 percent of respondents in these countries work for international companies while Nigeria and Kenya show high percentages of expats working in top management positions, 46 percent and 29 percent respectively. This is significantly higher than the global average of 12 percent.
Nigeria and Kenya show high percentages of expats working in top management positions, 46 percent and 29 percent respectively. This is significantly higher than the global average of 12 percent. InterNations’ members in six sub-Sahara cities of Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa amount to more than 46,000. South Africa is the largest community, followed by Kenya and Nigeria. The three smaller communities each have between 3,000 and 4,000 members.

Where Expatriates Earn the Most

Twelve percent of expat respondents in Nigeria claim income of more than $250,000 (USD) annually. Countries with the next highest earnings by expats are Russia and Kazakhstan with 11 percent each. The next highest percentage of high earners in Africa is Egypt with five percent. Globally, three percent of expats fall into this high earner category.

Expat incomes - from 'Expat insider 2014 survey'. (InterNations)
Expat incomes – from ‘Expat insider 2014 survey’. (InterNations)

Zein explained that the perceived risk on the continent is a reason for increased remuneration levels and the burden of housing and transportation in countries such as Nigeria also push up the overall package. However he considers there are more opportunities to maximize expendable income for expats in Africa.

Indeed 91 percent of respondents living in Nigeria consider their income sufficient for daily living and 34 percent indicate their income is more than needed to get by. This compares with 76 percent of expats global that consider income sufficient for normal living.

The areas where expats live tend to be more secure attracting a cost premium and food items for Western, South Asian and Far Eastern cuisine are imported and often cost more.

Longer Than Average Working Hours

Although the overall remuneration package is good, expats tend to work longer hours in African destinations than the Global average. In Nigeria the average hours per week is 48.2, Ghana is a close second at 47.8 and four locations out of the top 10 in the world are in Africa. Expats in Senegal and Kenya quote their average working hours at over 44 hours per week, but despite this they still rate their work-life balance positively.

 Expat working hours around the world - from 'Expat insider 2014 survey'. (InterNations)
Expat working hours around the world – from ‘Expat insider 2014 survey’. (InterNations)