Work in Africa

Emma Knowles, Editor
April, 2019

If you're looking for a change of scene and are prepared for a culture shock, set your sights on working in Africa. International workers are needed to fill skills shortages in a number of industries across the continent

Home to the world-famous Victoria Falls and Mount Kilimanjaro, exotic wildlife, as well as 54 sovereign states and roughly 1,500-2,000 spoken languages, Africa is a continent of diversity with plenty to explore.

Things are looking positive for the African economy - the World Bank has forecast an economic growth of 3.6% by the end of 2020. A number of multinational companies, including big names such as Deloitte, PwC, Coca-Cola and Microsoft, have African bases - meaning you may be eligible to work in Africa without moving organisations.

Skills shortages

Shortages across many of Africa's main industrial areas are due to a lack of technical knowledge, insufficient or non-existent training, or the lack of a university degree. International graduates may find that their skillset is crucial to a sector in need of expertise.

For instance, it was reported in 2018 that vocational courses in Kenya aren't in line with global standards. The petroleum industry in particular is suffering, and skills are also needed in IT, accounting, business management, geology and engineering.

Meanwhile in Nigeria, the Industrial Trading Fund (ITF) and United Nations Industrial Organisation (UNIDO) found that the country lacked 925 trade skills in April 2018. The housing, automobile, textile and steel industries were most affected, due to a lack of IT and soft skills.

If you've got the skills to teach English as a foreign language, or work in tourism, finance, media, or for a non-governmental organisation (NGO), you could be an asset to the Egyptian workforce.

Other African countries have opportunities in a range of shortage areas. As an international worker, you should aim to have secured employment before making the move - this may be necessary to obtain a visa. You're most likely to find work through a multinational company with a base in Africa.

The best places to work in Africa

In partnership with The Global Career Company, African Business publishes an annual report, The 100 best companies to work for in Africa, which surveys thousands of African professionals to explore what makes a company appealing to prospective employees.

The 2018 report revealed a shift towards brands with an international presence, although national companies such as African Development Bank and gas plant Nigeria LNG appear in the top ten.

Multinational companies with an African presence, which made the cut, include:

  • Deloitte
  • Heineken International
  • L'Oreal
  • Nestlé
  • PwC
  • Unilever.

Those surveyed also expressed an interest in meaningful jobs, where their work had great social impact, as well as roles with excellent leadership. Salary was a less important factor to employee satisfaction.

If your sights are set on a generous pay packet, you may want to look elsewhere - salaries in Africa are generally lower than those for the same roles in the UK. For instance, Current School News reports that, on average, accountancy and finance workers in Nigeria earned just £720 per month in 2018 - compared to the UK average monthly wage of around £5,150 (AccountancyAge).

Venas News reports that public hospital doctors in Kenya earn an average of £1,150 per month, while teachers earn on average £340 (secondary) and £175 (primary) per month. In the UK, for comparison, doctors' salaries start at £27,146 during training, while the minimum salary for newly-qualified teachers in England and Wales is £23,720.

However, you'll find the cost of living balances this out - it's nearly 50% cheaper to live in Morocco than in the UK, 53% cheaper to live in Nigeria and nearly 60% cheaper to live in Egypt (rent is also up to 83% lower in Egypt than in the UK).

Where to look for jobs

Search for vacancies at:

Alternatively, you could consider volunteering through a company such as International Volunteer HQ or Kaya Responsible Travel. Working in local communities, you'll find placements in a range of areas such as animal conservation, teaching and community sport. Completing a volunteer placement could open you up to job opportunities, and helps you develop skills employers are looking for.

Start your job hunt online from your home country. Most companies accept applications through an online portal, where you'll upload a CV and complete an application form, before being invited for digital interview if you're successful.

African visas

While each country has its own requirements, you'll need a visa or permit to work in Africa - whether you have long-term plans or are looking for a temporary job. Contact the embassy or consulate of the country you'd like to move to for further information.

You should apply for a visa as early as possible. Having your application processed typically takes three working days, although you should allow for delays and other factors, such as the time needed to post your application if you can't submit it in person. Check with your chosen country's embassy or consulate for a more specific timeframe.

Bear in mind that some areas of Africa are classed as unsafe - visit GOV.UK - Worldwide to find up-to-date travel information for your chosen country.

Study in Africa

Another way to experience life in Africa is to take your postgraduate studies abroad.

Seventeen African universities appear in the QS World University Rankings 2019. While more than half of these are in South Africa, institutions in Egypt, Morocco and Kenya also feature. Two African universities also appear in the Top Universities Top 10 Universities in the Arab Region 2019 - the American University in Cairo (8th) and Sultan Qaboos University, Oman (10th).

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