Work and Travel in Africa
WORK IN AFRICA ALL YEAR ROUND
Volunteer and Paid Work Opportunities in Africa for Travellers
Africa is one of the least explored continents on the globe. Civil war, poverty, and poor infrastructure have made this perhaps the most challenging continent for backpackers in the world. With perhaps the greatest diversity of cultures you’ll ever find, volunteering opportunities in Africa aren’t as well-known. You’re really going to have to work if you want to succeed here.
Travel in Africa is tough. There’s no doubt about it. But if you want a unique experience coupled with a new understanding of one of the most misunderstood parts of the world, work and travel in Africa is for you.
Look at the travel guides for Africa and you’ll find that they lack the detail of the same guides for Europe. But we’re going to give you the tools you need to begin your greatest adventure.
Are you ready for the mysterious continent of Africa?
1. Get the Continent Back on its Feet
You know about the problems Africa has. That’s why there are foreigners all over the continent providing their skills to local communities. This could be anything from ensuring people have new wells for clean water to helping in the construction of new school houses.
Sometimes all you need to be is a native English speaker and you can help children learn to read, write, and count. You never know which skills might be needed.
It’s by far the best way to get up close with real Africans.
2. Join a Hostel in North Africa
Hostelling isn’t big in Africa as a whole. But in North Africa this is one of the most well-trodden backpacking trails in the world. If you want to take advantage of this, you can work in a hostel. There are so many roles in African hostels you can take up, including working at the reception to simple cleaning.
Some hostels and guesthouses even search for computer literate travellers to help them get online and promote their rooms.
If you want to join a hostel in North Africa, you can find these positions easily enough. Some of them may even be paid opportunities.
3. Become an Educator in Africa
Education is one of the things that Africa struggles with. This is a major problem and it means that even finding people to teach the basics is hard. Volunteers have the potential to be able to pick up work as educators in Africa. You may or may not need formal teaching qualifications at the same time.
For example, a TEFL is enough to be able to teach English in many non-native countries. You may even be able to find work teaching orphans to read.
However, you should be aware that working for major organisations will require you to possess real qualifications. This will also enable you to take advantage of paying work.
WORK & HOLIDAY VISA / PERMIT REQUIREMENTS FOR PAID WORK AND VOLUNTEERING IN AFRICA
Africa is difficult to describe when it comes to visa requirements. It’s also one of the most bureaucratic continents in the world. Many of these countries use visa fees as a method of bringing in an income to the country. It’s true that as a Westerner you will find it easier to obtain visas for certain countries.
However, Central Africa, in particular, will prove a challenge. You should give yourself some extra time to obtain these visas.
This is a basic guide for major nationalities when it comes to visas for work and travel in Africa.
EU Citizens: EU citizens are able to enter countries like Morocco, South Africa, and Botswana. Many countries along Eastern Africa also provide visas or visas on arrival for some EU citizens. However, you should be aware that Central Africa generally requires visas and that individual nationalities are usually subject to specific requirements aimed at them.
UK Citizens: Citizens of the UK have many similar requirements as the EU. The difference is they have some other options at their disposal, such as the ability to get an eVisa for countries like the Ivory Coast and Gabon. Like with the EU, you should expect to have to apply for visas for practically every Central African nation.
US Citizens: American citizens can enter countries like Morocco and Tunisia without a visa in the north. They can also enter South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Madagascar without a visa. Unlike citizens of the UK and the EU, they can enter the Central African nation of the Central African Republic without a visa.
However, other Central African countries will still require a visa.
Canadian Citizens: Canadian citizens have identical visa requirements throughout the whole continent as US citizens.
Australian and New Zealand Citizens: Australian citizens and New Zealand citizens have practically identical visa requirements across Africa. Most of East Africa is open either via a visa on arrival or without a visa. The same goes for a number of countries in North Africa, such as Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia.
Where they differ is that Kiwis require a visa to enter South Africa, whereas Australians can enter without a visa. Other requirements for countries in Southern Africa remain the same.
Russian Citizens: Russians will find that in Africa they have practically the same requirements as Western nations with more powerful passports. Places like Botswana and Namibia are open to Russians without a visa. Elsewhere in Africa, Russians are able to enter Senegal and the Gambia without a visa. They do need visas for Central Africa but don’t need visas for islands like Madagascar and Cape Verde.
South African Citizens: It may surprise you to know that South Africans can enter fewer countries on their continent than many Westerners can. When it comes to countries in East Africa, such as Tanzania, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, there’s no need for a visa. But there are only four countries outside of East Africa, including Tunisia, where South Africans can enter without the need for a visa.
As you can see, if you want to volunteer in Africa outside of the major destinations you can expect to have to go through the visa system. For many countries, the only way to get a work visa is to be with an international organisation registered in the country.
And you usually need specialist skills that aren’t readily available in the country itself.
SEASONAL WORK IN AFRICA
For the purposes of this guide, we’re going to go forward with the knowledge that there are two distinct seasons in Africa: the dry season and the rainy season. But Africa covers both hemispheres so the way in which these seasons manifest can be tough to get your head around.
In general, however, for volunteering purposes you will likely want to stick to the dry seasons.
In West Africa, springtime is the shoulder season. It comes immediately after the rainy season, although you should still expect some sporadic rain. This is a great time to travel in Africa because many volunteering opportunities will be just opening up in time for the upcoming dry season.
The same also applies to North Africa. However, as you move more inland you should expect higher temperatures due to the proximity of the Sahara Desert.
For the summer season, you should consider moving towards East Africa. The summer months coincide with the dry season, thus you’ll be able to enjoy higher temperatures. This is also an ideal time to work in Africa around the Eastern coasts, as humidity is higher yet temperatures won’t be as unbearable as the inland areas.
The same principle applies to the South Africa. This is also the time when many safari lodges and game reserves do most of their business. If you intend on working with Africa’s famous animals, this is the time to do it.
Autumn in South Africa and East Africa is a time of contrasts. The first half of autumn is covered by the remainder of the dry season and the start of the rainy season. This is the time to return to North Africa if you want to avoid the rain.
West Africa has a shorter rainy season that lasts for a couple of months in autumn. This can be quite intense, so most people who want to volunteer in Africa will go back to the north.
The winter months in much of Africa are covered by rain. The regions of Africa covered by rain throughout most of the winter include the coastal regions of North Africa, West Africa. Landlocked countries like Mali are ideal for this time of year.
Southern Africa should be avoided, but East Africa can be ideal because the rains are not too heavy and much of this region will turn green. This is perfect if you want to work and travel in Africa as part of a conservation team.
ATTITUDE TO FOREIGNERS WORKING IN AFRICA
There’s no doubt that Africa does have its dangerous areas. The areas that spring to mind include Libya, the Sinai Desert, some parts of Mali, the Sudan region, and Somalia. However, if you do your due diligence you should have few problems avoiding the danger areas.
The difficulty of working or volunteering in Africa is that many of the more remote areas have little to no contact with foreigners. You’re an object of great curiosity and it’s not uncommon to be soon surrounded by curious children.
However, head over to many of the more touristy regions in North Africa and you will have to beat off the various touts and con artists with a stick (mentally, not literally). It really depends on where you are working and travelling in Africa.
But to really make the most of Africa you need to do your research first to avoid any trouble.
So, after reading this, are you ready to work and travel in Africa?