Every corner of Africa holds new wonders. The second-largest continent in the world is brimming with potential, and one of its most vibrant regions is West Africa. It’s a developing area that is home to diverse cultures and communities. The budding prosperity of West African nations draws migrants not only from within Africa but from countries outside the continent as well.
Many Western expats have chosen to settle down in West Africa, coming from Europe and North America to find new success and opportunities here. In 2020, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) estimated that there were 7.6 million international migrants residing in the region. If you’re considering building a new home in West Africa, you’re in good company!
West Africa: A Colorful History, a Bright Future
There are many reasons Westerners choose to move to West Africa. It could be to pursue business opportunities or to enjoy higher standards of living. For some African Americans, relocating to West Africa holds cultural significance as a form of homecoming. This movement, referred to as “Blaxit” in a 2022 publication by Noelle Ojo, describes the trend where many Black Americans leave the US behind to start new lives in the continent of their ancestors.
The lengthy coastline of West African nations borders the Atlantic Ocean. Its ports have always been important hubs of trade and transport. During the pre-colonial and colonial periods, these ports were used to move Africa’s people, wealth, and natural resources to foreign nations. Today, the dynamic has shifted. West Africa is a region where many international immigrants are drawn into the continent with high hopes.
Many Nations and Many Opportunities for Expats in West Africa
There’s no doubt that West Africa is one of the best places to live in Africa. But just like the continent, the West African region is one of great diversity. Foreigners visiting for the first time might be surprised at how many of their expectations about life in Africa were incorrect.
Your experience will vary wildly depending on where you are, as there are 16 countries in West Africa. Each one has something unique to offer as is evident by the ongoing “jollof wars.” Taking place during the Jollof Festival, countries like Senegal, Nigeria, and Ghana enjoy whipping up their own regional rice dish, hoping to prove the superiority of their own concoctions. Though the competition is heated, it’s a friendly affair that allows each country to highlight its regional specialties while forging stronger ties with its neighbors.
According to the UN, the 16 countries that comprise the West African subregion are:
- The Gambia
- Sierra Leone
- Ivory Coast
- Cape Verde
- Burkina Faso
Most of these nations work together under a regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). However, when considering the best African country to immigrate to, some nations stand out among the rest.
The second-most populous country in West Africa, Ghana is a popular choice for Western expats. Al-Jazeera reported that a community of 3,000 to 5,000 African Americans is thriving in Ghana’s capital Accra. As the largest city in the country, residents and visitors enjoy its many restaurants, bars, and clubs. It also has a vibrant music scene.
The most populous country, not just in West Africa but the entire continent, Nigeria is a country on the rise. The capital, Lagos, is the largest city in Africa, and home to many expats as well as the world-famous Nollywood film industry. Nigeria has wildlife reserves and several natural landmarks, including the famous 725-meter monolith, Zuma Rock.
Because of its thriving mining industry, Guinea is home to many expats who work in this sector. The country is home to several natural attractions—wildlife, pristine beaches, waterfalls, cliffs, and grasslands. There is also varied cultural entertainment for foreigners.
There are an estimated 200,000 foreigners in Senegal who enjoy its beautiful beaches, cultural heritage, vibrant capital, and natural parks. Many Europeans, particularly French, spend their time in resort towns like Saly, which is on the Petite Côte and south of the country’s capital, Dakar.
This coastal nation has strong historical ties to the United States and the United Kingdom. It is also part of the British Commonwealth. Its history, , gorgeous beaches, and Sierra Leone’s English-speaking population make it a perfect place for Western expats looking to move to West Africa.
Things To Know Before Moving to West Africa
It’s unfortunate that there are negative stereotypes that depict Africa as a dangerous or backward place to live. One visit to West Africa can change your mind, especially after you experience the warmth of the locals, the buzzing city life, and thriving cultural landscape. Still, keep in mind that this is a completely different part of the world from the West, with its own customs and traditions. The best advice for those wishing to move to Africa would be to keep an open mind.
West Africa is a very interesting region. Its history is influenced by native African cultures, colonial settlers, and post-independence reforms. These varied influences combine to create a melting pot that is endlessly fascinating to the expats who settle here.
The predominant religion in West Africa is Islam. This is thanks to the many Arabic traders who introduced the faith to West Africans sometime in the 9th century. However, a significant number of West Africans also practice Christianity, making it the second-most followed religion in the subregion. Finally, traditional African religions, including the Yoruba, Akan, and Serer faiths, all have followers in West Africa. According to figures from The Association of Religion Data Archives (ARDA), the religious demographics of West Africa in 2020 were 51.9% Muslim, 36.4% Christian, and 11.3% traditional religionists.
Thanks to its geographical location and cosmopolitan history, West Africa is home to many languages and dialects. These myriad tongues reflect the many influences on West African culture. There are languages belonging to the Niger-Congo family, as well as languages from the Nilo-Saharan and Afro-Asiatic groups. Apart from these indigenous languages, most countries in West Africa also speak at least one colonial language, which could either be Arabic, English, French, or Portuguese. Making an effort to learn some of the local and indigenous languages goes a long way among locals and can help you settle in faster. The residents love it when foreigners do their best to communicate with them on their own terms.
Cost of Moving to West Africa
How much money do I need to move to Africa? Many West African nations are still developing, which leads many would-be expats to think that moving here will be cheaper than living in their home countries. While it’s true that the average cost of living in West Africa, including the rent, is lower than in the US or other Western nations, there are other factors to consider.
The economics of your move to West Africa will be wildly different based on whether you are being relocated by your employer or moving independently. Corporate relocations often cover the cost of rent, visa application fees, and insurance. However, you will have to bear these costs if you are moving of your own volition.
Also, keep in mind that as an expat, you will probably be living in big cities like Accra, Ghana, or Lagos, Nigeria. Though West Africa as a whole might be less expensive than Western countries, these major metropolises have the highest cost of living in the entire region. Also, rising inflation in the these areas will impact your expenses.
So, to answer the question—how much does it cost to move to Africa—the actual cost of moving to and living in West Africa will vary depending on where you are. However, using Nigeria’s capital, Lagos, as a benchmark, the average monthly expense for a single expat will be around $600, while a family of four can expect to incur costs running up to $2,200.
Building a Home in West Africa
You won’t feel truly at home in West Africa until you have a house to call your own. Owning property as a foreigner is permitted in most West African nations, especially those that host many expats. If you are buying a pre-built structure, you can reach out to developer-contractors like Jobomax Homes. We offer a range of residences in several West African nations that are built for expats. Even if you’re starting with an empty plot of land, Jobomax Homes can help with the construction of your dream home.
Once you’ve decided to make the move to West Africa, all that remains is learning about the visa requirements and finding the right contractor to build your home. A new life full of opportunity awaits!