Where to Live and Work as a Digital Nomad – Part IV Africa

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Mighty Travels’ mission is to guide you with ways to go everywhere and live well anywhere. Digital nomads now have the opportunity to live and work from anywhere and live a nomadic lifestyle without leaving the world behind.

  • Part I Middle East and Central Asia
  • Part II South America
  • Part III Asia
  • Part IV Africa
  • Part V Europe
  • Part VI North America

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

I have devised the following (very scientific) criteria for choosing the best places:

  • Cost of living (especially hotels, apartments, local transport and food)
  • Internet speed
  • Security situation
  • Language (how easy it is without knowledge of the local language)
  • Quality / diversity of food
  • Cheap flights (to and from your temporary home)
  • Friendliness of locals
  • Entertainment options – or how bored would I be after one month
  • General hassle factor (how much drama is involved in everyday transactions)

Since we do not cover employment on Mighty Travels, we are assuming you already have a digital job that you can do (for a limited time) almost anywhere.

Africa is a continent that clearly has a great future ahead, but that’s also the issue – robust GDP growth always seems around the corner but often fails to materialize. Many African countries drown in a democratic deficit and maddening bureaucracy and barely provide any public services like security.

However, Africa also features dramatic scenery, some of the world’s friendliest people and lots of opportunities.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Cape Town

Cape Town is often described as the California of 30 years ago. Impressive scenery, a mild climate and lots of sunshine are just the natural ingredients here. The city has a great first world infrastructure and tons of smart people.

Cost of living

After the recent devaluation rounds of the rand, South Africa is incredibly affordable. Expect a third of the prices you pay in New York City; that price level holds true for most things here, though accommodation is a bit more expensive.

Internet speed

South Africa long suffered from expensive and slow internet connections because of its remote location. There has been a rise in new submarine cables and it’s now much easier to get decent bandwidth in Cape Town.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Security situation

Safety is a huge headache in Cape Town. Muggings, carjackings and other thefts are rather normal and not rare. Expect it at any point in time while you’re there. The (somewhat) good news is that kidnappings and murder (as part of property crime) aren’t a huge headache (though they happen way too often).

There is a whole host of safety guidelines you should follow when in South Africa as a tourist or long-term guest.

Language

English is an official language here and the accent won’t be too bad.

Quality / diversity of food

Cape Town has fantastic, diverse food that will remind you of ‘California fusion’. It’s much cheaper and often fresher here, though. The wine region of Stellenbosch is right nearby and $40 tastings for 3 smalls sips of wine (like in Napa Valley) are unheard of here.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

Cape Town to Johannesburg flights are some of the cheapest in the world and Johannesburg is THE frequent flyer point of departure for long-haul business class flights. Paradoxically, most flights to neighboring countries (bar Namibia and Mauritius) are very expensive and you will usually need to burn your miles.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Friendliness of locals

Very similar to Americans; there is a little less attitude, but just a little bit.

Entertainment options

Cape Town isn’t the most happening place but its sheer natural beauty will keep you entertained for some time.

General hassle factor

Rather low; Cape Town (for the most part) works just like a US city and is pretty efficient. Nevertheless, for such a modern country, the bureaucracy can be maddening.

view from Kigali tower

Kigali

Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) isn’t exactly well-known outside of Africa, but the city has made big strides and is laying the foundations of seriously becoming the ‘Switzerland of Africa’. The city feels VERY African though and the rolling green hills and the nearby lakes will fascinate you.

Cost of living

As with most of Africa, the city isn’t really cheap. Expect to pay the same as in a non-coastal US city for apartments and almost as much for food.

Internet speed

It’s not Ethiopia (before the big ISP shutdown) but it’s still pretty fast.

Security situation

Very unlikely for the region, safety is NOT an issue in Rwanda unless you are really crazy. I walked around the city center alone at night and never spotted any safety issues. There is plenty of police and they are efficient and ready to help at any time.

Another example? There is a big money exchanger with a massive amount of bills right outside of the airport and he just sits there in a little hut. No extra security. No guns. Amazing.

Language

As a Belgian colony, Rwanda used French and recently English has become an official language. Since English is such a popular language in the region it is already widely understood.

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Quality / diversity of food

Kigali has the beginnings of an ethnic cuisine ‘scene’ and there is a good amount of diversity. Coffee is great and the coffee shops are hip, but service is often arduously slow.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

RwandAir has big plans and wants to be the next Ethiopian Airlines in Africa. With the new planes on order and the new airport coming up, they may actually have a shot.

Friendliness of locals

Rwandans are friendly folks – less outspoken than Kenyans, but along similar lines of friendliness. It’s rare to get ripped off in Rwanda.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Entertainment options

Kigali is sleepy, no doubt. Plan on trips through the (small) country to entertain yourself.

General hassle factor

Surprisingly low. Most things work just as well as you expect, besides the crazy-slow service in restaurants and coffee shops.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Addis Ababa

Addis has seen a fascinating rise, from the capital of the world’s poorest country to a semi-modern city with lots of skyscrapers, a sleek light rail system, a train to the Red Sea and Africa’s busiest airport. It lies on a plateau and mostly has a 70-degree climate year-round.

Cost of living

Addis is expensive compared to other Ethiopian cities, but it is still dirt cheap once you leave the western compounds behind.

Internet speed

Addis is well-connected by major internet providers, but the government has heavily restricted internet access in the last few months because of political crackdowns. It’s possible to have no internet for a week now.

Security situation

Before the recent outbreak of political violence, Addis was one of the safest cities in Africa. It is still safe, but foreigners can be a target now.

Language

Ethiopians are very proud of Amharic, their ‘national language’. Most people here will not be fluent in English – in fact, it is hard to find even basic English in many situations. Keep in mind that Ethiopia is just building out a general primary and secondary education system.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Quality / diversity of food

I’m a big fan of Ethiopian cuisine and I can eat it all the time. However, injera and tibs can get a little boring. There isn’t as much diversity in cuisine as I’d wish here, but the cheap cost and fantastic coffee will make up for most of it.

Cheap flights to and from your temporary home

Addis is a major hub for flights within and beyond Africa, but flights aren’t that cheap when you depart from here. Thankfully the fuel surcharges are very low when flying from Addis, so using miles (from foreign programs) is a great idea here.

Friendliness of locals

Ethiopians can be pretty xenophobic, but also friendly (and sometimes overly so). It’s a rather unique situation.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Entertainment options

Addis does have its share of things to do, but it’s pretty limited after a few weeks.

General hassle factor

The trouble is, everyone in this city wants to sell you stuff – nonstop. It’s hard to not be bothered by it at some point. Traffic is also manic and the air is heavily polluted. Nights are usually freezing and afternoons are hot, but no air conditioning can usually be found. This sounds like a first world problem but will annoy you after a few days. Since Addis is at 10,000 feet of elevation you will also be out of breath surprisingly quickly.

Also-rans

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Nairobi

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya, which likely has the most diverse and most modern African economy (after South Africa). However, the security situation is troublesome, prices are high and infrastructure is dismal.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Johannesburg

This South African city shares a lot of commonalities with Cape Town, but it is even more dangerous and doesn’t have the same kind of spectacular location.

Live and Work as a Digital Nomad

Blantyre

I hear happy reports about Malawi’s second largest city; I will find out next month if they are actually true.