For a while now, I’ve been seriously considering the possibility of relocating to Africa. I’d heard a mixed bag of good and bad experiences of Foundational Black Americans (FBAs) who have taken the plunge to move to Africa; everything from those who moved there with stars in their eyes, and within months, had to return to the states financially broke and very disappointed with their experience to FBAs who move to Africa and are thriving. I wanted to see for myself what the opportunities were, and so in late April, I did a little online research, decided on three countries to visit, and took the plunge in May. The countries I visited included Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia. Here’s the breakdown of my trip:
I had expected the people of this country to be nice, and they did not disappoint. In fact, I found the people of Zimbabwe to be some of the most welcoming and hospitable people I’ve ever met. Everyone from airport workers who offered to take me to the hot spot restaurants where the locals ate to complete strangers I met in passing who recommended sites to visit and what to avoid.
Zimbabwe is a former British colony and driving is done on the opposite side of where we drive in the United States. Driving my rental car on the opposite side of the road was a bit unnerving, but not nearly as unnerving as the overly aggressive drivers. Traffic signals, which the locals refer to as “robots” are routinely ignored. There were at least two instances when the light had turned red and drivers not only didn’t slow to a stop, they continued pouring through the intersection. I’m not talking about a person running through the yellow that turns red, but cars that blatantly run the red light. On at least two occasions, drivers not only ignored the red light, but continued driving through the intersection until the light had turned green again!
Another thing I found to be concerning was the poor air quality. Having been raised in California, I admit I’m spoiled by our highly regulated Environment Protection Agency standards for air quality. I was shocked by the polluted air, cars, trucks and buses that spewed gray and black smoke and the smell of burning trash, including tires, at night. I’m accustomed to sleeping with my bedroom window open, but had to keep them closed in Zimbabwe to keep the noxious smell of smoke out of my hotel room.
The roadways are laden with potholes. The potholes on the main road that lead to Victoria Falls, in particular, are epic. I ended up blowing out two tires in my car rental during that trip. But once we made it to the falls, the challenges of getting there were almost forgotten. Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world that spans three countries: Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The sight is absolutely breathtaking and was a life changing experience that I highly recommend.
During my visit, I learned that housing prices range from fairly reasonable to as expensive as one might find in the United States. The government allows foreigners to buy any type of land they wish without restrictions. They also encourage foreigners to start businesses and to employ Zimbabwe citizens. I was told informally that starting a business can be a fast track to permanent residence.
Zimbabwe has also informally adopted the U.S. dollar and Americans can use the American dollar freely.
I rented a car in Namibia and similar to Zimbabwe, driving is done on the opposite side of the road. But what was immediately different about Namibia was that the road infrastructure was of a very good quality even better than many roadways I’ve driven in California. The rules of the road were also orderly and were for the most part followed by drivers. I found Namibia to be a very clean country including the air quality, and everywhere I went was tidy and well-kept. I had an appointment with a realtor and arrived early at a shopping center where we were to meet and needed to use the restroom. I used a restroom at a grocery store and was stunned at how immaculate and clean it was. It reminded me of the type of restroom you might find in a high-end department store and there was a full-time attendant inside that wiped down the sink and toilet after each visitor.
I met with an attorney who provided me with sort of a “buyer-101” style overview about what a foreigner can and cannot buy in Namibia. One of the datapoints the attorney shared was that once a buyer pays for a property including the transfer fees, taxes, and receives the deed, there are no more property taxes due! Unlike the United States where a home owner pays taxes on a property annually and on a perpetual basis even if the property is paid for, this it not the case in Namibia. Once you buy a house, it’s one and done as far as taxes are concerned. And speaking of buying a house, the prices are pretty reasonable. At the time of this writing, the U.S. dollar is very strong against the Namibian dollar and trades at roughly 1 dollar for 19 Namibian dollars.
Having been aware that Botswana is a landlocked country, I was surprised at how green and hilly the countryside is. On our first full day in the country, my family and I went on a safari. It was a fun and exciting experience that I highly recommend.
While in the capital city, Gaborone, I looked at a variety of property types from farms to gated communities and was impressed with a lot of what I saw. Based on my research, I was already aware that the amount of property inventory for foreigners to purchase is fairly limited in Botswana. But after meeting with a local attorney, I discovered that visitors are permitted to stay in the country for a total of 90 days per year. Obtaining temporary residency can take more than a year. With that said, the cost of buying a house in Botswana is attractive, and similarly to Namibia, once transfer and taxes are made at the time of purchase, buyers don’t pay perpetual property taxes like home owners do in the United States.
Overall, my tour of the three southern African countries was a great experience and I have yet to decide what my next move will be in terms of relocating. I am still talking with realtors and attorneys in the respective countries and will report back on my findings in upcoming blogs.
Stay tuned for more updates!