How to find a job in "Africa"

So I recently received an email from a friend of a friend asking what they could do to become an attractive prospective employee for potential NGO employers in Africa.  While I am by no means an expert on the topic as I have only had 3 positions here and have been here a little less than 3 years, I offered this advice:

1. Research "Africa" and decide what region and field is the best fit for you.  Nairobi is not the jungle and Mali is a desert.
2. Figure out what unique skills you bring to the field that are less readily available in the local employment market.  Just because you are an expat does not mean you are better suited for a job than national staff.
3. Get a Masters degree.  In my experience I don't think it matters which field it is in, unless you want to work in a very technical field.  There are a ton of great programs on development; including some at universities across Africa.
4. Network, network, network.  Every job I have ever gotten, stateside or in Kenya, have been through networking.
5. If you don't have international experience, get some.  Take a leave of absence from your current job and volunteer or intern for an organization in your chosen field.  Who knows, maybe they'll offer you a job at the end of your stay.
6. Apply for anything and everything you see posted even if you don't think you are qualified.  Sometimes agencies are willing to trade one set of experience for another if they are interested in you.  
7. Be open to short-term opportunities. While it is commonplace to have a long term position at an agency in the US and other western nations, in African countries you are more likely to be offered short term contracts that might be extended after an initial few month stint. 
8. Manage your salary expectations.  Typically you will not get a high paying offer for your first role at a NGO, especially if you're looking to work in the field or with a grassroots organization.  Cost of living is less in most cities (there are exceptions: Juba, Kinshasa, and Lagos, to name a few) and you can survive with a relative high standard of living on much less than you would expect.

Fellow expats, what advice would you give?


  1. Read! Read a lot, especially about the specific region or country you might be interested in. It helps to know the politics of a place you're applying for a job in . . . or at least, ya know, the name of the country's leader.