How to Retire in Africa for $1,200 a Month

The U.S. Department of State estimates that approximately 9 million Americans live overseas. However, only a small percentage have made their home in Africa — fewer than 115,000 in sub-Saharan Africa, according to 2018 numbers from the Federal Voting Assistance Program.

Southeast Asia and Central America are common landing spots for American retirees who are looking for affordable living. But Africa can be even cheaper and offer more favorable visa and tax situations.

“How much are you looking for adventure?” asks Richard Boyatzis, distinguished university professor in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University and a regular visitor to the continent. For those seeking a country most like home, South Africa is the most westernized. Boyatzis recommends Cape Town. Although it is also one of the most expensive countries in the region, the cost of living in South Africa is far below that of the U.S. And for those willing to embrace new customs and explore other countries on the continent, it is easy to retire to Africa for $1,200 a month or significantly less.

Find the right landing spot by following these steps.

— Choose a region.

— Settle on a country.

— Research visa and financial considerations.

— Select your living arrangements.

— Schedule a long-term stay.

Choose a Region

Africa is a diverse continent that contains more than 50 countries. While each is unique, there are regional differences that can help you determine which country might be best for you.

The continent is often discussed in terms of three regions:

— North Africa

— Sub-Saharan Africa

— South Africa

About a half dozen countries make up what is typically considered North Africa, and these include Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt. Located along the Mediterranean Sea, these countries offer a temperate climate and beautiful scenery. They are at various levels of modernization, however, and some American retirees may struggle to adapt to local religious and cultural customs.

Sub-Saharan Africa makes up the bulk of the continent, and this region may be further broken down into sections such as East and West Africa. Christianity is the majority religion in much of sub-Saharan Africa, but countries farther north may have primarily Muslim populations.

Senegal is over 90% Muslim and has a lot of cultural ties to Morocco,” says Donna Patterson, a professor and senior fellow at the Global Institute for Equity, Inclusion and Civil Rights at Delaware State University.

Patterson also notes that African countries can be split into those that are Francophone and Anglophone. As their names suggest, these are countries that were colonized by France and Britain, respectively. American retirees who are not bilingual may find communication to be easier in Anglophone countries which include Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon.

[READ: The Best Places to Retire in Mexico.]

Settle on a Country

Once you know which region interests you, it’s time to explore individual countries.

Some countries may be an especially good fit for American retirees, according to Benjamin Njila Fields, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Berkeley and executive director of the African Diaspora International Trade Association. “Ghana is really attractive for Americans,” he says.

With its Beyond the Return program, Ghana has positioned itself as a gathering spot for the African diaspora — that is, all those of African descent who have been dispersed throughout the world. To that end, it offers a “right of abode” to all persons of African descent in the diaspora. Similarly, Sierra Leone offers citizenship by descent to those who can trace their ancestry back to the country.

As for quality of life, there can be significant differences between countries and even within countries. Boyatzis notes some countries have large modern cities, but outside those urban centers, other areas can be significantly less developed.

When it comes to costs, all African countries are likely to be less expensive than the United States. Online lender NetCredit calculated the cost for an American to comfortably retire in various countries across the world. The analysis assumed a person’s retirement would last roughly 15 years, and its estimates for Africa can be broken down to the following monthly costs:

— Algeria: $1,160 per month

— Tunisia: $1,186 per month

— Ghana: $1,282 per month

— Uganda: $1,322 per month

— South Africa: $1,701 per month

— Nigeria: $2,070 per month

Research Visa and Financial Considerations

Moving to Africa may not be as difficult as you imagine. “African countries are very lax when it comes to visas for Americans,” Fields says. It can often be as simple as paying $50 for a visa on arrival.

“It’s often very easy to extend a visa,” Patterson says, “(But) that may require going out of the country and coming back.” In some cases, a person will need to leave for a specific period of time, while other countries may only require someone to cross the border and then return. Patterson notes that U.S. passports can make it easier to enter and stay in African nations than passports from other countries can.

Africa operates largely on cash economies, according to Fields, who is a citizen of two African countries. “Taxes do not exist for us,” he says. Any sales tax is rolled into the price of a product, and the idea of filing an annual income tax return is a foreign concept in much of the continent. With the exception of a few countries, such as South Africa, there are no property taxes.

American retirees shouldn’t have trouble purchasing a home in most, but not all, of Africa. “It’s usually Francophone African countries that have restrictions on property owners,” Fields says.

As for finances, Fields recommends expats get a debit card linked to their American bank accounts and use that to withdraw money in their African home. Look for an account that won’t charge foreign transaction fees and can be used at foreign ATMs. Fields uses Charles Schwab but other banks may offer similar low-fee accounts.

[How Long Can You Live Outside the U.S. Without Losing Social Security?]

Select Your Living Arrangements

Regardless of the country, living is Africa is bound to be a different experience than what U.S. retirees are used to at home.

“If you have what we would consider a middle-class income, you have indoor staff,” Boyatzis says.

In fact, Fields says spending $1,500 to $2,000 per month will cover utilities, dining out three times a week plus household workers. Remove the household workers, and American retirees could spend as little as $1,000 a month in their new home.

Those prices assume someone owns their own home and car. If not, it could cost an extra $500 to $1,000 depending on the type of housing you rent and how often you use a taxi service.

“Luxurious properties can be bought for around $50,000 on the mid-end in markets such as Ghana and Nigeria,” Fields says. Meanwhile, homes in coastal areas such as Cape Town might run as high as several hundred thousand dollars.

Renting is equally affordable with nice apartments ranging from $300 to $500 in many sub-Sharan African areas, according to Fields. Those prices include utilities.

Beyond the questions of whether to rent or buy and how many household workers to employ, American retirees should consider whether they will need to travel back and forth to the United States to visit families and receive health care. Retirees should keep in mind that original Medicare won’t pay for medical costs incurred outside the country, and you’ll need to buy a Medicare supplement plan or other coverage.

[See: The Cheapest Places to Retire Abroad on $1K Per Month]

Schedule a Long-Term Stay

The final step toward retiring in Africa is to schedule a stay in your country of choice. “Stay so many days that you start to feel bored,” Boyatzis advises.

That will give you enough time to determine whether the country’s customs and culture are a good fit for you.

“The pace of life in Africa is extremely slow,” Fields says. It’s not unusual for people to arrive at appointments a half hour late. At the same time, people are very welcoming, and cities can be lively. “There is not a night out where you cannot find something to do,” according to Fields.

Patterson suggests trying several different countries before settling on one spot to be your permanent retirement haven. Ultimately, “those who are open-minded and patient usually fare best,” she says.

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How to Retire in Africa for $1,200 a Month originally appeared on

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