I received a phone call from a nice gentleman who wanted to know where to start. You see, he intends to move permanently to Ghana in a couple of years and has no idea where to get started in his preparations. I’m no moving consultant; but I was struck by his desire to move to Africa and bring his skills with him so as to assist in the development Ghana in whatever way he could. I must admit honestly that he didn’t have a great knowledge of the country or the things he would need to do to get there. But again, his passion impressed me. With two years to go, he has the time to become informed and here is a piece of the advice I gave:
Before deciding on moving to a foreign country, find out the basics by visiting the US State Department’s website (or equivalent organization from your country of citizenship) and find out what they advise for citizens who want to live abroad in that country. You will often find information concerning everything from health insurance, real estate, schools, and an array of other concerns you might have while living there. Then contact the local embassy or consulate from that nation. For example, the Ghanaian Embassy in Washington D.C can inform him of the visa requirements and tell him what things he will and will not be able to do as a foreigner living in Ghana.
Another thing which might be helpful is if you can ask the embassy about (many countries have them) an American-(whichever country you want to move to) Association or Club. I’m making up the name here but let’s say the “Americans in Ghana Association.” Often expatriates like to form associations or clubs to help them network or just give them a cultural taste of home on occasion. They are an invaluable resource when moving; because they are doing exactly what you want to do. They are a wealth of advice and often are exited about the chance to help someone starting the journey.
Let’s focus on moving to Africa though: Africa has a major problem of brain drain. Thousands of Africans leave their home countries each year looking for opportunity elsewhere and they take their training, skills and experiences with them. It is clear that there is a role for those who are interested in reversing the “Brain Drain” and emmigrating to African countries in order to contribute their skills and abilities. But first, check out the area you would like to move to… thoroughly. Good intention, without good research, can be more harmful than good: not only to the people that you are going to help; but to you as well.