One common option many recent retirees choose is to move to another place. Some people want a warmer climate, hence Florida's popularity or they want to sell their three-bedroom house with half an acre of land in the suburbs of a big city, and use that money to buy a sprawling farm out in the middle of nowhere. A growing retirement trend for African Americans is retiring to the African continent.
There’s something transcendent across all cultures about knowing where you came from. This goes beyond visiting your old hometown or even where your family lived a couple of generations back. Scientific research is showing that we may carry the memories of our ancestors in our DNA. So, when we return to where our people came from and we think it feels like home, it’s because we hear the whisper of a thousand ancestors telling us the same thing.
People of African descent brought over to Europe or the Americas through the slave trade were once relegated to only knowing their ancestry in the broadest of terms – their primary ethnicity. Africa is as rich in history and culture as any other part of the world, and the advent of affordable DNA testing from services like 23 & Me and Ancestry.com have given millions a window into the past. Knowing what culture one came from can be enlightening and eye-opening.
Many people who chose to live out their retirement in Africa aren't just there on permanent vacation. Many seek to make lives better for the locals. A retired engineer or teacher can use their skills and knowledge to help a community more than many charities who throw cash at a problem. They want to, and can, make a difference.
Ghana leads the way in inviting African descendants from all over the world to return to the land of their roots. They are currently the only African nation with a policy to allow anyone of African ancestry to live within its borders permanently. Senegal is another good option to move to. It’s a beautiful country, and its capital Dakar is a safe place for foreigners. Locations like South Africa have a well-earned reputation for crime and violence, however, the areas where expats live tend to receive more protection than the rest of the cities.
Being an expatriate or only living away from family takes its toll. There will be times and life events like graduations, weddings, funerals, and the like that will be missed. Traveling from Africa back to the States for the holidays isn't like hopping a plane from Cleveland to Baltimore. The cost and travel times are significantly higher, as are the added hassles like going through customs or making certain travel visas are in order.
One thing that helps is the way technology can help keep us connected. Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram are great ways to be involved with distant friends and family daily. The same goes for the old standards like email and text messaging. Skype can let us see and hear those closest to us no matter where we are. They may not be physical with us, but it's close.
Technology can also help with other issues. Most African-American expats will keep the bulk of their financial resources in US banks. Still, they will need cash from time to time. ATMs may be hard to come by in some places, but commercial retailers, like Check into Cash, offers Western Union services like wire transfers.
Moving to a foreign country will have its downsides and outright inconveniences. Many staples of American life just don't exist outside the US. It could be nearly anything, depending on where your new home is. Milk, peanut butter, or simple things like some candies may be hard to impossible to find. The same goes for entertainment. It can take a long time for movies or TV episodes to filter to other parts of the world if they even do.
There are also the most practical aspects of living that we take for granted in the US. Many parts of Africa aren’t known for having the most reliable power grids. Blackouts and brownouts can be common. The same goes for the general infrastructure. Another creature comfort that most Americans have gotten used to is having reliable and fast internet access. While many African nations have made great strides forward, the continent as a whole is still far behind on the digital divide.
Political instability is one of the biggest concerns for anyone considering a move to Africa. Much of the continent is still recovering from European colonialism and their installed and corrupt puppet governments. This has led to brutal civil wars, like in Rwanda, and the rise of extremist groups like Boko Haram. The news does paint a bad picture of the whole, and there are several growing and emerging states in Africa with stable governments. It is a good idea to make sure that the place you want to move to is one of them. Having an escape plan for a worst-case scenario is also a good idea. You might even want to keep a cashier’s check or two handy and know where the closest Western Union is, in case you need cash.