How to pick the right country as a start of an amazing life-long venture with Africa? In my personal opinion, following criteria should be taken into account: security, natural beauty and wealth, ethnic and religious composition of population and economic situation.
I would focus mainly on peace and stability in a country. The most important is a good control of territory by the central government with a functional police. Further information on level of security in a country can be found e.g. on the web site of Australian Government. The information on needed vaccination and malaria conditions in a country are also important.
Natural beauty and wealth
In order to sustain your motivation to travel it is very important to feel an emotional attachment to a particular country. It is always good to have a strong reason behind. In most cases, poorer African countries don’t offer amusement parks, roller-coasters, golf courses, or clubs (nothing similar to the Spanish island of Ibiza :) ). The countries of Africa offer different and else unseen experience.
An adventure traveler will certainly enjoy its unique life forms, varied terrain, infinitely large areas, open-savannas or breathtaking national parks with rich flora and fauna.
Special category of teasers are African endemic species like those we saw during our first expedition – Walia ibex, Gelada baboon, or Canis simensis (Ethiopian Jackal), which live symbiotically in the Simien Mountains in the north of Ethiopia.
Ethnic and religious composition of population
The ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity of African countries is not comparable to other world regions. A traveller with a jeep travelling across the territories populated by ethnic groups with different styles of clothes, religion and views on life after death, can feel as if he was part of the Starship Enterprise crew wandering the galaxy.
Again, economically, the countries of Africa are very diversified. In principle it is possible to perceive a dividing line between countries with the wealth at the level of Ghana, which has earnings per capita in purchasing power parity of $ 1,500 per year or just over $ 125 per month. Below this income threshold are countries such as Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Malawi and others. Above this level are Namibia, Kenya, Cameroon, Botswana, Senegal, South Africa and others. The difference between these two groups is mainly in the extent of tourism and foreign investment. Basically, the traveler who expects a higher level of tourist services comparable with Europe will be lured by a second group of countries, an adventurous traveler by the first.
Responsible tourist should be perceptive to “soft criteria” in a country, e.g. its relationship to minorities or to the environment. On the other hand, no one should ever participate in a “don Quixote’s struggle”. In most cases, African countries have more authoritarian systems of government, resulting from different historical development than was the one in Europe. In most African countries the western-like freedom can hardly be realized in a short-term period. On the other hand, it certainly helps when issues are raised in appropriate forums. Only the real problem awareness among masses can lead to the ice melting and to things moving on. Not surprisingly it works in Africa as well. The observant tourism can be a good catalyst in the process.
Africa is certainly worthy to explore, to overcome all the obstacles on the way. As elsewhere in the world, there is a struggle between good and evil. In Africa, the struggle is happening in a unique historical context. Each country is full of interesting people with exciting personal stories reflecting this fight.
Africa has a warm heart, is beautiful, vulnerable, but determined to stand firmly on its own feet. For most Central Europeans the continent is still mysterious and unknown. This altogether with its virgin natural beauty makes Africa amazingly attractive for exploration.