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12 invaluable lessons learned as a woman moving back to Africa (for work) | Episode 4: Better get your money

Posted in Africa, Inspiration, Transformation & Development, and Women Empowerment

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Three years ago, I resigned my consulting job in Paris and decided to move back to Africa to run an e-commerce company. I have now moved on to new opportunities across Africa and wanted to share what I learned as a woman moving back to Motherland for work. I hope you find here some inspiration, valuable information and -why not- some entertainment as well.

Lesson 7: Handle your finances like a Boss

In the previous episode, we talked about having a solid plan B. This episode this a natural extension of the previous one, as we will keep talking about your finance. I hope some of these tips will resonate with you!

Disclaimer: Please be aware that my “‘lessons” are mainly coming from my experience, and that I am in no ways a financial expert.  Beyond that, if you disagree with my views, I would like to hear from you! Do not hesitate to drop a comment in the comment section below.

1. Know your worth before deciding to leave.

Back in August, I  was invited to speak at the Harvard Alumni African Action Forum, on a panel hosted by Movemeback a community connecting talents to exciting opportunities on the African continent.  One of the questions asked was to know if it was okay to move back to Africa for a significantly lower salary. After all, the cost of living is supposedly lower in Africa; repatriates/returnees may not be better than their local counterparts and, if they are from Africa,  they perhaps should be driven by the mission of making their country a better place rather than the financial compensation. My opinion about that is simple. There are only three valuable reasons for which you could go to work in Africa for a fraction of a Western salary at an equivalent position:

  • you did not pay for your western education (e.g. your education  was funded by your government or your company)
  • you have no professional experience
  • you can afford it

Did you contract a loan to pay for your expensive Business/Law/Engineering school? Think twice before listening to people telling to be “realistic” and accept to be paid less than what you are worth.  Many African organizations actually pay fortunes to hire non-African experts in various industries. If you have the relevant experience, do not accept to be the cheap one and build a solid case for your package negotiations. You, therefore, might want to increase your job market value by building a solid and relevant professional experience before moving back to Africa. Be patient. Africa is not going anywhere! That being said, if you can afford to be underpaid and see a greater value in what you are going to learn or to build, so be it. Otherwise, I would not recommend it.

2. Keep an active bank account in the West

Ideally, you may want to keep a bank account in the west for safety (see Episode 3 about the importance of having a backup plan), for simple transactions (such as receiving a Paypal payment since most African regulation doesn’t allow it yet), and simply not to put your eggs in the same basket, just in case. If you are from sub-Saharan Africa, we probably know a relative, a colleague or a friend who lost their life savings because a bank or a cooperative lending institution closed business without noticing their clients. It happens more frequently than you think. You may also want to keep that bank account in case you want later to invest in the country you lived in (see Episode 3).  If you plan to keep your account active, also think about having a spare credit card just in case you lose one and cannot afford to wait days before having it replaced.

3. Beware of shiny investment opportunities

Africa is a land of opportunity and, there are chances that you will be exposed to more investment opportunities than you have ever been when you were living abroad. However, because of the higher level of uncertainty, unless you have VERY deep pockets, I suggest never to invest more than you can afford to lose. Also, trust your intuition. If someone offers you to be part of a great deal and you don’t “feel” it, tell them you are going to think about it and then later tell them “thank you”, but that you, unfortunately, have other financial priorities/obligations that are not compatible with the opportunity at this moment.  Also make sure to avoid any important financial decision when you are emotionally vulnerable (divorce, heartbreak, sickness, conflicts, bereavement etc.) or when it’s introduced by a new love interest, as you may not be using your best judgment. To summarize, as law enforcement is still an issue in many countries in Africa,  be as careful as you reasonably can with your money. You may not die, but you may have to learn a very costly lesson.

4.  Be a smart money person

Additionally, I would recommend you to read the book Smart Money Woman by Arese Ogwu, founder, and CEO of Smart Money Africa.  I have had the chance to meet Arese at a She Leads Africa event in Lagos, (and got a signed copy of her book!) Her background is quite inspiring. In a nutshell, Arese is a millennial repatriate who managed to overcome personal challenges and become a recognized expert in her field and is on a mission to give (back) to young Africans the power to build their future and make smarter money decisions. Smart Money Woman is a Finance-Chick-Lit book that is equally practical, informative and entertaining, and will give you clear steps to get to financial freedom. Wherever you are in the world, you can check the digital version of the book here to get it in few minutes on your phone, tablet or reader, or send it next Christmas to a friend that you think would need it!

Oh, by the way, I have started a video show called #DearCandace on Facebook, where I answer questions you may have about your career, your projects, or moving back to Africa.  So far, the videos have been in French and got more than 10 000 views in total. Of course, I am planning to also answer questions in English, so if you have any questions about your career, your business or your next step, click here and send me a message, and you might be the next lucky person to see his or her question answered! 

So what do you think? Do you have any other financial tips in mind? Have you read Smart Money Woman? Let us know in the comment section below! And for daily doses of life and career inspiration follow me on my Facebook page (www.facebook/candacenkoth) and on Instagram (@candacenkoth). And as always, make sure to subscribe to my VIP list to receive updates that I only share via e-mail.

A bientôt!



  1. Great practical advice to apply.

    November 11, 2017
    • Candace

      Thank you for your feedback and support Bankelele!

      November 15, 2017

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