Have you been to the Morocco Mall in Casablanca?  Its million-liter saltwater tank is an engineering marvel, allowing visitors to ride through its center on a glass elevator while observing and appreciating the 3,000 aquatic inhabitants.  When not gaping at the fish, there is shopping at more than 300 high end stores like Louis Vuitton and Prada. Visitors may also view an IMAX movie, and eat at one of the fine restaurants or cafes – some within view of beautiful “dancing fountains”. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Morocco Mall is the largest in Africa.                   

Travel about 1030 km/640 mi to the northeast, into neighboring Algeria, to ride Algiers’ new metro system. Algiers is only the second city in Africa, after Cairo, with a metro network. Launched in November of 2011, Metro d’Alger – 30 years in the making — is a true subway, with nine of its ten stations underground. It is still expanding, while providing residents a 10-minute subway ride instead of a 45-minute drive.

Of course, North Africa isn’t the continent’s only interesting region. Anyone who has read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s work (or seen her TED Talk), noted the growth of Nigeria’s “new” capital city, Abuja, or followed the recent presidential election can’t help but be fascinated by this large West African nation. In 2014, Nigeria surpassed South Africa as the continent’s largest economy, and a couple of years before that, Lagos overtook Cairo as Africa’s largest city.

You could watch every Nollywood movie several times over in the time it would take to list all the compelling aspects of each African country. These 54 diverse, unique nations represent more than a billion people speaking over 1000 languages and practicing a variety of religions. Government types also vary, as do the degree of federal involvement in citizens’ – and businesses’ – daily life, and the clarity, transparency, and humanity with which laws are enacted and upheld.

Africa is fascinating. Thanks to Kohn van Rensburg’s ERC presentation last October for piquing my interest and recommending “The Fate of Africa” by Martin Meredith. Anyone interested in the stories of African countries’ independence will find this book incredibly informative.

Also worth reading is PwC’s March 2015 “Into Africa: The Continent’s Cities of Opportunity”. Thanks to Isabel Cudell at Moving-ON for pointing out this comprehensive, compelling study.

Kohn shared an estimate of an African workforce that is 1.1 billion strong by 2040, more than China and India. All the more reason to know more about the countries that make up this vibrant land.

Written by Ellen Harris, International Product Director, Living Abroad

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