U.S. President Donald Trump is taking significant grief for labeling Africa as a “shithole” when he allegedly made the following remark at a closed-door meeting: “Why do we want all these people from Africa here? They’re shithole countries…We should have more people from Norway.”
This is where most critics would launch into a critique on the president’s words…I will conspicuously avoid that discussion for it will only take away from this piece (and yes, I am Republican, but that again only takes away from this piece).
President Trump, to be candid, gave me an opportunity to gloat about my favorite “shithole countries” in Africa.
Senegal is exciting for those who view Africa through a business or cultural lenses. Senegal is part of the Francophone West African growth story. Investors see opportunity with the improving infrastructure, strong government leadership, and high economic growth.
Dwelling on that known economic storyline would only ignore the cultural beauty of what is this country on the coast of West Africa bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. The capital city of Dakar is a pearl on the coast with great Senegalese food, a thriving art scene, and a vibrant fashion scene.
A trip to the local market to buy clothes and other goods is nothing short of exciting. And a trip to Île de Gorée will satiate any history buff’s curiosity on the continent’s struggle against the slave trade.
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This Portuguese-speaking country on the eastern coast of southern Africa, bordered by the Indian Ocean, is another beauty. It is in economic rebound after the debt crisis of the past couple of years, buoyed by a resurgent interest in its gas reserves.
An estimated 180 trillion cubic feet is in the Rovuma Basin, leading some experts to predict Mozambique will become a global gas hub in the coming decade. But, like Senegal, the investment storyline is well-known…it is the natural beauty of the country that is completely undervalued.
The country is probably home to some of the most beautiful beaches in Africa in Pemba, Vilankulo, and Tofo. The local food is partially limited in variety but overwhelms in taste with its grilled prawns, matapa (made from cassava leaves), peri peri chicken, and bifanas.
The French- and Arabic-speaking country in northern Africa is special for many reasons. First, it is where the Arab Spring started and continues to lead the way, reforming politics in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
Secondly, it has always been a major player in the business environment across North Africa, with strong political relations and an active private equity scene.
Thirdly, it possesses a rich cultural history with cities such as Tunis (home to Carthage, one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire) and simple natural beauty with coastline locations, such Bizerte, Sousse, and Sidi Bou Said (a town majestically situated on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea).
Fourth, we can expect the country, a little smaller in total area than the state of Wisconsin, to continue to punch above its weight in regional politics, business and culture going forward.
This French-speaking country (***a small Francophone bias with this list***) sits on the western coast of Africa, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. It is an emerging economic powerhouse in Africa with seven percent plus growth expected in 2018 and 2019.
The magical mix of entrepreneurs, private equity investors, and international institutions (such as the African Development Bank) create a vibrant business environment in Abidjan, the economic capital and port city of the country.
The county is also special for its beautiful sands along the coastlines at San-Pedro and Grand-Bassam, as well as the tasty food, including peanut butter stew with rice, kedjenou chicken with rice, alloco (fried plantains), and grilled fish.
It is one of those countries that many African enthusiasts rarely object to living in – which is a major consideration for making this list.
This is probably the biggest hidden gem in Africa in terms of beauty. Like riding sand dunes and looking at the stars? You can do it here. Do not miss out on Namib-Naukluft National Park with the fossilized trees which are over 900 years old.
Enjoy a good safari? Stop by Etosha National Park. Interested in seeing a ‘fake’ desert? Visit Kalahari Desert, which is home to significant vegetation, spans 350,000 square miles, and receives 5-10 inches of annual rain (thus not qualifying as a desert).
The beauty of the animals and patches of plant life in certain areas makes the place special. The list of hidden wonders in the country could consume weeks of travel for the adventurous heart. And, for the business-oriented individuals, the country is a mining machine with a strong property market.
Kurt Davis Jr. is an investment banker, with private equity experience, focusing on Africa and the Middle East. He earned a M.B.A. in finance, entrepreneurship and operations from the University of Chicago and J.D. in tax and commercial law at the University of Virginia’s School of Law. He can be reached at email@example.com.