Moving to Dakar: The Pros and Cons of Being an Expat in Dakar
Dakar is a popular destination for expats from all over the world. The capital of Senegal and the largest city in the country, Dakar has a lot to offer expats. The locals are friendly and welcoming, and the weather is warm all year round.
But, as with all locations, there are some downsides along with the advantages. Below, we investigate the pros and cons of expat life in Dakar.
Senegal has a strong and growing economy. Dakar is a major administrative centre in the country and there are many opportunities for foreign workers to find employment. The strongest and most rapidly growing sectors include tourism, construction, telecoms, and engineering. Competition for jobs can be high and expats will require a work visa before they can secure a job. Many choose to find employment before they move to Dakar.
There is plenty of things to do in Dakar. With such a large expat community, there are often activities and group meetings that involve people from all over the world, making it easy for expats to make friends. There are sports clubs that offer activities such as tennis, swimming, and martial arts. There are also swimming pools that offer classes like aqua aerobics. Yoga is a popular pastime in Dakar and there are also places for horse riding and arts and crafts.
As a coastal city, Dakar has a number of beautiful beaches for residents to rest, relax, or take part in activities. Famed for golden sands, Dakar’s beaches range from long stretches to intimate coves. Some offer public gyms right on the beach and some can only be accessed through private beach clubs. Dakar has a lack of public parks, but the beaches can make for a good alternative for expats looking to enjoy outside space whilst in the city.
Healthcare in Dakar is of a good standard. The city is the main hub of healthcare in Senegal, with a large proportion of the healthcare professionals working in Dakar. There are many pharmacies across the city as well as good quality clinics and hospitals.
Public healthcare is available to expats and paid for through their employment. Many expats choose to get international health insurance so they can access private healthcare in Dakar. This usually offers a choice of doctors and healthcare facilities, as well as avoiding long wait times that can occur in the public healthcare system.
Public education is free and compulsory across Senegal, but the quality can vary. Whilst the state education system is open to locals and foreigners alike, most expats choose private education for their children. These institutions are of a high standard and there are a number of international schools in Dakar, offering education in English and other languages.
The most common curriculums are British, American and French, offering a choice for expat children. Many international schools also offer the International Baccalaureate, an internationally recognised qualification.
The air quality in Dakar is generally poor. The city has seven times the particulate matter level that is recommended by the WHO. It is thought this is due to pollution caused from industry and cars, as well as a natural wind that blows in dust from the Sahara. The pollution is thought to be linked to health concerns, especially in children who require respiratory support.
Waste and rubbish can also be a problem in Dakar, with waste abandoned or burned. However, Senegal is taking steps to improve its waste disposal system and increase its recycling rates.
Walking around Dakar can be an issue, as there is generally a lack of pavements. When there is a pavement present, it will often be used for seating by restaurants, or for parking. This can make walking through the city difficult, especially when taking a pram or buggy.
Driving can also be dangerous. Drivers and pedestrians in Dakar take a relaxed approach to the rules of the road, which can cause congestion and risks of hazards. Like many cities, traffic at rush hour can be particularly bad, although it can be better at weekends.
Violent and petty crime can be common in Dakar. Pickpocketing and street crime increases around religious festivals and also at the beginning of the month around payday. Expats should be vigilant when walking around the city and avoid wearing expensive clothing or jewellery that might attract attention. Women are especially at risk and should avoid walking the streets at night. It’s best to avoid the beaches at night too.
Foreigners can also be targeted for scams, with people pretending to offer friendship, a romantic relationship, or business opportunity. Expats should be aware of these types of scams and be cautious of transferring someone money or meeting someone face-to-face that they do not know.
Same-sex sexual acts are illegal in Senegal and same-sex marriages are not recognised. LGBTQ+ people can face discrimination in society, and a survey found 97% of people in Senegal believe homosexuality is an unacceptable way of life. LGBTQ+ people have been arrested and prosecuted for “acts against nature” according to Senegalese law, which can see people facing up to five years in prison.
If you’re moving to Dakar, Expatriate Group provides comprehensive expat health insurance to ensure you’re protected. Flexibility is key to our policies, and we offer three different plans to cater to the needs of our customers. Get a quote for your international health insurance today or contact us for more information.