Written by Ashley Murphy

Africa is an incredibly unique place to study The continent has top class universities, vibrant cultures, and some of the most stunning wildlife and scenery in the world. Students in Africa studying natural science or conservation studies have direct access to local communities untouched by the modern world, as well as natural environments rich in biodiversity. But Africa is also a rapidly developing area and many countries are undergoing an unprecedented period of economic growth. One of the main driving forces is the adoption of innovative new technologies, making Africa a perfect destination for tech-savvy students looking to make their marks on the future.

Some students who decide to study in Africa can make significant savings on course fees and living expenses, while still receiving an excellent education. 

Of course there's more to an education than simply sitting in the library and reading books. Africa is a place of many different peoples, languages, customs, and landscapes. Any students who decide to study in Africa are opening themselves up to a unique learning experience that is likely to stay with them for the rest of their lives.

With all that in mind, here are four African countries for international students.

South Africa

South African universities are some of the best higher learning institutes in Africa. In fact, South African instiutions dominate the list of the top ten African universities, taking the first eight places. The rise of these institutions is part of the country's rapid development, driven by special initiatives that brought their schools on par with global educational standards. South African universities are now staffed with renowned academics, boast state-of-the-art infrastructure and world-renowned faculties, and offer prestigious industry placements which attract some of the most talented and ambitious students.

Unsurprisingly, South Africa is becoming an increasingly popular destination for international students. South Africa is a young and vibrant country and offers real value for money. Course fees are much lower in South Africa when compared to many western universities,  and, because of favorable exchange rates, international students can make their cash go much further than it would in their home countries.

International students need to apply for study permits from the South African High Commission, Embassy, or Consulate in their own country. Study permits are granted for courses at specific institutions so you will need a formal offer before you apply for a visa. The process takes between six to eight weeks, but students are advised to submit their application ASAP. South African universities will not register a student until a valid study permit is produced.

Potential students need to be aware of life outside of the campus. South Africa is a nation still in transition. As such, crime, poverty, and public health issues may be more pronounced than some other countries. Still, recent students, like James Barrett who did an MA in politics at the University of Johannesburg, suggest that as long as you use common sense and cultural competency, South Africa can be a safe and easy place to study and live. He writes, "Once you know the rules of what you can and cannot do, life in South Africa - and in Jo'burg, which doesn't deserve its bad reputation - is relatively safe."

Egypt

Egypt is home to some of the most prestigious universities in Africa. Cairo University and the American University of Cairo made into this year's list of the top ten African universities, and Egypt has over 40 other institutes for students to choose from. Again, like many African countries, Egypt offers a lower cost alternative to students who are willing to study abroad.

Egyptian universities are very welcoming of international students, although applying for a study visa requires a bit of planning. Egyptian consulates based in other countries are not permitted to authorize student visas. Students must travel to Egypt on a tourist visa and then upgrade to a study visa after they arrive. A study permit will only be granted to students who meet the necessary criteria.

Student life in Egypt can be a unique and rewarding experience. However, it can be a culture shock at first, especially for western students. Firstly, international students are not allowed to work during their studies. Secondly, the country has many cultural restrictions that some students may be unfamiliar to western students. For instance, premarital sex and homosexuality are illegal, and students are also advised to dress modestly, covering their legs and shoulders. While the political situation in Egypt has settled a bit, there are still areas where political unrest is ongoing.

That being said, once you have your study visa, you'll be free to explore this fascinating county. The Nile Valley was the origin of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Students can visit some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, including the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the river Nile. Egypt also has a bustling market place culture and is home to some of the finest African and Arabian cuisine.

Uganda

Uganda probably isn't the first country that comes into the minds of students who are thinking of studying abroad. In the decades since its independence in 1962, this landlocked county in Eastern Africa was ravaged by dictatorship, civil war, and poverty. However, in 1986 the administration of Yoweri Museveni led to relative political stability, and a steady commitment to economic liberalization has turned the country into one of Africa's most rapidly developing countries. GDP is set to continue rising, and thousands of people are raised out of poverty every year. Uganda also has significant natural resources, including ample fertile land and large mineral deposits, which means even more potential for further development.

According to the Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, Uganda “excels at providing a truly African university experience,” and its universities are known for training leaders and for excellence in health sciences and development studies. While recent numbers for international students in Uganda have not been released, the OBHE’s 2012 report estimated that around 10 percent of Uganda’s student population were international students. And while the majority of Uganda’s international students come from other African countries, around 700 American students travel to Uganda every year. Students should always familiarise themselves with local customs, especially when traveling into more rural areas which can be socially conservative. There are a variety of tribal languages in Uganda, but the official language is English.

As well as living in one of the most beautiful countries in East Africa, international students will have the unique opportunity to witness the early development of a future powerhouse. This includes the creation of better infrastructure, improved medical services, and more opportunities for the most underprivileged. The Muljibhai Madhvani Foundation recently announced additional investment designed to remove economic barriers that prevent many young Ugandans from entering and, more importantly, completing higher education learning.

Kenya

Students interested in potentially revolutionary technology should think about traveling to Kenya. It's a dynamic, up and coming country powered in part by substantial investment in digital tech and future fintech, including cryptocurrency. Citibank research estimated that the country holds around $1.63 billion in bitcoin, which is approximately 2.3 percent of the GDP. The East African nation has the highest bitcoin trading volumes on the continent and is one of the few countries with Bitcoin ATMs. Local tech wizards have also created cryptocurrency systems to support payments and cross-border transactions, including  BitPesa, a digital foreign exchange platform.

Kenya’s top learning institute, the University of Nairobi, offers courses in education with ICT, information technology, and computer science. It's renowned for producing the best IT graduates, many of whom went on to create tech startups which are transforming the country. Only a third of Kenyans have access to the internet, and many schools suffer from regular power outages. This inspired a Nairobi tech company called BRCK  to develop the Kio Kit, a portable digital classroom that includes a wifi hotspot, a small server packed with educational content, and 40 tablets that can be charged wirelessly. And this is just one of many such examples. Kenya is brimming with companies trying to bring education into the digital era.

Approximately 1,200 American students study abroad in Kenya every year, making it one of the regions most popular destinations for international students. Outside of the thriving metropolises like Nairobi, Kenya is home to many wildlife preserves which host a variety of exotic species. Students can also visit the country's natural wonders, such as miles of coastline, inland grasslands, and the desert landscapes to the north of the country. The 39 million people living in Kenya are made up of a range of origins and cultures and are renowned for their friendly natures and hospitality to international travelers.

These are just four of the options for international students, and it's impossible to get a sense of the continent in a single article. Africa consists of 54 countries, is populated by over one billion people, and is the place where almost 2,000 different languages are heard. The only way to get to know this fantastic continent is to see it for yourself...

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