11 Tech Tips to Make Your Move to Africa Easier

Tech life: My beloved MacBook and iPhone with some Namibian porcupine quills just behind.

Tech life: My beloved MacBook and iPhone with some Namibian porcupine quills just behind.

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SIX years of living on the African continent have come with some huge lessons in technology. There have been days when I wanted to pull my hair out, but I seem to have slowly turned a corner. While I am by no means a tech guru, I have developed some basic practices over my years living in Namibia that have saved me a few gray hairs.

1. Choosing Samsung Over Apple Makes Life Easier

I live in Namibia, but I’ve noticed most people in this country choose Androids over iPhones. Something tells me most Namibians don’t waste time with Apple IDs or pay for apps. Which means they’re not plagued by the never-ending sea of Apple updates which take forever if you’re not operating on high-speed internet. I also get the impression that it’s more common to find a local shop with Samsung repair parts than those for iPhones. Samsung makes life on the continent that much sweeter.

2. Backup To External Hard Drives Or Dropbox

Depending on where you are, the continent can be brutal to laptops. Thunderstorms, a sudden surge in electricity, overheating, dust build-up… all of these factors increase the chances of your computer having a meltdown. So be sure to keep your precious files backed up!

But first a quick disclaimer: I loathe iCloud. I personally think it’s entire concept of ‘backing up’ your photos and video is misleading. Plus the iPhone's process of freeing up space and quickly accessing cloud-stored data is simply not conducive to someone living in a country with a medium speed internet connection. So I choose to backup with an external hard drive and Dropbox and then easily delete anything from my phone without worry.

Quick tip: Don’t allow data to pile too high between backups. This is because depending on your continental Internet speed, a large scale backup can take eons to complete.

3. Always Have A Spare Charger

It’s crucial to live on the African continent with more than one computer charger. There is nothing worse having a broken charger while living in a small town that doesn’t sell any. Then you have to travel to buy a new one or have one shipped to you. Not fun.

4. Voltage Matters

It really does. Don’t be silly like me and plug an electric hot comb into an adapter with a lower voltage reach. I once did this and poof! My beloved electric hot comb that I’d specifically purchased for my move to Namibia blew out. If something has a maximum of x volts and warns not to use with hair appliances, take their word for it. And if you’re not sure, don’t risk it.

5. Keep Your Electronics Protected With Covers

Save yourself the trauma and move to the continent with covers for your devices. Dust and dirt particles will collect and settle in just about any crack or crevice across the continent. And before you realize it your device could have sand grains shifting around deep inside its hardware stirring up problems. But using a cover for your computer keyboard, phone or camera can preserve the life of your electronics. I also shy away from using my MacBook outdoors. And never store anything important under windows as dust always seems to find its way in.

I keep my MacBook Pro's keyboard covered!

I keep my MacBook Pro's keyboard covered!

6. Turn Off Cellular Data In Rural Areas

I’ve made many a trip deep into rural Namibia. All the while, I would wrack my brain trying to understand why my iPhone battery was dying so fast!It finally dawned on me that having my cellular data turned on in rural areas was seriously draining my battery life. The further away you are from a decent cellular tower the more strength is required out of your phone to reach one. This means super fast battery drainage. Switch off your cellular data until you’re in a large town or city.

The Namibian highway.

The Namibian highway.

7. Don’t Sleep On Old School Cell Phones!

Remember when Nokias and Motorolas were the rave? Well guess what? To many people across the continent they still are (gasp).  They're super durable and their batteries last way longer than their cool smartphone cousins’. So don’t be ashamed to buy a pre-Android Samsung as a backup for a long drive or if you’re traveling deep into the village.

8. VPNs = Freedom

There’s literally nothing more annoying than clicking on a video and getting the message, “this content is not available for viewing in your country.”

But then I got hip to the world of VPNs. I still don’t quite understand exactly how they work. What I do know is that since I installed my Hotspot VPN I’ve able to access any website I want to or watch whatever video my heart desires. There are actually some countries in the world that don’t allow the usage of VPNs. But if you’re in one that does, VPN away!

9. Have A Tech Friend Back Home on Standby

Once in a while, I try to sign up for this or that on the web and the website requires me to confirm my phone number to complete the registration. The kicker is that they require an American phone number, and I’m in Namibia. So I call a girlfriend stateside, ask her to ‘lend’ me her phone number and assist me in completing the process. Just because you’re living abroad doesn’t mean you will be able to completely detach from American living. So you gotta get creative to get things done!

10. Free Streaming Websites Are #bae

At some point during your life in Africa, homesickness may hit. Or maybe you’ve just had a really long day, need to zen out, and the Nollywood flicks on TV just aren’t cutting it. This is when free online streaming TV show and movie websites are a godsend. I stay up to date on all my Real Housewives of Atlanta and Shark Tank episodes. Email me for suggested sites. Wink.

A local Namibian Sim card.

A local Namibian Sim card.

11. Understand Sim Card Behavior

It goes without saying that you need to move to an African country with an unlocked phone. This is so that you can use a local sim card and access the cell phone network of wherever in Africa you are. Sometimes an unlocked phone may still behave oddly because it’s on some American geographical setting. Take your phone to a local cell phone carrier shop and tell your tech the situation. They will probably be able to adjust things for you so that your phone is properly synced in with your new home. For example, one time my iPhone was acting weird because it’s time zone was incorrect. Who knew?

That’s all I’ve got for now. What tech tips have you learned while living or traveling abroad? Share your advice in the comments below!