Study Abroad

Study Abroad in Africa: 10 Great Cities

Emma Cramer
Topic Expert

Emma is a UC Berkeley alum who majored in Cognitive Science. Since she studied abroad in Utrecht, Netherlands, she has been itching to travel more.

Africa is a continent brimming with unique potential study abroad spots! Though it faces quite a few social issues and underdevelopment, the continent is still rich with culture, greenery, animals, and natural beauty. If you are a hands-on type of person, field work and close interaction with local communities are popular parts of study abroad programs in Africa. But there are few limits to what you can (and should) study here: international development, economics, anthropology, sociology, politics and public policy, environmental studies, biology or zoology, and many more! So pack those bags and make “hakuna matata” your newest mantra!

1. Johannesburg, South Africa

Affectionately called Jo-burg by the locals, Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa. Despite being the economic capital of sub-Saharan Africa, the city still has a nice balance of metropolitan and natural areas. The city is incredibly diverse, giving you lots of food and culture opportunities. Though there is quite a bit of poverty and inequality, Jo-burg also boasts a fun, young scene--perfect for studying abroad!

The birthplace of both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Soweto township is a vibrant and authentic taste of South African culture and history, and is a definite must-see.

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2. Cape Town, South Africa

Known for its beaches, wildlife, and vineyards, Cape Town is a beautiful city to explore. As the seat of government in a politically charged country, the city might strike a chord with students interested in politics--you can even see beloved Nelson Mandela’s prison cell with a trip to Robben Island.

If you’re outdoorsy, try hiking up Cape Town’s famed Table Mountain: a mountain with a naturally leveled peak that provides a pretty awesome view of the city for those who make it to the top. If it’s been awhile since your last hike, no worries...there’s a cable car option, too!

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3. Nairobi, Kenya

As the capital of Kenya, Nairobi is the country’s center of media, music, economics, and more. It is a global up-and-comer, growing at a pretty rapid pace. Though you may not have expected it, Nairobi is actually great for business and economics students--the city has its own stock exchange, is home to many companies (including international ones), and is a major global trader.

Attention animal lovers: check out Nairobi National Park, a wildlife preserve that’s home to giraffes, elephants, wildebeest, cheetahs, and many more! Don’t think you’ll find any labradoodle pups to snuggle with, though...

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4. Accra, Ghana

Ghana’s capital is quite a modernized city--it is highly globalized and connected to other nations. In fact, other countries including China and France have formed businesses there and created partnerships with the city, making it a great place for students studying international relations and business.

To escape from your studies, head to Accra’s Labadi Beach, which offers way more than swimming. If you’re looking to unwind, nearby hotels have inexpensive pools and spas. If entertainment is more your thing, check out all the beachside performers!

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5. Iringa, Tanzania

Originally built as to provide protection to the German colonists at the end of the 19th century, Iringa is a unique and interesting place to study abroad. While Tanzania is known for its abundant wildlife, Iringa, instead, is known for its handmade crafts and baskets! The city also has the highest AIDS rate in the country, giving medical and public health students opportunity to do hands-on research in the field.

Hikers, we dare you to take on Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa and the fourth highest peak in the world! Even if you don’t make it all that far, we’ll still be super impressed.

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6. Kampala, Uganda

In addition to its notably friendly and social culture, Kampala is also a very safe city (which might not be the case for all places on this list). Much of the most famous (and most adventurous) activities are based around Kampala’s proximity to the Nile River: you can raft in it, ATV along it, bungee jump into it, and jet-boat up it!

Are you interested in NGO’s and their work? Kampala hosts many of these organizations working in Ghana, giving you an excellent opportunity to get experience working in the field.

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7. Meknes, Morocco

Meknes is a fabulous Northern Africa study abroad location because, though it is young and full of culture, it is not a tourist hotspot. Despite the buzzing nightlife and tasty restaurants, the city still has beautiful architecture and mosaics from its ancient Islamic settlers.

History buffs will be interested in seeing nearby Volubilis, where you can see the 2000 year old remains of a Roman town. Interestingly, much of the stone from these ruins was used to build Meknes! Talk about reincarnation...

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8. Cairo, Egypt

With one leg in Africa and the other in the Middle East, Cairo offers students the best of both worlds. Though the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are probably the most well known of Cairo’s sites, the city is rich in the remains from the ancient Islamic Pharaohs. But despite being home to the only of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing, Cairo is still a bustling metropolis, too.

Coffee addicts, rejoice! Turkish coffee houses, called ahwa, are incredibly popular with students in Cairo. Generally, drinking coffee and smoke water pipe (sheesha) is a very social activity.

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9. Antananarivo, Madagascar

After a tumultuous break-up with India in the prehistoric era, Madagascar roamed the ocean alone, eventually settling off the coast of Africa. Despite this love triangle, the alone time allowed Madagascar’s wildlife to evolve without outside influence--90% of the native species aren’t found anywhere else in the world! This makes it a super unique study abroad destination for botanists, ecologists, and other Darwin wannabees.

To score major points with the locals, learn their language! They really appreciate when visitors try to speak the official language, Malagasy. Here’s a head start: hello is salama.

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10. Windhoek, Namibia

Three of the countries colleges and universities, including University of Namibia, are in Windhoek, giving all you brainiacs quite a few study abroad options! And don’t worry if you don’t speak Oshiwambo, most people speak English or Afrikaans and use English as the language of instruction.

Keep your eyes peeled for some politically incorrect street names in Windhoek (Fidel Castro St. and Robert Mugabe Ave. were named after two of the Namibian president’s close friends).

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