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Which country is better to live in, Kenya or Nigeria?

Written by NewsAward

It depends why you came. I’ve spent time in both nations, and lived in Abuja for much of the last decade. Abuja is definitely easier to get around in than Nairobi, and the security situation within the ring roads is fine.

Armed robbers had recently taken to haunting the roundabouts in Nairobi when I first visited in 2015, waiting for traffic jams to slow vehicles enough for pointed guns to result in cash forked through barely opened windows.

That never happened when I lived in Abuja, in part because traffic is light most of the time and passerbys don’t tolerate thieves. I have heard of such robberies in Lagos and kidnapping seems to be more prevalent in Naija as well, so one picks one’s poison. Security needs are part of the package in both countries, frankly. Still, I rarely had issues and I went to spots few foreigners go.

If you’re into the high life Lagos is the place. Nowhere in Africa touches it for population or the vibrancy of its residents: they’re up and about every hour of the day and night. Abuja and Nairobi are staid by comparison.

It’s far easier to travel around the countryside as a mzungu: rural security is much better in Kenya due to the robust safari tourism industry there. It’s more cumbersome to travel far in Nigeria, due to sketchy security and oyibos like myself do stand out in a crowd. There are more white people in Nairobi, as well as Indians and Arabs, so it’s not so glaringly obvious one is not local there by glance alone.

On the other hand I did travel around rural Naija and even went on safari at Yankari Game Reserve, West Africa’s largest and oldest park. That’s not necessarily common though, while every ex-pat in Kenya has taken a safari or two, if only to check it off the obvious lists of things to do in country.

Nigeria is first and foremost about people, while Kenya offers the chance to see wide open spaces and natural parks where one is only surrounded by those one brought. There’s a sense of the frontier there, that Hemingway’s short stories are still not outdated, although the colonial era is thankfully in the past.

That doesn’t happen in Nigeria: life there is about conversations with strangers: I never once hung out at a bush bar and didn’t end up talking politics, football, or just current events, unless I made a point of sitting by myself in a far off corner with a book. Achebe’s third novel, No Longer At Ease, still seems relevant, dealing as it does with political corruption and revolution, but the nation of Things Fall Apart is long gone: the Igbos don’t worship pythons anymore, more’s the pity.

I’d say Kenya is best for those who like to travel, even after getting to a country, and Nigeria is best for those who like people and spicy food. I’m committed to Naija due to family, and hence a bit biased. The two nations are certainly not all that similar, but I’m not sure I’d argue either is inherently best.

What we experience where we go when we travel depends on what we bring with us.

My daughter and I on the backside of Zuma Rock. It used to be a weekend getaway years ago. She was fun to bring along, and still is, although these days I’m back in the American southwest, missing Africa.

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