Saturday, March 21, 2020

Ghana vs. Kenya

I've been living in Ghana for nearly 3 years now but recently took a trip to Kenya and really enjoyed it. I thought it would be fun to write a brief post highlighting some of the differences between these two countries. I admit my observations are superficial and that they are just generalizations due to the limited amount of  time I spent there, but here are some of the insights that stood out to me.

Country size and population- Kenya is located in East Africa and has approximately twice the land mass of Ghana in the West. Kenya has about 50 million residents compared to Ghana with around 29 million.

Weather- I've grown accustomed to dry season weather in Ghana over the last 5 months. The dust from the Harmattan has limited visibility and air quality. East Africa is not affected by this. When I arrived in Kenya it was a good 10-15 degrees cooler, the skies were blue and clear, and it was not nearly as humid. It was a wonderful change. I did not sweat nearly as much there and it felt much more like being home in Utah.

Picnic during our safari
Wildlife- Ghana has several monkey sanctuaries and a Mole Safari park in the far north, but Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa have claim to some of Africa's greatest safaris. I felt like I was watching The Lion King as our Jeep passed Elephants, Giraffes, Lions, Ostriches, Zebras, Water Buffalo, Gazelles, Hippos, Baboons, etc. I was really impressed with the Masaai Mara but it is much more expensive to vacation there than Ghana, especially if you stay at any of the nice lodges within the Park.

I know donkeys are not considered exotic animals, but I was surprised to see so many of them in Kenya pulling carts around. I've only seen a handful of donkeys in Ghana.

Food- The food I ate was much less spicy than many of the traditional Ghanaian dishes. Some of the dishes were also eaten with their hands like here in Ghana. I really liked the Kenyan food. There appeared to be an abundance of cheese and milk in Kenya so those particular foods were cheaper than they are in Ghana.

Health- Both countries have a similar life expectancy numbers but there is a higher prevalence of AIDS in Kenya. People are also less likely to be obese in Kenya. There were many more people in Kenya with thin builds.

Sanitation- There is plenty of garbage in the streets in both countries, but Kenya recently outlawed plastic bags. There was trash in the busy streets of Nairobi but elsewhere I didn't see nearly as many empty water sachets or black plastic bags in gutters or blowing around like I do in Ghana.

Public transportation- Many of the vans, buses, and motorcycles in Kenya had fancy paint jobs on them. I was surprised to see so many vehicles decorated with a variety of themes. I saw an NBA bus, Money heist motorcycle painted with characters and sayings from the show. There were church, and many movie themed buses too. It's looked like graffiti artists had decorated many of the vehicles. The vans I saw and rode in appeared to be in slightly better repair than many of the tro-tros and taxis I use in Ghana. Most of their motorcycles also had weird shaped windshields on them.

example of artwork on vehicles.
Housing- The homes I visited in Kenya all had unique metal front doors with a small opening that just your hand can fit through to unlock the lock on the inside. I guess this prevents someone with bolt cutters from accessing the lock on your home when you leave and lock up. I also didn't notice many homes under various states of construction. In Ghana there are many homes in a partial state of completion with piles of sand, gravel, and bricks, piled up in the front yards.

Vendors- I did not see vendors walking up and down the roads selling goods on their heads like you experience in Ghana. I kind of missed being able to just get a fan ice,  plantain chips, or a loaf of bread at any intersection.

Police- I only saw one police vehicle during my entire week in Kenya. That is not to say they don't have a sufficient police force, but it was nice not having to experience any police stops at road blocks. This week I drove from Accra to Kumasi and was pulled over at 5 different police stops. I also did not encounter any toll stations on the roads we traveled in Kenya. Both countries do however, have an abundance of speed bumps on many of their roads. It seems you can only drive at a decent speed for so long before you have to slow down to a near stop to avoid damaging your car on these bumps.

Capital City- I went to some nice places in the city but did not enjoy downtown Nairobi. It was so crowded and dark and dirty. The country was beautiful once you get out of the big city though. When it comes to safety, I'd feel much more comfortable in downtown Accra than Nairobi, especially at night. I'm not sure if that's due to familiarity or the massive numbers of people there.

I like both countries but I'd really like to go back to Kenya again sometime.