While there is no true "free" way to volunteer in Africa, there are several very low-cost options to do so. Most of the fees associated with volunteering for "free" include paying for your own accommodations, food, travel, as well as making a donation to the organization you will assist. Some volunteer-run organizations manage websites that list different projects in Africa such as orphanages or micro-lending projects. These websites usually do not accept donations to their organization, but state that you will give your fees directly to the project director. (See References 1 and 2.) They may charge a small "booking fee" as well, which prevents people from taking up volunteer slots and not showing up for work.
Be aware that when you volunteer by working with these volunteer-run websites that you are taking responsibility for your own travel arrangements, health care, visas and other aspects of travel and volunteer work in Africa that is normally handled by larger companies and organizations offering more expensive package-type volunteer vacations.
Decide what type of project or organization with which you want to work. Orphanages and small business training projects are just two of the many types of projects you can work with in Africa. Some examples include the Hands for Mercy orphanage in Tanzania, or the Kwafu Tafo UVO community project in Ghana. (See Reference 1.) Consider your strengths, skills and areas of interest. Choose which region or country where you would like to volunteer.
Visit a volunteer-run organization's volunteering website such as Kids Worldwide, Volunteer 4 Africa, True Travellers Society or Independent Volunteer. Browse through their project and organization listings in the region or country you have chosen. Consider the costs associated with that particular project. Fill out the volunteer application and submit it. Confirm your arrival/departure date and volunteer duties with the project director and the volunteer coordinator you are working with from the volunteer listing organization. By going through one of these organizations, you are more likely to be working with a credible organization in Africa as volunteers who run the website are vouching for the validity of the projects and organizations it lists. Chat with other volunteers on volunteering or traveling websites such as Bootsnall.com to find out others' experiences with the organization or project with which you want to work.
Make your travel arrangements and apply for your visa. Visit the websites of the government and embassy or consulate of the country in which you are volunteering to get accurate and updated visa application information. Also make your travel arrangements well before your departure date to ensure the best price and availability. Apply for your passport if you do not already have one. Find information on necessary and recommended vaccinations and malaria precautions in the country you are visiting by visiting the Travel page of the State Department's website.