1) Lights: a penlight will do in a pinch. But a LED light you can wear on your head will be a big help when you are trying to read in poorly lit places.
2) Plugs. Don’t skimp on plug sets. You will need all the options you can find, not only for those round plugs for round holes and tri-pronged horizontals (and what about thick round tri-prongs for South Africa?) but you will need connectors to connectors for the oddly shaped sunken holes they are supposed to negotiate. Do bring a transformer. Africa is 220, US is 110 and meeting often causes power problems. Get a dual or tri-speed transformer so you can run your gadgets at the necessary 50 vs. 1500-watt speed. A surge protector cord will add to electronics peace of mind.
3) Snacks. You’ll be glad you did. Trail mix works well and you can usually find fresh fruit for a reasonably complete meal.
4) Internet stick with non-dedicated SIM space. You can often buy data SIMs that will allow you to run Internet into your computer. Also bring a cheap, unlocked tri- or quad-band phone with SIM slot in the event you will be somewhere for a while.
5) Hardcover walking shoes. The streets in many of these cities are as damaged as bombed out war zones.
6) Extra eye glasses or your eyeglass prescriptions – and any other prescriptions you may have to take. Needs no explanation.
7) iPod and headphones with some white noise sounds. When the feral dogs start their barking frenzy in the middle of the night you will be glad you have them. Audio books provide good company in tough times as well.
8) A “first class seat.” These are blow up pillows that can help you tolerate the long plane rides as well as bring lumbar comfort to backs braving cheap, flat, hard hotel mattresses.
9) Aspirin, cold pills and knockout pills. Use yours, not theirs.
10) Smart phone. Whatever brand you use you will be able to connect here and there via Wifi (never take the device off “airplane mode”) and keep up with your emails, order emergency guidebook apps, check your calculations with offline apps, make calls via Skype, and have multiple ways to record your experience.