I am a self-hating member of the Afro-Diaspora. And Proud.

Another day, another “˜Africa rising’ type e-zine pings its way into my inbox. Just as my mouse picks it up and places it in its proper place in junk, my phone lights up with yet another Facebook picture post of some hideous Kitenge covered pair of trainers. The picture is subtitled with a few thousand feverish afro-diaspora likes. I immediately unsubscribe from the person who posted it.

I continue my routine and browse my favourite newspapers online, carefully averting my eyes from a number of articles detailing the lives of young “Formally of The Afro-Diaspora but Now Returned Home Professionals”.  I succeed for all of 12 minutes. I plunge in, the waves of nausea and anger building as I read.

The offending piece in question starts the usual way. The difficulty of life in the adopted country- the  unaffordability of western cities, cold climes, the lack of recognition or professional opportunity and the racism- increasingly implicit but occasionally overt, all of which make life in the adopted country unbearable. Then comes the epiphany, delete as appropriate – after recent vacations/conversations with friends and dad; Afro diaspora member decides to hop it back home to opportunity, sunshine, eating out a lot, cheap childcare and finally, professional recognition of their genius. Glaring inequalities are often ignored. Case in point; a couple, describe their weekly eating out night sessions and the luxury of having a lovely driver. My interest was piqued when I detected a rare note of guilt.  The husband notes that when they eat out, the bill is sometimes more than they pay their driver for the whole month. This makes them feel bad. That is all.  Before one can recover from this very common utopian ode, the piece de résistance is always the conclusion. The move is of course much more than simply economic migration – albeit back home; it is in reality a patriotic move. An assertion of identity and pride in Africa’s progress; the Diaspora is going back, to build and, well to lead.

There are other variants of this fine tale. You may have also come across other popular versions which speak more to the fact that everyone, yes everyone (so why not you too?) is thriving in Africa. One very popular tale is the one in which poverty; raging inequalities are all being wiped out With Just a Mobile Phone. With Just a Mobile Phone, even the most humble pastoralist is able to partake in the world of e-finance, zinging his meagre shillings across the country to relatives wherever they may be. Poverty Over. With Just a Mobile Phone.

It seems not all politicians back home have quite got the With Just a Mobile Phone revolution. A few have been heard complaining that they still cannot see Poverty Over.  A few more pesky ones (who, I have been assured don’t really understand how economics works); have had the audacity to suggest that the mobile operators behind the revolution have been a bit tax shy, arguing that some more tax in the public coffers may be a useful way to help along Poverty Over. It seems the humble pastoralist and his family, despite possession of the latest iPhone have not been able to increase their income and are a bit a hungry save for receiving some seasonal nibbles from those self-serving INGOs, who never want Africa to develop but wish to push their colonial mentality “˜hungry African girl on rubbish heap’ marketing campaigns.

In the New Rising Africa, no one is apparently hungry. Hunger is a road stop on the journey to infinite riches. The girl on the rubbish heap is actually a budding entrepreneur searching for plastic bags to sell which in less than a generation will transform her “˜business’ into a recycling plant. She is not unique, as in this new African place everyone can succeed. She is on her way to becoming one of the richest women in the world. Just.You.Wait. You go see her rise. No capital, education, equality measures, wealth distribution policies or useless aid. Sister is doing it for herself.

The story goes on. Africa is rising. No dark continent. No begging bowl continent. Home is on the up. Entrepreneurship is on the rise, malls are on the rise, as are Nigerian banks, the Black Stars, and Afro-European infused fashion. Don’t forget Azonto! Go Afrobeat! There is also supposedly an “˜African green revolution’ on the way; just around the corner in fact. Well, turn left after that and walk down a few thousand miles, then voila! – An Africa that can feed herself and easily most of the world too. At apparently virtually no cost to herself or even more conveniently; – anybody else. Because land is going cheap. Everyone wants a piece of our land pie; name it- the West, Brazil, India, China, etc. and etc. Oh China, China. She is giving us something for our lovely pie.  We are not quite sure what this something is; but boy, it is so nice to stick two fingers to the old West and their hypocritical neo-colonial, stupid aid ways. All hail China. No one is going to cheat us ever again.

With all this action; it is no surprise the afro diaspora is now getting involved. As we are the anointed brain drain of the continent; its essential grey matter; it is startling indeed that the continent has managed to grow thus far without our concerted influence and guidance.

Still, rather late than never. Growth has finally come and we must go back to eat the food the leftover bits of the African brain cooked as we drained away to the West. We must show pride and return to lead. And we are wanted back. A few African leaders have done the diaspora “˜come home’ tour circuit in New York, London, Paris, urging us to come out, come out, come home wherever we may be. I found myself back home recently on a work trip listening on the radio to the president’s address to group of diaspora folk in New York. The great leader spoke about how wonderful home was, especially in the capital city, where the commercial hub is operating efficiently and is now free of the hawkers who have a knack of thrusting their wares into the faces of exhausted drivers in the city’s lumbering traffic jams. By coincidence, I was sitting in traffic in the very area our great leader was exalting. I was at that moment buying some oranges from a very tired 13 going onto 50 year old hawker boy. It was a confusing and painful moment for us both to realise our dear leader was spinning a little bit of a yarn.

My “˜home’ city like many other cities across the continent pulsates with such undesired hawker activity. Supermarket on the street. Lines and lines of poor and increasingly angry young boys, selling anything from toilet roll to world maps. Refugees from rural areas where the green revolution has not arrived or is taking it’s time in getting to the Poverty Over stage. Tired of waiting, the boys come to the city in the hope of a bit of the Africa rising pie. To become entrepreneurs with no capital, aid, wealth distribution or equality policies. Just arriving should be enough in the new Africa. They hustle, hustle, and hustle some more. Still Poverty Over no come.  Yet Africa is apparently rising.

Well for some back home it is. And it is rising for those of us who have had enough of this cold place and have a little money tucked away or have connections with those back home holding the knife that slices the pie. So we are starting to return and to reclaim our proper place – at the top of the pile. A place we have always occupied anyway. We have always been the elite. Yes, Africa is rising but let’s not kid ourselves that everyone, indeed that most Africans are able to ride this rising wave. We are not anti-poverty fighters who are going back to help translate the new growth into meaningful redistribution. We are New Africa’s rich and upper middle class. Let’s not insult anyone or ourselves by pretending otherwise.

The author is a good woman not in Africa.

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16 thoughts on “I am a self-hating member of the Afro-Diaspora. And Proud.

  1. Are you sure the material of those vans is African ‘Kitenge’? …I have a pair of shorts in exactly the same material that were made and bought in Mexico.

  2. Humorous article, despite being myopic.
    A few curiosities on my part:
    Why no name – I thought you were proud?
    And secondly, where do you get these articles you read? Personally, I’ve never met the Ken and Barbie version of the ‘Afro-Repat’ described above. The media, here, in Africa, spins a very different tale to the fairy tales you get in your inbox. Be careful what you feed your mind.
    The Africans I know, speak of an Africa rising because it implies a work in progress, as opposed to, a fait accompli.
    By the way, a mobile phone does change lives – I think the error is the word ‘just’.
    In conclusion, I agree, wholeheartedly, with just one thing in this ‘African argument’: those shoes are simply ghastly.


  4. Great piece (and by the way may I have my certificate for my maths test?)which might have added that the “Africa is booming” litany could just as accurately read, “the new scramble for Africa”, except this time a few Africans are catching some crumbs. And this time we have the Chinese to contend with too. Nevertheless, the responce is not to be so proud of being fed up with this illusion, but, to do all one can to redress this wrong. Africa isn’t rising, it is being recolonised at an alarming rate, and the challenge that once belonged to Nkrumah, Lumumba, Biko, Toure and other liberation heroes, is now ours. And we have the internet, what now do we do?

  5. Thank you for this way overdue debunking of the self-serving valorization of Diaspora Return. And for skewering the infatuation with China. I look forward to reading more from you.

  6. Forgive me Jojoh but I’d like to jump on your bandwagon if I may- so brilliantly put!! I don’t know who this author is or which country they’re from but my inbox includes a lot of sober stories from returnees (Africans from the Diaspora). And pray tell ‘good woman not living in Africa’, who on earth in Africa is taken in by the Chinese? I don’t think you’ll find a single educated African be they ‘home’ or ‘diasporan grown’ that will argue the Chinese are there for altruistic reasons and why should they be? Yes everyone is in Africa to see what it can do for them, just like the average Brit or French or American doesn’t join a company to see how best he/she can serve his/her country. News flash – Africans in the Diaspora and home are no different. The only difference is a lot of returnees are either making sure they choose businesses/jobs that also have a positive impact on their economies. Some, as shocking as it would seem to have left far better financial positions in the West for ones in Africa that affect not just their lives but the lives of others. When I worked for an international organization in my country, Sierra Leone a few year ago, I was employing six people in my house- although their salaries of $100/month weren’t comparable to Western standards, (and yes I could and did spend that in a night out at times) before getting a job with me they earned far less if anything at all. So was I making money in Africa – yes, but also working for an organisation that eas contributing to my country’s development and paying school fees for numerous children and allowing my employees to provide for their respective families. I now work in New York and only tick one of those four boxes. Sadly what I took away from your cynical article posing as a reality check is that optimism has no place in Africa’s present let alone her future.

  7. Sometimes you have to pull the pendulum all the way to the other side to bring the debate back to the middle. I enjoyed every melodramatic word of this piece. Thanks 🙂

  8. [Give my comment free!! I can’t haz un-moderation? ]

    The drama! This article would have been improved if the author actually focused on her point which was… what exactly? That some friends with appalling taste should be unfriended on Facebook? #UnfriendDatGuy!? That cell phones are not a panacea to poverty/ good governance? #sayItAintSo!!!!That the middle class in Africa , reaspora included, take way too much advantage of domestic staff? Shocker #BreakingNews! [/sarcasm]

    Her point, assuming this article had one, was lost in this all-plus-kitchen-sink-and-uncles-blood-sugar-medication rant.

    Then again, it’s a gattamn blog. *shrugs*
    #DoYou Good Woman NIA.

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  10. Nice article sister.

    Yes we all have mobile phones, even those that dont have. And the mobile phones have mobile banking, even when we have nothing to bank.

    We are developing, into thinking that its only a matter of time. It has always been a matter of time, in a little while.

    So we wait, mobile phones in hand, mobile banks a button away. Soooooooon, very sooooon is the new gospel of Africa. soon we are going to see the development, very sooon

  11. Thanks for writing this. It was well written albeit uncomfortable to read. I believe that you have gone too far in your search for a balanced narrative on Africa. Your lack of understanding of the impact of certain developments such as the Mobile Phone is actually cute. I challenge you to do your best to visit as many African countries as you can in the next few years. Travel by land, air, sea and foot. Visit the urban and rural areas. Speak to every single person in the African community at every level of society. Once you have done that then re-visit your article. Alternatively, if the logistics of this challenge seem a little overwhelming then simply visit Al Jazeera or Millennium TV. Rather than sit overseas, these channels have invested in good people to go out and kick the tyres on the Africa Rising narrative on your behalf. http://www.mymillennium.tv/ted-talk-chimamanda-ngozi-adichie. Look forward to reading more of your work.

  12. Progress is being made and the perception of change is as important as change itself. IF you wait till it is all good before you celebrate. Your cynicism would translate to a loss of opportunity and what a loss it would be, considering the fact that your “writing talent” could have been put to better use to help the continent.

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  14. Wow. Rude “awakening”. We will get there both as a continent as a people. It will only take time. I hope that we get some sort of “Come back home” calls from eminent (if that exists these days) African leaders. Although this media will obviously be looking the other way, but the calls will sink-in if it persists, even for a protracted period. I also pray that we (Africans) can model our change, least will end up falling for baits sorry aid which always is counter productive.

  15. This is a really clever piece–thank you for writing it. While I admire the new talk of “Africa Rising” and “Afropolitanism,” it’s important to recognize that much of it is an elite discourse–one that can too easily converge with a kind of neoliberal, consumerist, “everyone is an entrepreneur” logic.

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