I wouldn’t say moving to Africa was particularly difficult, especially when compared to someone attempting to relocate from the Motherland to the West. But being out here does, of course, present its relative challenges. So why I decided to come is a question I’m asked perhaps even more often than what my name is.
Sometimes it gets annoying having to explain the same thing over and over, oftentimes when I don’t feel like it or when the other person may not be particularly receptive to what I’m saying anyway. So it is kind of refreshing to finally be granted the opportunity to write out the top reasons I moved to Africa, i.e., maybe the next time somebody asks me that question, I can just hand them this list.
I Wasn’t a Fan of the American System
A lot of times, when people ask me why I decided to relocate to the Motherland, the simplest answer I can provide for them is that ‘America isn’t for everybody’. Particularly the Africans I speak to on this subject have a difficult time comprehending that answer.
At first, I said, lack of understanding used to frustrate me. But now, after becoming intimately familiar with the system and experiencing firsthand how difficult it can be to make a decent living in Africa, I’ve come to appreciate their point of view. Or, at the very least, since I wasn’t born and raised in the Motherland, I know that I wasn’t socialized under their system since birth and therefore cannot fully grasp how the locals think.
Along those same lines would be the fact that they too aren’t Americans and therefore, for the most part, cannot appreciate my perspective. The interesting thing is that, by contrast, when I tell an American I was compelled to bounce because of the system, most of them understand or empathize with where I’m coming from. People who were actually born and raised in the United States know full well that the country has its issues, even more so now than when I left.
That said, most Americans are not going to go as far as to expatriate, no matter how negatively they perceive the system. But it has become increasingly common for them to at least entertain the idea, which even some celebrities are tossing around these days. And it is also becoming more popular for African-Americans to ruminate over the prospect of moving to Africa and Ghana in particular. So in that regard, I consider myself to have been ahead of the curve.
The reason most people can never seriously entertain an idea like moving to Africa from the United States, as far as I can gather, is because in the latter, it is exponentially easier to generate income.
Common portrayals of the Motherland on television may be just as stereotypical as those coming from the US, but generally speaking, it is true that Americans enjoy a better lifestyle in terms of having access to goods and amenities.
For example, as far as I know it is illegal to rent out a house or apartment stateside that is devoid of the likes of electricity, running water, plumbing, and, even in many instances gas. But in Africa, based on what I’ve seen, doing so is very common, particularly when it comes to housing with proper plumbing. (Gas isn’t as necessary, as the Motherland is generally hot, and people have alternative ways of cooking.)
In the United States, car and home ownership are more common, primarily because if you’re a responsible worker with a decent job, you can get credit. But that type of financial leniency is virtually nonexistent in Africa.
Spiritual Deficits in Developed Places
Places that are rich materially tend to suffer from spiritual deficits. And I’m not even trying to get all Biblical here. You can turn on the news on any given day and see that Americans are dealing with serious internal issues. And of course there are parts of Africa with comparable problems, but the Motherland is a place where people are in a manner of speaking, more normal.
This isn’t a secret, as for years academics have considered extant African norms as an example of an era lost in the United States, where, for instance, families are more stable, religious institutions are still pertinent, and divorces are less common.
Also, we all know that when a Westerner is really serious about spiritual development, he or she may decide to move to a different, more natural part of the world. This is a theme we come across commonly, even in movies. So the idea of coming to Africa for spiritual reasons isn’t as unorthodox as it may sound. All that is required for such a seed to take hold is for it to be planted in the mind of someone who actually takes spirituality seriously.
I believe that as human beings, whatever situation we are born into—whether good or bad, beneficial or detrimental—we come to accept as being natural or normal. That’s one of the reasons why education is so important, because without learning and experiencing more about the world, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to grasp the concept that there are people who live and think vastly differently than you do.
For instance, it wasn’t until I engaged in some self-education (i.e., reading books) and later on went to college that I truly began to realize, in a palpable sort of way, that there are Black people who live lives vastly different than what I was used to in the United States.
It was also around that time, i.e., my late teens, when I began reading studies that analyzed the problems of the inner-city (American) Black communities.
It was through such studies that I was put on to the idea that the Transatlantic Slave Trade and subsequent, related experiences my people endured (i.e., slavery, Jim Crow) in America really had a negative effect on us as a whole.
So to make a long story short, I then became interested in witnessing how a group of black people who had never been affected by the said experiences (so to speak) lived, so that I could compare and contrast. And to achieve that goal, the most logical solution was to come back to Africa, as this is the place where it all started, if you will.
I Wanted to Know How It Felt to Live In a Distinctly-Foreign Land
Concerning my decision to move to Africa, it should also be pointed out that I studied cultural anthropology in school. And cultural anthropology being what it is in places like the United States, the primary focus of study tends to be on pre-industrial cultures. This meant that as students, we were largely tasked with reading studies from years past, i.e. those written around the times that Europeans had first ‘discovered’ various parts of the world and intimately became familiar with the natives living therein.
Researching such topics can be very intriguing, but it leaves many curiosities unmet, because you can’t go back in time and witness those things for yourself. But as I got deeper into the field, I also learned that there are places that, relative to the United States, are stuck in the past, for lack of a more concise way of putting it.
And I guess you can also say that back then I was struck with a serious case of naturalistic fallacy. But of course the best way to combat ignorance, curiosity, or lack of understanding (within this context) is to go and see things for yourself.
So the above are the main reasons I moved to Africa – to get out of the United States, to encourage spiritual growth, to learn more about my ancestry, and to also become more knowledgeable of the world in general. Whereas things have not always gone as smoothly as idealized, at least I can say I wasn’t afraid to go where my heart led me and to seek out the answers and understandings which I thought were most pertinent at the time I made that decision.