My response to questions from U.S. students visiting Ghana

Tomorrow, I will speak to students from Brown University visiting Ghana about my journey. I was invited to sit on the panel by my friend and fellow returnee, Amma Aboagye, Founder of Afropole.

Amma just sent an email reminder with the questions she will ask tomorrow. Answering these questions in today’s blogpost will help me kill two birds with one stone: 1. It will help me prepare for tomorrow’s panel by jotting down my thoughts 2. The information could be useful those who read my work.

Amma’s questions are in bold

1. Your background and how you landed in GH

  • I am Ghanaian, born in Ghana and raised here till 10 when I moved to the Bronx, New York, U.S. to join my parents. I moved back to Ghana when I was 25.

  • My identity as a black woman is important to my story because the intersection of my race and gender has and continues to shape my experience in the world, including my journey back to Ghana.

  • I consider myself an economic historian and Africanist; I studied economics and education in College and these disciplines inform a lot of my thinking about the world. Post college, I write/speak/ and act on ideas around economics/business, history and culture ie. Africa’s development, that were probably probably first introduced to me in school.

  • I landed in Ghana through a mix of a lot of different things coming together, none of which I would have been able to mastermind even if I wanted to. I have written about this here, and can summarize it best as everything happening as it should though it still surprises me that it did.

2. What are some ideas, thoughts conceptions you had in coming that have changed since you have been here? How/ Why? Similarly, what are ideas/ misconceptions that people here have/ had of you that shocked/ surprised you and how have you dealt with that?

  • I have been surprised by how expensive it is to live in Ghana. You don’t quiet notice it when you are on vacation or studying abroad here because the time is short. But once you start living here, you realize that the cost of living vis a vis local wages is way too high. Quartz Africa highlighted this in a recent article: “goods and services consumed by urban households in sub-Saharan African countries are 25%-28% more expensive than in other low- and middle-income countries, based on purchasing power parity”. Talk about how naive I was about this fact: I remember sending $100 to my grandmother perhaps twice a year between the ages of like 20-25 and thinking I had done so well. I now spend about $100 a week if not more living here. I don’t know how my grandmother does it (irrespective of the fact that we have different expense habits).

  • On the other side, I have been surprised by some of the antagonism I have faced from a few young Ghanaians in my circle who feel like I don’t have the authority to speak on what I talk about. Some time last year, a close friend, or someone I thought was a close friend, sent me a tirade when I shared a thought about a news story in Ghana. The short of it was that he believed I was “using Ghana for my own benefit just like white people”.

3. How do you see yourself in relation to people living in Ghana and living in the US, given your background/ set of experiences? (as in, how are you connected and/ or disconnected)

  • There are many layers in which to discuss this - social, economic, political, etc and each within its own dimension. In many ways, I am privileged on both sides - in Ghana, I have the opportunity of exposure to the West; in the U.S., I have birthright in the Africa, I have a home to return if I don’t want to stay in the country. I am also under privileged in certain respects: I don’t have the local networks people rely on in Ghana; in the U.S., I am constantly reminded of my immigrant status by all groups. In feeling both connected and disconnected, I can feel like the ‘other’ which used to feel alien and lonely. But I now embrace it -the otherness - seeing it as a privilege to intimately understand many different perspectives and people.

4. Do you think Pan Africanness/ Black Unity is achievable/ probable/ realistic given your experiences in the US and GH? If you do think it's possible, what would it take to make it happen?

  • I definitely think Pan Africanness is possible and I see much embrace of the ideology in my late 20s than at any other time in my life. Everyone has their own definition of Pan Africanism but at this time, I believe that its most important tenant is Afro-optimism. That is, you believe that there is a great future for our continent and people.

  • I think ideologies are easily fanned or consumed by larger global forces. Pan Africanism was catching on with Garvey’s black star line then died out… it resurrected with Nkrumah and co and died out. There will be times when more people embrace the idea than not but we will never have 100% commitment to the idea by the global Black community. But what’s more important to acknowledge is that the idea has proven itself inextinguishable; it will never die. It will live forever as an aspiration so long as Black people live.

5. What are you currently working on in GH/ US and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

  • I am currently working as the business development manager for Talents in Africa and Africa Schools Online. I also consult with Terry on Blackband co along side a number of other businesses. I run a number of projects, including an initiative called Africans on China where we advocate for Africans and connect African businesses to the Chinese market. I also have a group called Women’s Corner. I love organizing and hosting events.

  • I also write as part of my pledge and responsibility to change the existing narrative about the continent. I write for publications and my blog. I will officially publish my first set of work around Pan Africanism on Ghana’s Independence day. The book is called When We Return to commemorate the Year of Return.

  • I hope to become a business leader in Ghana and the continent at large. I hope to also lend my voice to creating a different and more nuanced story about the continent.

6. Advice for the students about living in the two worlds and making the most of both connections, whatever they may be.

  • Embrace duality. Nothing is lost from living in both worlds; rather, you are positioned to play a unique role in the Pan-African dialogue / actualization.

  • There are so many people like you; be sure to find your tribe; it makes the journey easier.

  • You are as equally valuable in the Diaspora as you are home. Recent reports suggest that the Diaspora contributes more (3x) to the continent via remittances than other development assistance/aid. If you find that “coming home” isn’t for you, do not force it. Brain drain is real but you also have your life to live according to the aspirations that have been placed on your mind and heart. You can find other meaningful ways to contribute, mainly by financing meaningful personal and professional projects on the continent.

  • Your goals and aspirations for the continent are valid. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise or try to take away your agency just because you’ve lived outside of the continent.

P.S. I will be sure to attach pictures from the event when it is done.