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21.11.2019 Opinion

African Diaspora

By Whitney Smith
African Diaspora
NOV 21, 2019 OPINION


“[as a Ghanaian living abroad], I find that there’s a heightened tendency to romanticize life in Ghana in order to dismantle the narrative that Africans aren’t poor and dejected. Whilst this is valid, more often than not, it is deeply rooted in classist/ elitist ideals”

Upon visiting Ghana for the first time in October I can attest to the idealism in the above statement. As a Ghanaian living abroad my perceptions of what Africa is was skewed from a primitive age due to the narratives taught to me in my early years of school. Flies around the mouth of orphaned children and lack of drinking water was the narrative of Africa, a shattered continent whose colonial shadows still haunts and lingers above any process of development and growth. Growing up in the western world as an African was a constant battle of integrity of nationality versus pride in ones heritage. However, with a sudden global acceptance of Africa, there is no doubt that the diaspora and those living on the continent would want to uphold the new narrative and dismantle any and all negative narratives of what Africa looks like. With music, culture, language, fashion and a growing interest in the continent, it is only fair that Africans uphold its new level of elitism to the rest of the world.

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Hearing stories our parents told us about growing up in the land they called beautiful versus seeing images of mud huts and dirt roads was confusing. Being able to pull out your smartphone and shut down any doubts that people have on the aesthetic of the continent has now become a badge of honour. It seems that as an African it is your duty to only showcase “The Africa They Don’t Show” as a way to ruin any and all flawed perceptions of the continent. We are highlighting the nightlife, the houses, the VIP access, showcasing the upscale side of countries. Investing in Africa is a smart business venture.

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For example, Ghana is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. According to the World Bank Ghana’s economic growth will increase to 7.6% in 2019 (World Bank). All of this sounds promising and inviting for investors to come and establish themselves on the continent to better showcase the luxurious lifestyle that can be attained. Though this maybe true there is a misconception and disconnect with those living on the continent and those visiting the continent for a few weeks and months at a time. The divide lies with the notion that there is a common understanding and living standard of luxury in Ghana. Focusing on just the major sections of luxury, class and entertainment in Ghana does a colossal disservice to the rest of the nation that still needs developments. Social media has played a pivotal role in shinning light on a new wave of elitism in Ghana and Africa as a whole that it undermines other dimensions of the country.

After speaking with some natives it is apparent that there is a common ground that needs to be met between those of us living abroad and those living on the continent. The living standard in Ghana is multidimensional. Yes, there are people who live in extreme luxury, there are those who are doing well enough and living above the poverty line and then there are those who are barely surviving. The only problem is that there seems to be a narrow-minded perception of what Ghana is, which is a land of luxury houses, bars, beaches and tourists attraction. As true as those statements are we must take it with a grain of salt because that is only one side of the picture. There are issues at hand that need to be solved in order for the continent to grow. The visiting diaspora cannot only go in the pursuit of luxury. We go serving a purpose of propelling the narrative of elitism in Ghana and undermine the life of the average Ghanaian. Romanticizing the small percentage of luxury in Ghana as the overall lifestyle of Ghana plays into classism. Hence, causing the elite to remain the elite and widen the economic disparities between the rich and poor.

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Some natives of the land challenge the visiting diaspora to look beyond the tourism hype and do more research on the capital gains and investments that can help promote other towns and cities. Some go as far as advocating the principle of ownership in the Ghanaian economy. Pushing marginalized small-owned business and enterprises to the forefront will not only raise the living standards of most Ghanaians but also help the economy and improve the unemployment rate amongst the youth.There is talent and potential amongst the growing youth population in Ghana, the only thing missing is the resources and opportunities. Advancing the luxury lifestyle in Ghana is downplaying the severity of the major developments that need to take place in order for the country to truly live up to its new elitism. I encourage all of those returning to the motherland, whether it be Ghana, Ethiopia, Congo or Nigeria to truly be at one with the soil and understand its winds.

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There is no disputing that Africa is a land of gold and potential. The only thing that needs to be done is tapping into that potential in a manner that opens the true narrative of Africa, which I would argue is as follows:

We are not where we used to be. But we are heading to where we should have been.

– Whitney Smith

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."