We are finally getting to the age where we have more control over where we decide to root ourselves. I am personally part of those who can see no better option for me but to move back to my continent. This was always going to be the case but I really had to decide for myself why I wanted to move back and what role I would or could have in the society I’d be reintegrating myself into. Returnee dynamics have already been covered on this blog, consider this my own pinch of salt. Recently I’ve gotten myself acquainted with two francophone intellectuals, Fatou Diome and Jean-Paul Pougala, both of whom have raised interesting questions on our function as part of the african diaspora and as returnees. Here’s a brief overview of what I have digested:
Get over returnee superiority
Let’s get one thing straight: our “sophistication” and degrees from abroad don’t make us better than those left behind for lack of a better expression. This is something that the african bourgeoisie really needs to start working on. Can’t be feeling like hot shit because massah has allowed you to play in his court now. We should also remember that we in the diaspora make up a stark minority of our populations. We may have had the chance to be exposed to more but a degree is just certification(by western standards might I add). In all honesty it’s not proof that I’m intelligent, skilled or anything – why are we acting as if people don’t pay or sleep their way to degrees? All I’m saying is that those of us who come from abroad have been “given” the chance to step out of our usual subaltern position – we can now operate within the dominant hegemonic system (I do believe our long term goal should be to eradicate said hegemony but that’s a conversation for another day) and we have the opportunity to speak on the behalf of our own, but if we too have been indoctrinated into believing that West is best, we won’t be able to. We should value the wealth of knowledge that is back home and not look down on our own like our western counterparts.
Killing the image of the El Dorado “abroad”
There’s this pervasive narrative of abroad as the land of opportunity. The media and television won’t show the whole story. Some of us have the benefit of coming from families of means so being sent abroad is a relatively simple process. The communities that we are being accepted into look upon us more favourably because our parents’ bank statements say we’ll “contribute” to that society. Now no one tells those at home how hard it is to set up with no certification (even the one you have they will make you upgrade –and that’s another insulting issue on its own), no money, with barely any chance at upwards mobility. Yet somehow boats and planes are filling up and people are risking their lives and pooling obscene amounts of money for a pipe dream (I’m only referring to economic migrants here – war refugees, though migrants, aren’t exactly choosing to leave*little amendment: 2016 me recognizes how short-sighted this statement is*). How will someone whose population is aging and whose birthrate is falling tell you that you’re leaving one struggle for air-conditioned struggle when they need you and your children to sustain their economy? Instead we sell this dream of A Land of Milk and Honey. Kill that shit ASAP. I’m not deluding myself that our countries are perfect but if I’m going to hustle, let it not be somewhere where I’ll be paying for my own oppression.
Formalizing remittance & co-operative investments
Nigeria’s $21bn remmitance may sound impressive but when you consider that the bulk of that money is sent to the uncle Bonifaces’ of the continent to be building half a house in the village for 10 years there’s a problem. Just like GDP, that big number means nothing if it’s not used to create infrastructure. If you don’t move back at least try to ensure that the money you’re sending back is actually making difference. Consider this scenario (forgive the oversimplification): there’s a strong river that goes across your village. Alone you can’t do much, but bring together a group of like-minded individuals, work with the local government (who hopefully will be able to finance projects with the help of a pooled remittance fund) to build a dam that will not only supply the village’s electrical needs but where you can sell extra power you generate. Now this isn’t the easiest project to undertake but when you at least table the first 2 issues raised here, you can start to lay the ground work for such endeavours.
If you’re planning on moving back, make sure that at the back of your mind you intend to translate everything you learn and can apply into the African context vs copy and pasting something you saw in the country in which you furthered your education. Different environments require different theory application – the knowledge you gain from your education is not one size fits all. If you come barging in like you have all the answers be sure to meet antagonism. No one is calling your abroad knowledge useless but your advance grasp of precipitation in the northern hemisphere doesn’t mean jack shit for someone who has to deal with harmattan.
On a final side note, our value can’t be limited to the commercialization of our culture, how palatable we can make it for others – we can’t be reducing our rich heritage to Ankara flavoured everything. The main consumer of African goods and services is going to be the African, let’s make sure that whatever we bring to the table reflects that.
Originally published on The Naked Convos.