I believe in community. Indeed, everything I have built is because of the support of people I’ve met along the way. I can draw a line from every achievement to someone’s kind intervention. Therefore, I am not a self-made woman nor do I wish to be.
In the course of my work, I’ve worn the “diaspora” hat while living and working in other climes. The first thing that hit me was the innate distrust of many Africans, and the tendency to congregate in narrow familial tribes.
The Trauma of Being African
The response is understandable. Many African immigrants are grappling with the PTSD of being African and having lived in Africa. They just want to forget the pain and struggle. And, it takes a while to feel safe or to become comfortable with the predictability of developed societies. It’s difficult for an African to shrug off the yoke of oppression and to accept that no one is going to take their freedom.
As a new kid on the block, they might also want to prove themselves and move up the social ladder. Finally, there’s the need to pay bills in a currency that’s multiple times what their native one is worth.
The Race for Survival
Even when an African has escaped survival mode, there’s the overhanging fear of how easy it is to lose their newfound status by associating with the wrong person or crowd. You don’t want to be unwittingly lumped with those of dubious character or become the victim of broad ethnic categorization. And so, you watch out for imagined or real opportunists who may want to take something from you. Your mind naturally gravitates towards those you already know from way back when or those who look like you; mostly from the same ethnic group.
Lonely, so Lonely…
In the midst of this isolationist stance, many Africans in the Diaspora are deeply lonely and crave community.
They say it is difficult to build deep connections when you’re older. As many Africans emigrate as professionals and not children, they need to become intentional about friendships in unusual places. This requires open-mindedness.
Rise of the Solo Star
There are many individual shining stars in the African Diaspora. In the US for instance, Africans are some of the most educated & successful people of black descent. Yet, as a combined group, we lag behind the Asian and Jewish diaspora. My white paper discusses this in detail.
Although Africans are great at creating individual wealth, we rarely progress to community prosperity. Unlike other ethnicities, we have not engendered the trust that galvanizes informal venture funding. We have not created the internal supply chain that creates a strong circular economy in the African diaspora. And we are not building multi-generational wealth.
When we do congregate, we compete instead of cooperate. Instead of collaborating, we keep reinventing the wheel in lieu of supporting initiatives that already exist. I’m not surprised by this. Africans in the diaspora are still Africans after all. At heart, we are a continent of diverse tribes, not a contiguous land mass.
The Time for African Community is Now
It may take generations for old ethnic and tribal divisions to subside in the Diaspora. And, it will require the intervention of intellectual and economic giants who lead by example. Only then can we ascend as a group that’s taken seriously beyond political exigencies.
In the Diaspora, Ubuntu must urgently transform from a mere statement into a rallying cry that births reality in the countries we find ourselves.
There’s just no time to waste and the world is waiting.
For more, please read Are you culturally displaced?Although Africans are great at creating individual wealth, we rarely progress to community prosperity. Click To Tweet
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