“So does your family know people? Does your dad have connections to the government?”, my
friend Jarold asked with deep curiosity as we neared the end of our conversation.
I was in New York City this summer, having returned from Ghana after a year and 5 month stint, and was talking to Jarold about a business some friends and I are working on to bring more employment opportunities to young Africans on the continent. I met Jarold on my way to business school, which I am yet to attend, and he had just made his first trip to Africa, specifically, Kenya, which he loved.
Jarold, an African American born and raised in Mississippi, is especially talented at risk analysis and was asking me really insightful questions about the business and the need it is addressing. But, in the almost two hour long phone conversation, the question he asked about my family’s
connections is the concern that I remember most.
This Is Not An African City
My name is Bridget Boakye and I am a 27 year old “returnee”. I moved from NYC, U.S.A. back to Accra, Ghana, where I was born and raised for the first 10 years of my life, at the age of 25.
Many people, both African and not, believe that your dad has to be wealthy for you to move to
Ghana or the continent at large in your early to late 20s, especially if you have the opportunity to live in a place like the U.S. or U.K.. We assume that the young Africans moving back at this age live an “African City” – esque lifestyle. They live in opulent family homes, get driven by chauffeurs in tainted 4x4s, and work in the family business. We have started to believe, like Jarold, that to have access, to make a leap, to have leeway, we need the right connections, most often through family.
But my father has no ties to the government and has a home here that is fairly empty. My closest family members live in New York City. Apart from some close friends I made while studying at the University of Ghana in 2011 and at a program at Yale University in 2014, I would have no friends here prior to the move.
Yet, here I am. Over a year and half into moving to Ghana from New York City, and rich with family and friends, experience, and insight.
The Adventures of an Americano is a recount of my most memorable stories over this time. Although I always knew I would work in Africa, I never thought I would move back at this age or be here in this capacity. In its sheer unexpectedness, the move has been a thrill.
The name of this column also stems from the hilarious paradox of the experience of being a returnee. A few of my friends here call me Americano (or American girl) as a term of endearment. Wasco, a friend I live with here, teases me often:, “Americano, do you eat kenkey?” or “Americanoooooo!”.
Yes, Wasco, I eat kenkey. I ate it regularly in NYC. And yes, Wasco, I left America only to have it follow and in some ways, define my experience here.
If being an Americano is any indication, the journey home has been filled with contradictions, conflict, both internal – identity, belonging, growth, and home – and external – family, work, relationships etc – especially because my dad is not an African ‘big man’.
But above it all, the move has been purely entertaining.
I hope you read this column every Friday morning (at 8am GMT) for a laugh and insight. Please leave your thoughts, questions and insight so that I can share stories that matter.
Thank you so much.