Whether drawn by movements such as “The Year of Return”, excited by the entrepreneurial opportunities presented by a growing middle class or tired of living in a country where the system discriminates against them, many African-Americans are moving to Africa. It is estimated that there are as many as 5,000 African-Americans living in just the city of Accra, Ghana. Similar movements can be seen with Canadians and Europeans of African-descent, 1 generation or many removed from living on the continent, choosing to move to Africa. Forget for a moment the differences in culture and amenities between North America, Europe, and Africa, and just imagine putting an ocean (and $1000+ flight) between you and your friends, family, and lived experience. It is not a decision that can be taken lightly. But if you are considering it, take these three tips from Viola Labi, a first generation Canadian-Ghanaian who moved to Ghana to start her company, Woven.
First, you should “do it in stages.”
Come for a short visit before you come for a longer stay and come for a longer stay before you up and move. “This is especially pertinent for entrepreneurs, more so than business people supported by corporate relocation plans,” continues Labi.
Second, manage your expectations.
It’s hard to leave behind the small conveniences that make your life easy without you even realizing it. When you arrive in a country like Ghana, it’s then that you notice their absence and begin to make comparisons. But Labi says you must “take off your imperial hat. Forget, ‘this is how they do it in Toronto.’” You need to be “black and white in your affirmations and standards, but gray in the way you operate.” Simply put, you need to be flexible.
Third, it is critical to be financially ready.
Contrary to expectations, life in African cities is expensive. World Bank economists found that in African cities, rent is 55% more expensive and food is 35% more expensive than in comparable non-African cities.
If you don’t follow her advice, “You’ll burn out and go home,” warns Labi. But, if you stay, you might just have a chance of joining the ranks of people and companies “embracing a new, contemporary Africa.”