For those born in the continent, many of us have at one point or another considered the possibility of relocating back to our birth places. Africans living in the diaspora fall into various categories. There are those who temporarily move abroad with the intention of moving back home right after receiving their education. There are those who come with the intention of settling and working abroad with occasional visits back home during vacations. There are those who have footings in both places (I call them the “best of both worlds peeps”) – they work abroad but invest back home by running their own businesses or they work with organizations/companies that have partnerships or various regional offices that allows travel back and forth. There are those living abroad but plan to move back after retirement. There are also those who moved abroad during their childhood years and have stronger connections and networks abroad and moving back home seems does not seem feasible. Regardless of what classification you fall under, at one point in time you may have thought or grappled with the possibility of relocating back home.
[Caveat – I write this recognizing that there are a few countries where the political climate and conflict/ post –conflict conditions may not warrant moving back home at this time. I also write recognizing that there is a form of privilege that one has in order to consider moving back (i.e. having relocating capital, education, skill and expertise, family support, social network connections etc.) and not every diasporan may have these privileges.]
There has been an increasing trend of young Africans moving back home after living or studying abroad. The economic growth happening in the continent has attracted many companies and investors creating vast opportunities. Entrepreneurship opportunities are also vast with innovation and new ideas catalyzing small businesses and industry growth.
The conditions we face in the west drive our desire to leave and return home. The cold weather and long winters may motivate us to move back to a much favourable tropical climate. Being around family and friends is another driving factor for moving back. We may also have the desire to raise our children in the same environment we grew up in and may want them to experience a similar childhood to ours (though this may be a fantasy to a certain extent as societies and cultures continually change and evolve). There’s also cheaper childcare and a cheaper standard of living (although this is subject to debate as the cost of living in Africa has been increasing exponentially and it’s more costly to replicate a “westernized” standard of living back home). Some people think of mitigating this by seeking jobs with internationally funded organizations/companies, that pay salaries in a much stronger currency allowing them to afford the same lifestyle they had abroad with more perks (i.e. drivers, cooks, nannies). However, these opportunities are not easy to come by and are usually filled by non- African expatriates.
The racism and systemic racism that we face living as minorities abroad is another motivating factor for moving back home. Having to work much much harder in order to be considered for the same opportunities as white people and continually having to prove yourself can get exhausting.
Moving back however has its own challenges. Re-integrating back into the community may not always be smooth sailing and it requires a lot of learning, unlearning and relearning. You will need to re-learn what it means to be an African living in Africa in today’s context as it’s different being an African outside the continent. It may also be different in comparison to how it was when you first moved away. While escaping racism, we may have to deal with other ‘isms’ in Africa such as tribalism, classism and for women (depending where you go) there are other delicates of being an African woman raised in the west. We also have to deal with corruption, poor governance, failure of some government institutions and ineffective law enforcement.
When moving back home, you must be wary of having a sense of entitlement, where you feel more skilled and superior as this may cause people to resent you. You may be going with noble intentions of changing systems to promote efficiency but this may not always be accepted well. People are often resistant to change and you may be met with the “this is how we have always done it” narrative. You must also take into consideration the social context and recognize that a system that worked in the ‘west’ may not work at home.
Moving back home requires a huge leap of faith as well as proper planning, research and an open mind. Whether you want to join the economic gold rush or you have a patriotic desire to move back to build and lead, it will take a lot of hard work and determination. Be open to the exciting new opportunities but also be prepared to face new challenges. Despite the initial challenges, I believe there is potential for a very fulfilling experience!
Here are some links with advice from people who have made the move: