As an African living abroad, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?
Have you ever been asked this question? I was recently, and the following is the second installment of my answer. As with most things in life, I think money is part of the solution.
[Read the first part here if you haven’t done so already]
Unfortunately many of us in America work too much. We don’t manage to save much under the age of 40 – even though most of us are well-paid professionals. By our 40’s the sense of adventure required to contribute significantly back home is gone. Family responsibilities ($$) take center stage, and other things become more important. Those with the incomes that make wealth-building easier often stay here because life is easier and rich people are safer. The huge houses that can be purchased in nice upper-class neighborhoods are too hard to resist.
I also doubt that Africans live like visitors in the U.S. We don’t behave like people that have a home elsewhere. We acquire hard assets, and live upper-middle-class lives – some even create social clubs and the sorts of things that make it feel like “back home”. If you come to Houston, you’ll quickly find imported African foods as well as traditional fabrics. Our home countries inevitably become vacation spots, rather than places we go to get goals accomplished. Sure some people do Medical Missions, but other than saving a few lives, what systemic changes can that affect? In Lost In Abroad, one of the characters understood this, and made an effort to use his Architectural skills back home where he thought it was needed most.
For my part, I don’t have plans right now to live in Nigeria. However I recognize that plans change. I remember that I was sent out to acquire certain things, and once I have them I don’t want to be stuck here or anywhere else. I am also starting to question the merits of living out the rest of my life in the Western world. Do I want my children to grow up here? I’m not saying that there is something wrong with being here, but I have other options. I just heard that my father built a [second] small house, with the notion that my brother and I should not have to share space in the house he already has. Somewhere in the world I can live in a house without rent or mortgage payments!
Will I Be Lost In Abroad?
My family wasn’t stuck in Nigeria; nor were we stuck in Zimbabwe. When the kitchen got too hot, we moved on to greener pastures. Doesn’t it make sense that if we weren’t stuck at “home” that we wouldn’t become stuck abroad? This has many implications for how we build wealth in foreign lands, and how much we strive to be “at home” in another man’s house. Citizenship acquired through legal means doesn’t feel quite like the citizenship that is a birthright.
Every time President Barack Obama’s race or citizenship is a topic in the American media, I smile at the thought of having a place where my grandfather’s house still stands. I haven’t been there for a while, but that doesn’t mean I never will. The prodigal son always knew he could go back, because even time cannot call into question the rights a person has on the land of his ancestors. That means, no big house for me and no fancy car — not unless and until I can go home and contribute my sweat to African progress. I may or may not, but I never will if I cannot.
So now I ask you. As an African living outside your home country, what are you doing about Africa’s problems?
Albert Okagbue is a world travelled and globally educated Certified Public Accountant from Houston, Texas. He is a guest blogger on norushinafrica but mostly writes about finance related issues on http://okagbuecpa.com/