What Living in Africa for a Year Has Taught Me

Reflections from an "African American" living in Kenya

Jamaal Brewer

5/19/2022 4 min read

As I write this piece from Nairobi, Kenya, many people often wonder what it would be like to repatriate back to Africa. I have been in Kenya over a year now. I first would like to say that this is one country of 55 on the continent. Each country has its own unique culture, language, and circumstance than the one I'm dealing with. However, there are also a lot of similarities every African countries have. So some of the key points I will make will be applied to other African countries as well and not just Kenya.

For starters, I have found peace. I haven't experienced much violence nor heard a single gun shot since being here. As opposed to America where I would hear about someone being killed on a regular basis. I feel safe at night and can walk almost any neighborhood. People lookout for one another and try to have a sense of standard. Now let me not be naive, crime does happen here. Pick-Pocketing, Money Laundering, and Exploitation is real thing. But what place in the world doesn't have these things? The hospitality has been very favorable.

Second, the affect of Colonialism is evident. Unfortunately Africa is lacking and behind economically due to its countries being stripped of its resources by China, United States, United Kingdom, France, and more. As a result of such tragedy, some African people practice western principals. In Kenya Capitalism is a way of life. Because of this, a small class of privilege people reaps the benefits. While the masses are busting and grinding to earn peanuts a day. Don't get fooled by 'Development' because some of it comes at a price of putting its people in depth because of foreign aid. The slums are still a thing that exists.

A bittersweet discovery I have found is the emphasis of Education. Here in Kenya, the average child goes to school around nine hours a day. I have witnessed parents who may make only 5000 kes a month ($50 USD) sacrifice it all just to put one child in school. Some even go as far to leave their children, work in another city/village, and lose valuable time with them so they can earn a living to pay the school fees. In the Western world we take schooling for granted due to the spoiled resources and wealth we receive. In Africa, people find school as outlet to escape poverty. But the one downer in this approach is the education in which they soak in tend to be very White washed. Instead of putting Africanism first, too often curriculum in the motherland is just as European as Europe itself. This approach is similar to what legendary African researcher John Henrik Clark spoke of when he said "To Control a people you must first control what they think about themselves and how they regard their history and culture. And when your conqueror makes you ashamed of your culture and your history, he needs no prison walls and no chains to hold you."

African people understand the importance of hygiene and cleanliness. How is this meaningful? Because a good number of people live in a single room houses no bigger than a college dormitory. Some have to fetch water because they cannot afford everyday pluming. But despite these challenges, you can find these people who are struggling financially still making sure their small home is tidy. That their clothes are iron and that their bed is made. They don't let poverty become an excuse not to look their best. Your surroundings is vital of how you feel about yourself. If you dress or surround yourself around trash, then you will start to feel like a piece a trash. This is why we must clean up African not because we have to but also because it's a duty and for us have more pride in a land that is suitable.

Corruption! It's not a stereotype, it's a real thing. Several African countries are known for such behavior. I have seen it with my own two eyes. It mainly comes from those in so called power rather than the everyday citizen. Sometimes it seems like everything has a price to it to feed the elite. And it doing so, it raise more generations of African people who practice this as well. I recall a time where a man at passport control tried to have me pay him $100 USD and ignored my VISA extension. Daily police officers make their rounds to find petty offenses to pocket money for their bosses and themselves. Citizens sometimes cannot get a job unless they pay or sleep with someone. This goes on because Africa is not organized and people are not held accountable. And our enemies know this which is why they pull the strings and hide their hands when it comes to these practices.

On the rise are successful entrepreneurs. Though there's too many foreign establishments, skillful African people are building establishments for the betterment for their people. In Kenya for example, though there may be a French owned Carrefour Supermarkets Certain areas, there also plenty of Kenyan owned Naivas and Quickmarts that are just as good. Though there might be a U.S. owned Java House, CJ's is a on the rise and African owned. Two Rivers Mall is arguably the biggest mall in all of Africa and owned by Kenyan Chris Kirubi. So even though sometimes we focus on the negative and the exploitation (I have been guilty of this) we must also remember goods several people are doing for their respective country.

I'm pretty certain the more I continue to live in Africa the more experience I will be able to share. But don't take my word on what it's like to live here, visit a country of your choice to see for yourself. We have been too Bamboozled by false images and propaganda and it's time to write our own stories. African wasn't underdevelopment overnight so we must be patient and realize we cannot reverse the colonial affect overnight. Many of of heroes and sheros has fought to restore Africa back to it's natural way. So we must continue to do our part to contribute so she can rise again.