- Akon plans on catalysing the relocation of African Americans to Africa.
- Both African Americans and Africans debate this move, citing tensions and other practical reasons.
- Akon’s “Akon City” projects are targeted at attracting African Americans to Africa
- Ghana is already at the forefront of the exodus of African Americans from the US
A video clip of Senegalese-American music star Akon urging African Americans to “move back to Africa” has stirred a lot of controversy on social media.
“I want to get as many African Americans back home to Africa as I possibly can, because I know the day they move back, everything they fighting for in America, they will not have to fight for over there. All the struggle that they’re struggling over there (America), they gon [sic] come there (Africa) with this mindset, with this mentality, with the finances that they built, the equity and life and bring it back and invest that in Africa? Then Africa’d be the strongest nation in the world,” Akon said the clip which was posted on Twitter on Thursday by Hip Hop news outlet Daily Loud.
While some Twitter users echoed Akon’s sentiment, an overwhelming proportion of the reactions to the 28-second clip, which has over 5 million views so far, has been negative.
Both sides of the divide cited the age-long rift between African Americans and African immigrants, and consequently suggested that African Americans would not truly be welcome in Africa or that they would treat Africans poorly as they do in the US.
Objections from Africans
Several Africans lambasted the fact that Akon referred to Africa, a continent with 54 very diverse nations, as a nation.
“Africa is not a country sir. Please go back to elementary school and respect an entire continent and its people, culture and ethnicities. Much appreciated,” said Twitter user @BeethMode.
Akon, who was born in Senegal and spent much of his youth between the West African country and the US, definitely understands this fact.
Moreover, the “Lonely” crooner, born Aliaune Damala Akon Thiam, has undertaken projects across various African countries
Thus, it is unclear why he would repeatedly make such a blunder.
Some Africans also rejected the idea of African Americans coming to the continent and importing prominent American problems such as gun violence.
Just this year, there have been at least 160 mass shootings across the US, according to a BBC report.
Moreso, a few failed to see how the “return” of African Americans was the solution to Africa’s problems.
“What would make African better off is corrupt leaders and morally bankrupt people not being in charge. Let’s also remember how Europeans drew up the borders without any input from locals and put tribes together who had longstanding rivalries,” said Twitter user @nijigasakakilove.
Objections from African Americans
On the contrary, some African Americans went as far as referencing Africans’ involvement in slavery as the reason the two groups could never truly mix well.
Even today, some Africans can trace ancestors who played a direct role in the slave trade by kidnapping their own people and selling them off to foreign slave traders. The increasing knowledge of such practices has bred a form of resentment in some African Americans towards Africans.
A few African Americans decried the idea of “going back to Africa” when they themselves had only ever known the US to be home.
Having been generations removed from the slave trade and built a life and new culture in the US, the idea of calling unknown terrain (Africa) home is entirely unappealing.
Additionally, some cited Africa’s hostility towards LGBTQ+ people as a major hindrance to moving to the continent.
Recently, Uganda has gained a lot of notoriety globally for its new anti-gay bill which, if passed, could see people lawfully killed for engaging in same-sex activity.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) reports that homosexuality is criminalized in over half of Africa’s 54 states, with the death penalty in 3 countries, imprisonment of at least 10 years in 9 countries, and imprisonment of less than 10 years in 20 countries.
The hostility towards the LGBTQ+ community has also manifested as far-too-frequent hate crimes and sexuality-based discrimination.
Kenya is not the only African country with a hostile climate for the LGBTQ community.
For LGBTQ+ African Americans who may desire to relocate to Africa, the risk to their lives and safety is considered far too great.
Dating apps are a common technique for LGBT people to meet possible mates.
On the other hand, some Twitter users called out Akon for his perceived hypocrisy, having built his music career in the US and profited from African American culture through his music.
Akon’s Call for Unity
The viral clip was an excerpt from a 5-month-old interview the 50-year old music magnate had on a YouTube channel named “DEPOSIT$ w/ BROOK ENGLAND”.
In the interview, Akon shared his journey to success and building a multi-million dollar record label.
He also spoke about the increasingly positive reception towards Afrobeats music in the African American community.
Burna Boy’s groundbreaking performance at MSG not only cements the global presence of African music.
Speaking on why Afrobeats is so relatable, he said, “If you’re African or you’re Latin or any alternate descent, it’s no way you’re gonna [sic] hear Afrobeat and not move. It’s in the blood, this is a part of our DNA; we are all African.”
Host Brook England and Akon later went on to the address the need for African Americans to build their own platforms, rather than clamouring for recognition from foundationally White platforms like the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys.
It was then he highlighted his goal to bring African Americans to Africa, where they would have “the resources, the land, the population, the strength and know-how” to carve out unprecedented success.
“We control entertainment. Imagine if all the black entertainers decided to go back to Africa and just entertain… Start our own businesses, labels, marketing companies, all that in Africa. We control sports. Imagine if all the Black players went back to Africa to play sports in Africa. Not only would we be the star player, but we would own the team,” Akon passionately opined.
He went on to speak about how American football and basketball, the two most popular sports in the US, would be less profitable in the country if African Americans were not part of the games.
“Just imagine if Lebron started his own team in Africa and picked all the players,” he said, painting a picture in which Americans would watch African Americans play these sports in Africa.
However, the practicality of this picture is questionable, considering American football and basketball are not nearly as popular in Africa as they are in the US.
In fact, American football is a foreign concept to many Africans as the continent is dominated by association football, often just called “football” or, less popularly, soccer.
Even with the growing popularity of basketball in Africa, it is hard to imagine that the sport would see a similar level of success on the continent.
Nevertheless, Akon seemed confident in this belief and expressed hopes of the younger generation being the one to fully embrace the unification of African Americans and Africans.
When asked about Akon City, his futuristic city project in Senegal, he said, “Akon City is going to be the beginning of getting everybody back to the Motherland. In a few years, we’ll be the in first stage complete to start hosting. Our goal is to have the whole city built out within the next 10 years.
“We’re utilising all the African resources that the rest of the world been using, now we’re just using those same resources to build in our own country.”
According to Akon, the 6-billion-dollar smart city is expected to have a population of 100,000 at first. He has started with his birth country and is already making moves to build cities in Uganda and Congo as well.
Should African Americans Move to Africa?
Evidently, the subject is a complex one to tackle, however, the aftermath of the growth of Roots Tourism on the continent and especially in Ghana has shown that the mass relocation has already begun.
2019’s “The Year of Return” campaign catapulted the appeal of Ghana to African Americans, who came in droves to try and connect with their roots.
Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo even went as far as granting citizenship to over 100 African-Americans and Afro-Caribbeans who had been resident in the country for a while.
African Americans who have since visited Ghana often mention feeling a sense of belonging unlike any other while they are in the West African country.
Moreover, Akon’s thoughts about the immense benefits Africa could reap from African Americans relocating there are not far from the truth.
Ghana’s economy has reaped billions of dollars from Roots Tourism and over 1,500 African Americans have moved to Ghana since 2019.
If other African countries established similar campaigns and incentives to pique the interest of African Americans, the continent could also reap a staggering amount of financial benefits from tourism, immigration and investments.
Nothing comes without its disadvantages, but while fears many have expressed concerning the subject matter are valid, the economic advantages of such a movement on the continent would be undeniable.