Can the Diaspora really be the new colonisers…
Speaking to a friend living in Ghana, I really had an issue with Ghana not having a stable train system. He laughed and told me “It’s so hard to make happen”. He informed me that way too many people in powerful positions have stakes in the bus systems there that starting a train system wouldn’t exactly be in their interest at the moment. Immediately I thought, “Watch this space. I’m coming to Ghana and I’m going to show them how it’s done, the UK way!”
I checked myself and made sure I was reminded that Ghana is Ghana. Things will happen in its own time. Then I started to question whether me thinking I know better for Ghana makes me like people from the west who think they know better than people who actually live there. Am I being a black saviour? Am I, from the diaspora, a coloniser?
The vast majority of countries of Africa have experienced occupancies by countries from Europe. This was the exploitation of these countries for their natural resources and manpower. The relationship between Africa and Europe was one of somewhat equal trade, until the Transatlantic Slave Trade, which took a life of its own and was led by countries such as Britain, Portugal, France, Netherlands and Belgium. Additional mentions go to Germany and Italy who like Belgium carried out genocides on the continent. In order to get public approval of the transatlantic slave trade in Europe, one of the most effective PR campaigns was created that presented the African as intellectually inferior. This campaign was so effective that the world (including Africans and people of African origin) are still trying to unlearn it today. This is why what would be classed as a coloniser would be somebody that would find it difficult to see an African as an equal and actually act upon that.
The Diaspora are people who originate from Africa but for different reasons (some good and some bad) have ended up in countries other than that of their origin. They have little experiences of powercuts, regular bribery and coups, but many have experience of crime, cold weather and racism. The diaspora could be people born in Africa but were somewhat raised outside of Africa. Many Ghanaians born in Ghana haven’t visited Ghana in years. They have naturalised with the country in which they live.
Can someone from the diaspora be a coloniser?
Whilst exploring this topic, I initially found the answer to be yes but only in limited ways. Many people who have lived in the western world for some time, hold powerful positions in Ghana (even the president). However, many of these people who have lived abroad are properly assimilated into Ghanaian society. They speak the local languages and adhere to local norms. It’s probably difficult for someone in Ghana to see such an individual as a coloniser from abroad. However, it would probably be different if the person clearly has a foreign accent and expresses annoyance at everything they come across in the country.
It isn’t common to find somebody purely from the diaspora in a powerful position in Ghana, unless it’s permitted by somebody from there. Just as quick as they got the position, they can lose it. To be a coloniser, you have to have a level of power. To even buy land in Ghana, you have to get a permit. Once a person from the diaspora lands in Ghana, they will need someone that lives there to help them navigate if they want to save money and not be hustled.
Power is the key to colonising. As long as the diasporans looking to invest, can be easily outbid by foreign investment, they are always simply an option for acquiring investment. Funnily enough, due to the historical reputation of dealings with Africa, investment from parties that are not the diaspora could leave Africa screaming for the diaspora to take the place of the colonisers. But also looking at the example of Liberia (with the conflict between Americo-Liberian people and the indigenous people living there), the opposite could also be said to be true.
So to conclude, because of the lack of power, no, a person from the diaspora cannot be a coloniser. The Ghanaian diaspora are all over the world and some are doing really well. If they could be colonisers, they would have done it by now, but Ghana remains the same. So my advice for people from the diaspora going to Ghana, humility is key to building a better Ghana. Support rather than force; integrate rather than segregate; and compliment rather than substitute. Change is a must, but it must be done right. So let’s all be a part of Ghana’s evolution, together.
Written by James Mercer