What Does a Perfect African Immigrant Look Like?

Hey folks,

First of all welcome to all the new readers. I have been tickled pink by the fact that even though my writing frequency has reduced a little bit, the blog’s readership and subscribers have kept on increasing and so thanks to all of you and welcome to the new readers.

Following on from my last post about confusion and my podcast with Julia Sanna where I tried to put an african immigrant relationship manifesto together, today I thought I would go one step further and, with your help, try to carve out an African Immigrant Manifesto.

“Why What Is That My Good Man?” I hear you say

In a nutshell, its the answer to the question,

What are the characteristics of an ideal African immigrant?

After all, a man who aims for nothing is sure to get there. So what should we be aiming for? What should the end result be when you take all that Africa has created and leave it in the middle of the concrete jungles of the West?

And below I’ll list 9 characteristics (with a bonus) that I personally think are quintessential:

They Are……..

1) Goes beyond the limitations of his African community.

2) Expands the borders (whether psychologically, socially, financially etc etc) of that very same African community.

3) Takes advantage of the vast knowledge this land has to offer.

4) Materially secure and/or abundant (this one doesn’t tend to be too big of a problem for us)

5) Hard working (this one either)

6) Punctual when it counts (this one we do have a problem with)

7) Responsible parents (bringing children into secure, safe environments where they can grow up)
8) Able to adapt

9) Takes care of the body regardless of the plethora of temptation to do otherwise out here in the West.

What Should I Add to the List?

I have gone beyond my site and gone on the forum site, Mashada and asked the same question and you can find that thread here:


So either head on over to Mashada or leave a comment below, it can even be a one word response, and let me know (leave your first comment, you know you want to) what should an ideal African immigrant look like:

PS: As soon as I read the headline, I got a feeling that some of you want to leave the answer, “Obama”. I guess that’s alright, but if you do, state why………


  • By acolyte, October 30, 2008 @ 4:00 pm

    I’m sorry but I have to call this as bollocks. Why? You once again assume that Africans are a monolith. There is no one culture, skill set, mind set that defines an African. This changes from country to country, region to region, tribe to tribe.

    Plus what base are you using to define as perfect? A european or foreign mind set as I can see.

    1) Goes beyond the limitations of his African community.

    Are we talking about tribe, region, nation, class? Plus the same quality that may have been a boon at home may be a limitation abroad. So are you suggesting they be less of who they are?

    2) Expands the borders (whether psychologically, socially, financially etc etc) of that very same African community.

    You have to redifine this, Africans have been redifining their borders in the name of Westernisation over the last decade and it has not always done their society good.

    4) Materially secure and/or abundant (this one doesn’t tend to be too big of a problem for us)

    Who is us? The economy out here is in recession, every class and ethnic group is being hit hard. Natives and immigrants alike. So the Horation Alger analogy doesnt always apply.

    6) Punctual when it counts (this one we do have a problem with)

    Once again who is we? You are one Kenyan, you cannot speak for all Africans let alone Kenyans. I know you shall go ahead and quote past experience, I can share past experience of other Africans who keep time perfectly.

    7) Responsible parents (bringing children into secure, safe environments where they can grow up)

    So do children become stunted when they are brought into insecure neighborhoods? btw use of secure and safe in the same sentence is a redundancy.
    So do parents become irresponsible when the economy fails and unemployment rises in their area thus leading to more crime? Do they become dead beats because of the housing crisis which has led to empty houses that are now being taken advantage of by squatters and drug dealers in their neighbourhood? Are they losers because the local government decides to cut funding to the police so there are less patrols in the their neighbourhood so their area becomes less safe. Are they unworthy because the following factors above make their house lose value so they can’t sell it and move to a more “safe” and “secure” neighbourhood?

    9) Takes care of the body regardless of the plethora of temptation to do otherwise out here in the West.

    You need to be more precise in your points. Taking care of oneself is relative. To many people eating and taking a daily shower counts as taking care of oneself.

    Able to adapt

    We are all able to adapt, it is what makes us unique in the animal Kingdom so that point is null.

    Your post has good intentions but at the end of the day……


  • By Carol Achieng Otieno, October 30, 2008 @ 9:33 pm

    @Mwangi, I reckon on reading Acolyte’s presentation, some points need a re-defination. There is the West and then there is Africa. The West can be England, Australia, the U.S or Canada. And there is a big difference from Africans living there to Africans living in let’s say Europe, which is also part of the West. For countries that have an Anglophone background meaning that they were former colonies of England and thus speak English, it is a good thing to live in countries that are English-speaking. Europe is as diverse as Africa, maybe less, maybe more, maybe…but in many European countries with the exception of the United Kingdom, one has got to learn a different language except for an African immigrant who lived in a former colony of France/Spain/Italy/Portugal/Germany/Belgium and presently lives in the corresponding ‘colonial-master’ country. In Europe, the language barrier is a formidable challenge, followed by all the bureacracy set in place making it difficult for one to fit in and to fit in comfortably. Even when you know the language and are looking for a job, you can be nullified on the grounds that you are speaking with a different accent. Race issues are another different ball game all together, and as well xenophobia, because many times blacks from the Caribbean will feel they are different from the blacks from Africa, and there are occassions where they will clearly spell this out, but as well there are many of the same blacks from the Caribbean who totally identify with Africa and clearly state that they are ‘Africans born-in-the Carribbean.’
    That said and done, the major points that I would contend with as an African immigrant living in Europe, specifically the Netherlands, are No 4) Materially secure/ or abundant. The Netherlands is not capitalist, it follows a social system meaning that the more you earn, the more likely you are to be taxed. Taxes are high in this country. You work hard but so many bills come in so much so that at the end of the day, you just have enough to get by, so materially secure/and or abundant doesn’t really count for us guys up here.
    No 7) as well doesn’t count for me at present moment. I live in a part of Amsterdam that has been recognized as the epicentre of crime in Amsterdam. In the past 2 years or so, there have been a good number of murders, due to drug-dealings gone wrong. Women are attacked and/or raped in the lifts. And it is not gender-relative, I personally know guys who have been mugged at gunpoint. I partly agree with you if you refer to the aspect of the police coming quickly to the crime scene, they will be there in 5 minutes or less. The good thing is that there are many police patrols in the area. You really have to be responsible for yourself and family, and constantly watch your back especially if you’re walking alone or with a child at night. I feel that the neighbourhood I lived in whilst in Kenya was more safer than the neighbourhood I’m living in now, and I’d prefer to bring my child up in Africa.
    No 9) Many overwork themselves here in the Netherlands, especially the African immigrant. They have to support people back home, and the social system here is just for them to get by, so they work harder than normal to make ends meet. Stress and high-blood pressure are among the most common conditions afflicting the African immigrant up here, some don’t even get time to eat as they are running from one job to another. Others just grab a bite here and there. You just have to keep in mind that the bite is balanced whether it is a sandwich or a mcdonalds burger, have it with fruit juice and a salad, and it’s pretty much balanced.

    @Acolyte: Able to adapt. There are many African immigrants who are just unable to adapt so they move on from one Western country to another, and eventually find their way home. Many others are just here for the money, and once they’ve made enough for themselves and have set up something back home they find their way there.

  • By Mwangi, October 30, 2008 @ 11:04 pm

    @Acolyte: Are you really sorry? Me thinks you enjoy this. Let’s go through the points one by one.

    No denying that there is a great deal of diversity between African people but I think you will agree that people are much more powerful when they come together under a collective goal and there are so many similarities between us as African immigrants – especially the same problems, being perceived the same way by outsiders- that this really shouldn’t be a hard thing for us to do.

    As for the perfection thing, I think when we have a collective archetype to work towards – as the diverse US has the American dream, the diverse Australian society have their own national narrative- we should take control of and create our narrative.

    I think its a very powerful tool that has been used in the past by us and other Westerners that we can use too.

    @Limitations: Every society has its own cultural and other limitations. When you travel abroad, the limitations are different and that automatically gives you a new vantage point to use to expand your previous view of the world, so we should take advantage of that.

    @Expands borders: Give examples, I am unclear on what you are talking about here……

    @Material: More details on the analogy please, I have never heard of it. I am referring to what seems to be consistent work ethic that to a large extent pervades African immigrant culture.

    Now, before I proceed to the rest, I know that a general point that permeates through everything you are going to say is that ultimately everyone is an individual and so we should be considered as such.

    I am coming at this from the point of view that ALL significant progress has been achieved when people have come together on the basis of their commonalities – after all that’s what creates a movement.

    Therefore this is a small scale attempt to help us think about how we will define future African immigrant movements that will help us achieve large scale change. Are there all sorts of flaws when you try to come together or try to put people together, yup.

    But if you know any other way that significant social changes have been achieved other than what I described above, I am all ears. Especially a way that involves people segregating themselves into individuals as opposed to identifying with the collective.

    “btw use of secure and safe in the same sentence is a redundancy” LOL, apologies Grammar police, I shall refrain and desist from reusing and recycling words in a sentence :)

    Now, that my project is a FAIL in your eyes in capital bold letters, what alternative would you propose? What would you do with these great intentions in your “Acolytean” wisdom?

  • By Mwangi, October 30, 2008 @ 11:07 pm

    @Carol: Lets leave my points as mine, and fortunately since you are coming at it from an entirely different perspective, what would you put on the list?

  • By Carol Achieng Otieno, October 31, 2008 @ 12:14 am

    @Mwangi: Yes, I am coming from a different perspective, and I share the same things as you do with the exception of points No 4, 7, 8 and 9. My list of a perfect African immigrant would include:

    10) One who has mastery of the language and culture of the country they live in (sounds confusing, doesn’t it?).

  • By Mwangi, October 31, 2008 @ 12:26 am

    @Caroline: Those two are huge deals and in some cases can mean everything can’t they: ability to adapt to culture and language. Great choices.

  • By acolyte, October 31, 2008 @ 7:19 am

    @ Carol
    Thanks for your viewpoint.Also as regards
    Able to adapt. There are many African immigrants who are just unable to adapt so they move on from one Western country to another, and eventually find their way home.

    Able comes from the word ability which is simply having the power to do something. As long as you have a tongue, brain and working limbs as a human being you can adapt to any circumstance. But the main issue is whether you choose to attempt to adapt. A better definition of the situation is that they failed to adapt or chose not to adapt.

    I shall address Mwangi’s comment when I get home.

  • By Mwangi, October 31, 2008 @ 7:23 am

    @acolyte: As pendantic as that statement was I absolutely agree and I do believe that is a huge distinction we don’t often make that we need to make.

  • By Jack, June 14, 2009 @ 1:37 pm


  • By Mwangi, June 15, 2009 @ 4:05 am

    @Jack: Cool man, organize the funding, the planes, the disentaglement of our histories, stuff like the scramble for Africa and slavery and maybe a bit of money to get back on our feet when we all get back home and lets make this thing happen :P

  • By Carol A.Otieno, June 15, 2009 @ 9:02 pm

    I second that Mwangi, and who is Jack to make such a statement like that, we have an African president now leading the U.S so ha, ha who says that Africans are not welcome there. I think Jack should undergo some socialization, and lots of education, grow up man! And stop using derogatory terms like nigger, you don’t own the U.S! The country is a melting-pot, owned by different citizens of the world including citizens from the great African continent.

  • By Segun, September 5, 2010 @ 6:53 pm

    @Mwangi – love your response to Jack. Totally cool – one love

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