Drain, Gain and Waste – African Brains ::: #graphAfrica

We hear a lot about the waves of phenomenon happening to the African brain. The two biggest ones being the Gain and the Drain.

Brain Gain:

an increase in the number of highly trained, foreign-born professionals entering a country to live and work where greater opportunities are offered 

Brain Drain:

a loss of trained professional personnel to another company, nation, etc., that offers greater opportunity – NOT in Africa’s favor and sometimes turns into Brain Waste

A really good friend/neighbor of mine just passed her boards a few weeks back as an RN. She already had a job offer at one of the prestigious hospitals in Washington DC waiting for her and when she found out we celebrated by going to the Smithsonian folk life festival and having a gloriously therapeutic and relaxing walk almost all the way home from the National Mall. The only thing that needed to happen was for her to get a certain type of visa that would permit her TO work. Fast forward to this weekend and she was denied it. When she told me I asked what her options were and it seems of those available there is not enough time permitted for those things to first be done nor to guarantee her getting the visa. She texted me earlier today that she is leaving next Friday. I had to not respond to it in order to deal.

Later today, I came home and relaxed a bit, watched the sun set and had some quality solo-dolo time. On my way back to mine I stopped at her place to finally face what her text means and I almost cried when she opened the door because she was so cheerful and there were boxes strewn all over. Evidence of her impending departure. There were some other friends there and it turned out to be a really good hangout taking pictures for craigslist and figuring out what we are buying from her. More than anything there are so many opportunities waiting for her in the islands [admittedly more so simply because she’ll be an i-just-got-back] that she couldn’t even have imagined with her own previous plan. I left there having such a good feeling about her future I was almost envious.

I’m home now and I was thinking, what if ALL the BRAIN DRAIN and sometimes consequential waste from Africa was reversed voluntarily by Africans deciding to go back en masse or forcibly through a mass deportation?! The latter alternative is a little harsh I know, but hear me out. We spend so much time planning for opportunities and routines that our limited imaginations are capable of yet there is so much more out there in the world and sometimes life has a way of throwing us into the deep end where we realize we knew how to swim after all. In some of the places where some African’s can’t imagine living because they can choose not to, what is they were forced to go there and make things happen? How many people have the story of coming to America with $20 [or whatever paltry amount] in their back pocket and cleaning toilets and working fast food to make ends meet? If all those people with the skills and life experience they have since gained, what a dramatic impact they would have on the labor market in their respective countries or whatever other they chose? I like to think what a wonderful world it would be.





A Cup of Garri ::: #graphAfrica


Months ago D’Banj posted a picture to his instagram that linked to his twitter showing off a bag of garri. Some laughed at the idea while others, myself included, found it borderline fascinating. I will talk first about what garri is, then what my relationship to it is, then a little bit of the sociology of food to show why this matters.


What is Garri?:

It is a tiny grain made by putting cassava through a long a tedious process of washing, grating and mashing, then fermenting, dehydrating and sieving, and finally roasting to dry. There are several ways to consume it be it hot water, cold water, milk, as a cereal, snack or meal across several west African countries. It typically has a sour taste from the fermenting and can be sweetened depending on what you pair with it.

gombo garri

My Relationship to Garri:

I first had garri when I lived in Cote d’Ivoire. The maid we had that time was called Geraldine and she was from Togo. Her cooking skills were decent and she had about 5 solid recipes under her sleeve from her previous job where she worked for a family of 5 that had a chef she learnt a few things from. I somehow and randomly remember her love of “un peu de moutarde” in everything…Whenever I would get done with dinner, I had a habit of walking around the back garden and climbing up the steps to the rooftop patio where I would walk past her room to watch the neighborhood fall silent under the street lights. She always prepared her own meals on a small cooker where she would make enough for herself and Émile le guardian who came in the evenings. A few times she entertained my playful curiosity and would let me taste. She was how I first tasted garri. I immediately loved it. It was a starch, but compared to sadza/ugali, rice and couscous – it was not flat. The sourness had me at the first wince of my face. So unexpected and splendid. She would always make it with sauce gombo avec poisson (okra stew with smoked fish) and from then on wards whenever she made it, regardless of whatever “un peu de moutarde” dish she made for mom and I, she would save me a bit. On days I knew she would be making it I would even come home straight after school no passing go no spending my 200CFA buying Hollywood chewing gum at the Mauritanian boutique or with Diage and his questionably scrumptious sandwich brochette across the highway. Garri and gombo were to be had for lunch! I say all that to say I had not previously known garri and I had, until then, lived a culinarily deprived life.

Many of you may or may not know that I have a lot of Nigerian friends..it’s a numbers thing. I remember once expressing nostalgia for it or excitement at having found some at Park and Shop in Abuja. Although I don’t remember her exact words, this friend in no uncertain terms communicated the idea that I was too posh of a babe to be chopping garri AND expressing anything other that superiority over that level of commoner’s provision. I remember vividly, not her words, but the confused feeling in me. It tastes good, I like it, so wettin do you?! Apparently because of how cheap and common it is is, for upwardly mobile [also code for social climbers] people it was/is a no-longer-go zone ESPECIALLY once one becomes an I-just-got-back.


Sociology of Food [Garri]

Every country/culture/continent has varieties of foods for certain occasions which are socio-cultural and economic markers. Some of these are shaped and determined by religion, geography and contact with other cultures. For example religiously, Islamic communities, because they do not eat pork, tend to consume a lot of lamb. Ratatouille only recently became an acceptable dish in posh French restaurants because it was originally a peasant dish of whatever vegetables could be scrounged with no meat. Because of geography, a landlocked country whose climate is not tropical like Zimbabwe doesn’t really know what to do with a coconut. I distinctly remember growing up when there was a drought and the only corn meal (mpuphu) one could find was the yellow less processed one compared to the popular white/bleached one. The yellow one then popularly remained a reminder of the struggle, and in it’s being less processed, whether on a conscious or subconscious level, and not something to aspire to for dinner. As consumers of food, whether ours or another culture’s, our relationship to what we enjoy is largely nurture NOT nature.

Garri can taste good or bad based on what it tastes like in your mouth. This is also influenced by your biological chemistry and what happens when the amylase reacts with the variety of starch derived from cassava. Whether you like the taste of it or not is NOT the issue. Can we talk about learning not to like something because of insecurities and keeping up appearances? It is always equally sad to see someone pretend not to like something as it is to see them pretend to. Both seem like such a deception of self, not even worth the pretense.


Back to D’Banj

All of the above bring me back to why Koko Garri is so important. One thing we can collectively agree to be problematic is that we neither produce nor consumer enough indigenous goods as a continent. Of course there are several historical, institutional and infrastructural barriers influencing this, BUT there also aren’t enough of invested in ourselves as a market. Coming from a country that was/is largely sustained by an agricultural economy, the richest black people I have ever seen or known were farmers or more generally those who invested a long time ago in making SOMETHING needed by others. Not new money, flashy cars and loud money, but the still waters run deep kind. Long and lasting money. They were/are the people who are invested in the laborious, but high yielding industries that produce food. No matter where you are in Africa, people must eat. The rich people have sophisticated and picky palettes and can consume western imports – let them eat cake! Everyone else does what they can with the staples which tend to be locally grown and affordable. Everyone else is the majority so if you can feed the majority on what they majoritively eat you are exercing the capitalist winning strategy of majoritism. Everybody wins.

I read on a blog today [on his music career from Mo’Hits to Good Music and now…] where D’Banj was described as “former Big Fish in Small River, now Miniscule Goldfish in the Atlantic Ocean” and I admittedly chuckled at the reference. What is serious business, however, is investing in agriculture and better than that is food and better than that is a staple one. If I ever had to predict someone of the cusp of long money and impending membership into the [African] Billionaire Boy’s Club – this would be it. The thing about being a visionary [for/from Africa] is people WILL laugh at you being a Louboutin and Guissepe Zanotti wearing entertainer when they think that is merely what you are. Only when your tree is bearing fruit and your cup runneth over do they want to jump on the bandwagon. The season for sowing seeds into agriculture and investing in ourselves and what we consume is now (before the Chinese get to it too). The hard work and patience paired with faith and foresight is what determines who has to soak their garri in cold water or milk and honey.


Anywhoo, I got my personal bag of Koko Garri and I cannot wait to partake!





Beyonce Africanized ::: #graphAfrica


The biggest artist of our times is Beyonce. Hands down. Hi five to the entire Bey-hive – all gazillion of you! It’s almost safe to say that she’s dominated the entire second decade of the 21st century. Why am I writing about her when I’m supposed to be focusing on Africa? you ask. Well, there are connections to be made and possible appropriation to be concluded because her originality can and needs to be challenged.


It’s actually quite interesting how, in her crafting and curating herself, she has sprinkled or rather doused who she presents herself to the world with the magic of *whispers loudly and raspily* “Africa”. Admittedly, I see African influences in every freaking thing and as someone who is an animated and trained dancer with an ear for music from all over the world WITH a BLOG..!! I’ll just run through a few of them as seen through a particular/single song and performance and bring it all together at the end:


Beyonce performs Grown Woman at Bercy in Paris as part of the Mrs. Carter tour:

  • acacia trees in the savanna themed background
  • high stand up ponytail a la Coming to America
  • handwoven hand fan used either to fan oneself or reignite the dying embers on a fire
  • Bey dances the popular Congolese dance known as malembe (literally means gently or slowly in Lingala) that can pretty much be considered sweepingly “African” dance
  • her dancers come out rocking some fly rompers by renowned Ghanaian designer Christie Brown (fanning themselves with the hand fans)
  • Bey and her lineup of dancers proceed to do a tame version of the popular [rather graphic and suggestive] Ivorian dance called the “mapouka reculer” (couldn’t find a video appropriate enough to link – Google it)
  • Les Twins come on and sample a South African gumboot dance sans the gumboots
  • the screens in the background are flashing zebras on the gentle prowl – we all know they’re indigenous to the continent
  • melodic bellows from the Guinean crooner Ismael Kouyate and Beyonce avec Les Twins proceed to do a safe mapouka or what some in the US only know recently as the twerk


The song continues on it’s jammingness, but the part where she really gets down on her Grown Woman-ness is when the drums are the heaviest and the song sounds the most African. Beyonce’s so original *insert dramatic eye roll*, but all these things are not for nothing. They are part of a continuum in her life and involvements between she and her husband. Who knows when it will end. Will she keep ripping dance moves, will Boko Haram release the Chibok girls to only her, ….

To not risk coming off as a Beyonce hater I will say what her greatness comes from is the fact that she does not let her left hand know what her left hand is doing. To me, many people know Beyonce only from her albums, world tours, cute Lil’ Miss Lady Blue Ivy and somewhat mysteriousness – the right hand. They do not know much of what she does in, for and about Africa. I am fascinated by what I discovered her left hand is up to.

I’m ok with what OkayAfrica referred to as the “Africanization of Beyonce” as long as we don’t see Beyoncification of Africa. Like the song says, Africa is a Grown Woman and she can do whatever she wants.





Face is Served! ::: #graphAfrica

I don’t really have to say this post is about my #girlcrushes…#hairenvy, beautiful skin and the like. In no particular order these were the first that came to mind. I love my hair short and feel my most beautiful with a fresh shape up. You’re welcome :


 Danai Gurira – Zimbabwe (actress)



 Lupita Nyong’o – Kenya (actress)

Philomena Kwao – Ghana (model)

Amber Rose – Cape Verde (model)

 Laura Mvula – British (singer)

 Samira Wiley – USA (actress)

Chrisette Michele – USA (singer)

Nandi Mngoma – South Africa (singer)


There are more where these came from!!






FINALLY read The Alchemist ::: #graphAfrica


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I finally read it.

These are the parts I highlighted:

  1. “Treasure is uncovered by the force of flowing water, and it is buried by the same currents.”
  2. “If you start out by promising what you don’t even have yet, you’ll lose your desire to work toward getting it.”
  3. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
  4. “It’s called the principle of favorability, beginner’s luck. Because life wants you to achieve your Personal Legend,”
  5. “We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it’s doing to help us.”
  6. “I’m afraid that if my dream is realized, I’ll have no reason to go on living.”
  7. “…every blessing ignored becomes a curse.”
  8. “How do I guess at the future? Based on the omens of the present. The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better.”
  9. “Every day was there to be lived or to mark one’s departure from this world.”
  10. “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”
  11. “Men dream more about coming home than about leaving.”
  12. “They were seeking the treasure of their Personal Legend, without wanting actually to live out the Personal Legend.”
  13. “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity.”
  14. “Later, we simply let life proceed, in its own direction, toward its own fate. But, unfortunately, very few follow the path laid out for them – the path to their Personal Legends, and to happiness.”
  15. “When you possess great treasures within you, and try to tell others of them, seldom are you believed.”
  16. “And anyone who interferes with the Personal Legend of another being never will discover his own.”
  17. “Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happened twice will surely happen a third time.”


My spirit and my soul came together, bowed their heads and said Amen. My heart watched me read what it has been trying to tell me all along. Am I just a shepherd minding my sheep because it’s what I’m doing now and good at or am I somehow on my path to my reserved treasure – my Personal Legend?


I know THE whole world has read this book and for all the books I’ve read, this one is deserving of all the praise. To say this is a good book is simple yes, but enough. It is. Like faith, no one can convince another into faith because it’s something that happens to us. I’ve seen this book too many times in too many places. That treasure which, for some reason, I never picked up. Maybe I wasn’t ready. I don’t know if I was now. I’m grateful for it either way.





Bright Ideas like Bright’s (GH) ::: #graphAfrica

Picking a theme to go with and challenging oneself to write on it every single day for a month is…challenging! What with said writing needing to happen between a demanding day job and the body and mind’s demand for rest.

I decided to start #graphAfrica on July 1st and today on the 9th, this is my 6th post :/ …. I really struggled on the long 4th of July weekend as I was hardly home. I’ll make up for it though. One simply does not call oneself a writer/blogger if they do not do it now do they?

In quick review look up the “afropolitaine” and “graphAfrica” and enjoy yourself. Thank you for reading and I’ll keep them coming. I haven’t been feeling well for the last 3 days and am basically functional because of an unrecommendable amount of Advil which brings me to what I’d like to briefly spotlight today.

Bright Simons is a Ghanaian (based there) social innovator who developed an sms based program/app called mpedigree to detect counterfeit drugs in circulation around the continent at the point of purchase. Many of you may have heard of him already as I have, but I’m finally getting to write about him. His invention/innovation was addressing the problem of fake/expired medication in circulation and the resulting drug resistance that strains of several conditions/diseases, especially malaria, were developing. In essence some of these pills, even according to conservative estimates, were killing 1000s of people.

From being a western educated astrophysicist who left that to study and work with refugees, at some point Simons decided to return home to do something PRACTICAL.

“I realized I needed to become an entrepreneur. And I had no money. So I needed to find an area where I could make an impact without a lot of money. And that is where technology came in.”

What I like and find highly motivating here is that money was not the motivation and the absence of it did not stop his practical and useful idea from coming to fruition. By sending a simple text message containing the code on medication/pills, one can find out if it’s real or not. In turn, manufactures protect themselves and their product by being able to determine if a shipment has been compromised.

His idea was adopted the first from the continent to demonstrate south south knowledge exchange. Not only is it used in 6 African countries (east and west), but also in India and Bangladesh. It’s so simple and easily transferable and requires very little to operate and be successful. You don’t even need a smart phone (don’t get me started on how smart phones are anything but) and it can be applied to so many other unregulated industries. In the absence of visible and active government agencies like FDA (US Food and Drug Administration), perhaps more low capital and cutting edge ideas like mpedigree can fill that gap.

Come to think of it, mpedigree would be a great idea even here in the US to simplify or completely replace antiquated institutions and the bureaucracy therein when it comes to authentication/classification/verification of goods and even services. That would be too easy now wouldn’t it?! This is a country that prefers inches and feet to centimeters and meters, calls football soccer and sells “real” orange juice with no pulp.

I digress.

Literally #graphAfrica ::: Data Don’t Lie, but It’s Biased

In reviewing a lot of data [completely unrelated to Africa or even international relations] lately I was thinking about some of the alarming and inspiring statistics we hear about ourselves as Africans. Whether in the days of the dark continent or now of the Africa Rising narrative or paradigm shift, where does the information driving this come from? We hear numbers that, depending on who we are and our interests are actionable. Take for example that Angola’s life expectancy at birth is at 51 in 2013 from 48 in 2004 compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa of 56 from 52 (World Health Organization). Who collected the data and why assuming it was collected so something could be done or because something was being done to affect that number? After the data was collected who decided what those numbers meant?

How can we be in control of our development and positive or negative indicators to be able to do something about the lists of things on Africa’s to-do list if we haven’t measured for ourselves what is lacking or doing well?
Most of the numbers used to indicate a positive change or regression are collected by NGOs who specialize in addressing a specific topic. In other countries there are visible govt agencies aggregating the data whether routine or nonroutine. The most notable for every single person being the Census Bureau. The layers of raw data they collect is analyzed and turned into information that in turn informs the decisions made in employment, housing, education, health etc etc.
Who is doing this in Africa? Yes there are international NGOs and more importantly local ones who do manage to collect some data, BUT their capacity is limited. Funding drives what is measured and by whom and why.
Anyway, whoever they are collected by – numbers don’t lie! Based on the numbers available that indicate development gaps, let’s turn that into information that informs action! Maybe through measurable action on our parts as Africans we’ll be able to make enough progress to eventually collect our own.

“When is 4th of July in Africa”? ::: #graphAfrica

The title of this post is a real question that has been asked in real life. Real talk. Really. The easy answer, or in someone’s dry sense of humor, is that 4th of July in Africa falls on 4th of July as it does in any other continent/country. The people who ask this kind of question are the same as the ones who ask if you speak African and don’t know Africa is a continent with more countries than America has states. That’s ok though because I learnt a long time ago if I wanted to live long on this earth with low blood pressure levels that those people couldn’t anger me. They exist and most times the reason they ask questions like that isn’t their own fault. I don’t blame them. There are systems and institutions that come together to shape what information we not only have access to, but we end up giving a damn about. These shapers go back generations and are really hard to undo and unlearn.




So I was asking myself if there is in fact a holiday that is celebrated continent wide in Africa and the closest is Africa Day on May 25. It marks the founding of the Organization of African Unity in 1963 when 30 Independent African nations signed on in Addis Ababa. So yes it is a continent wide holiday, but it’s only observed by about 5 countries – Zimbabwe is one of them. Growing up in Zimbabwe I don’t remember ever celebrating it though.  Even though we are a relatively young “country” – independence was gained in 1980, Mugabe is the kind of African visionary who would ensure its observance.


In short we do not have a 4th of July, we have May 25! HOWEVER, given the non-unity within and across borders, perhaps the OAU has a long way to go. What with new countries forming, old ones falling apart and others just lingering in non-progressive obscurity.


Not yet UHURU!





Mandela – Ultimately Sophisticated ::: #graphAfrica


Although the way he dressed wasn’t much the focus on who the man was it somehow has managed to be a reoccuring thought to me since the end of Mandela’s time on earth December 5th. The thought was persistent as I scrolled through all the pictures that I saw on twitter, instagram and even when I watched Long Walk to Freedom at the screening a few weeks before at the Kennedy Center. I am not being superficial here and before you think/roll your eyes that am I really going to talk about a man’s clothes just hear me out.

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 (check out the double breasted pique lapel and the white handkerchief though with the part and smile to boot)


The clothes he wore at any time period that has pictures available were clean cut and simple. Stylish and practical. Like many of the roles he had throughout his life, you couldn’t and wouldn’t accuse him of being the fashionista of his days, but he dressed well. He wasn’t the fieriest orator, but he spoke well, he wasn’t the hottest politician of them all, but he looked good. Whatever it was he did, like his dressing, he was consistent and made a habit of GOOD and WELL. His hair was always neat and the signature part he rocked in his neatly combed and patted fro was cute. Subtle, but noticeable.  Throughout his career as seen in pictures, the movie and real life, he was never shabby.


In jail, after having been in for a few months, he petitioned the prison guards to give all the prisoners full trousers instead of the shorts that the black prisoners were forced to wear. Some of his comrades laughed because they couldn’t imagine why of all the things lacking in that setting why that would be important. He, having the mind and foresight he had, explained the principle of the difference between wearing trousers vs shorts as a Black man in Apartheid South Africa. Once the requestwas granted and the prisoners were wearing pants a shift happened. The guards were more respectful to the prisoners and he prisoners themselves carried themselves with a little more outward dignity. A subtle, but significant change prompted by the simple, but powerful man.



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I find his use of his own sense of style fascinating because it was so subtle, yet so distinct and influenced how he carried himself and how he was received. He made such a strong statement by being so understated in his dress and overall mannerisms.


May he forever live in our hearts and rest in peace…and inspire other men to know themselves and dress accordingly.





Join me! ::: #graphAfrica


I’m embarking on a self-imposed writing challenge where for the month of July I will post something every single day. I did this before with my #afrophoto challenge last year in June! I’m a month late on this, but I just had to be sure that I didn’t NOT do this. I know I haven’t been writing nearly enough for those of you who give your time to reading whatever ramblings and sometimes well thought out arguments and feelings I muster the courage to publish.

When I started this blog it was more for myself so I could writing something without over thinking it. I enjoyed the process of coming back to my blog a while or days later when I’m no longer in that mental state to marvel at my writing. It really was more a way of looking at myself outside of myself, but now over 43 thousand page views later I have to thank you all for seeing me here. I can admit I felt freer when I wrote and didn’t know who was reading my blog so bumping into people somewhere telling me they read my blog and saying they enjoyed it woke up the obstructionist perfectionist in me. I now wondered if I could always deliver what the people wanted. I was conscious of an audience who had previously been abstractly out there somewhere. I wrote less.

I’m getting over it and myself and just writing now. As usual, you can expect a lot of obviously and directly Africa related topics and a good number where it’s not so obvious and I make the connection because that is how I see my world. There is never NOT a connection to Africa in how I see things in my world wherever in the world I am. Do feel free to comment and be engaged, but if all that happens is you think a little bit more about Africa in your own interactions with your world that will be my job done!

My new hashtag, I’ve decided will be:

I decided on this after much consideration and applying my love of languages. I wanted to use Africa as the root of the word versus what we typically do using it as a prefix. Afro- this afro- that – I am guilty too. Prefixes were used prepositionally in Latin and therefore indicated a certain position regardless of the subject. I wanted Africa to be the subject no matter what it is I’ll write about. Whatever I encounter and be moved to write about will be in relation to Africa, not Africa in relation to it. I then chose the prefix graph- which we see in many words and it’s meaning is write or record. So yeah there’s a little lesson for you guys  – any word with the prefix or root graph is relating to writing or recording. So I am looking to write and record Africa with this blog and this challenge.
Stay tuned and read along ❤