Despite all the talking and rhetoric about Africa this and Africa that, one thing is for sure, when you are on the ground, you see an active and growing development.  Somebody is funding the development of projects, buildings, real estate, housing, businesses etc.  The process can seem like the natural progression of any country, as populations continue to grow, so shall this development.  It may seem like a curious and mysterious endeavor until you decide you will be one who will build also, no longer will you just talk about Africa, but you will build.

No one can tell you the vast undertaking of building a house, anywhere for that matter, in Africa, and Gambia in particular where I built, I could not have comprehended the particulars that would confront me as the process began while I was still living in the States.  Once we had situated a land to build upon, it was clear this land would mark my entry into the do realm and no longer the talk.

when there was no house, only soil, and earth. this would be the beginning of this long journey of repatriation…

My husband a Gambian had made connections with a contractor for us to begin the process.  His name was Baba Drammeh, a contractor who was the brother of another Gambian living in the States, and he was well to do, being able to travel back and forth from the States to Gambia to meet with his clients.  We decided to give Baba the contract to build our house, after visiting some of the buildings that he was working on, and visiting his own home that he built in Gambia, we were pretty impressed with his talent. We didn’t want a huge building, but a simple one level that we could eventually build on, a spacious modern home that could hold our modern amenities.  My family was young, and with the spacious land, we could further develop on it later.

me standing in front of a house Baba Drammeh (left) our slimy contractor had showed us of his work. I was impressed until he started on our house.

Why Build a house instead of buy one already built?

I write this piece for the do-ers, those who want to build, because technically you can decide the kind of house you want, how much you are willing to spend, and where you want to live.  The cost of already built homes can cost more than building one, and depending on your needs, it may be better to own the land first and then build the house.

Gambian men, builders, masons, workers you need them always…I am grateful for them.


When I first started building my home in The Gambia, the neighborhood I would plant roots in, was a fertile crescent, with plenty of wide views, palm trees and open spaces. There were very few if any already built homes on the horizon.  Being the first to build in the area was an advantage but on the other hand also a lot of hardship, as you are the first to deal with water issues, securing your plot, electricity and a host of problems you can’t be aware of until you start your project.  For being the first meant the brunt of the learning curve fell on us, as there were no neighbors to turn to for support or help, as they turned to us when the neighborhood began to develop.  The foundation of your home will be one of the most important if not the most important in the building process. It is the moment of truth when you realize your dream and seeing it start from nothing.

Building up

I was in The Gambia when my foundation was started and when the first blocks were being made, the ground being dug up to place in those blocks.  Cement, sand and gravel crowding the space to create hundreds and hundreds of blocks.  You can not believe the amount of work that goes into building.  There are no tractors, cement trucks mixing the sediment, no bulldozers, everything is done by hand. Men mixing water, cement, and sand by hand, building blocks by hand, a tedious process that requires patience and resilience.  But once the blocks are done, its literally a process of putting one on top of the other, and from there, a building is forming before your very eyes.  From nothing to something. Amazing.  Within three months, a bonafide building is up, you can determine window spaces, doors spaces, veranda, living room, bedrooms and bathrooms.  In its rawest form it is a work of art, as cement is everywhere, the blocks are not pretty, and there is no roof on yet, its just this building.  For many if their money goes short, this is where the building process stops, as you can see many buildings like this in developing Africa, incomplete, hoping to be completed.  As for me I could feel this building inside of me, and me inside of it, how I would make a home out of it, have parties here, and being the first settlers in this new land.   Putting the building up, is probably the easiest part of your project.  No one tells you about the other intricacies involved until its time.

front of home…

I was so happy to see my home, and all its possibilities. I would work tirelessly to have this sanctuary…

the building is up, now the real work begins…


You will always need somewhere to secure your building materials, as throughout your building process, you will be constantly buying materials, that if you are not careful can be lifted if not secured. Most people always build a storage room to hold their materials that can later be converted into a room to rent or whatever.  But at first this room must be able to secure your materials, and you will require many things, from lumber wood, cement, all of ur building tools for the workers, at each stage, will require different materials. The next important security will be fencing your property, this ensures no one else can claim your acres, your space, this fencing is also usually concrete block slabs that you can build as high as you need/want to secure you compound. This is YOUR space thus, you do not want it compromised.  Many people will put barb wire, broken glass and other objects on top of the fence to deter criminals. As they are many, who look to find the weakness in your security.

view from the roof of my home

Getting Robbed

If you have a very secure compound the likelihood of you getting robbed is low, but even then you can’t rule out workers, even the security you hire to look out for your materials, people on the ground will and can do all kind of scrupulous activity in the sale of your stuff if you are not there or aware of what’s going on.  This is the reality, the best advise is to be on your project every day, and if you can not, be sure to have a trust worthy person there for you. This is key to having a successful project. Cause in many ways everybody is out to get you for one thing or another, and that can include the contractor who you are paying to do the work.

burgler proof bars, required on every home, even on the windows…


I can’t stress the importance of ensuring you have the best work done on your roof. Knowing the correct materials were used in its waterproofing and its sturdiness. If the roof is not stable or is missing any key ingredient, expect for leakages of water to enter that could possibly destroy your property.  I was not in Gambia when my roof was being done, however the money was sent and paid for all the materials to do the roof, but our contractor Mr. Drammeh, left out the black rock or asphalt, a key ingredient to ensure a sturdy roof, instead he pocketed the money and thought his theft would go un noticed. When the first rains came, my entire house leaked with each rain it got worse, the painting that had already been done in the house was completely ruined.  Mr. Drammeh did not want to take any responsibility for his crime, but instead tried to insist it was the ‘worker’s fault. By that time, I had already moved to the Gambia and was living with my in laws while the house was being finished. This is to say, ensure what you pay for from top to bottom is what you are getting.

doing work on the roof, long hot days, trying to fix the roof, I’ll never forget!


No one will ever tell you, the finishing is the most elaborate and expensive part to building your dream home in Africa in my case, The Gambia.  You think ok, the building is up, the walls are up, the electric lines and plumbing is in, but there is more. Windows, doors, door frames, floor and wall tiling, toilets, tubs, door knobs, sinks and everything will be on you to fill.  Light fixtures, ceiling fans, all the ‘stuff” you want in your house, will be up to you. Remember you’re building a house, not buying one that has all this stuff in it already,  I can remember many days going to my compound cleaning and sweeping the tiles after the workers left, this was sacred ground to me, and I didn’t want any objectionable stuff laying around, when the workers leave, they don’t care what condition they left it in. Because we were basically hiring our own people to do the work, we no longer had trust with our contractor Mr. Drammeh, who still did not want to take responsibility for the roofing problems, so we basically paid for contracting work that he did not complete.  Despite that we carried on, and finished the house, while having to pay almost twice for everything,  Till this day the roof still has some problems when the rainy season comes, and getting people to be accountable for their shady work is hard to do in Gambia.

My parrot Xena and I, as I worried about finishing my house…

Water, Electricity & Sewage

These three are required elements to the quality of your living experience in Africa. Because unlike in the developed world, when you move in a house these things are already in place, but in Africa typically you must create them yourself.  Be prepared to have a sock away built for your sewage, a water tank that can hold at least 100 gallons of water, if you’re smart, get a bore hole to regulate and maintain your own water usage that requires no bill.  A bore hole will require an electrical outlet or a generator to ensure the pump in the ground can pump water to the tank.  Be sure to secure your bore hole, as thieves stole my pump twice! Nothing is beyond stealing remember that. Electricity, now a days can be acquired by working with the electric company to install a pole that will transmit the line to your house, or you can do like me and be off the grid and get solar.  I loved having solar, it takes getting used to regulating but it is a great resource to have in Africa, where there is plenty of sunshine and you do not have to pay for what you use.

My son in the master bathroom…

Solar panels, what I had always dreamed of. To own my electricity is real power!

The reality is having a home anywhere, but in particular for the African repatriate is about owning as much of your life as possible, this kind of freedom is not one that is usually followed when we speak about the generic word of freedom, but this is about as free as you can be without the restraints of society. You own your land, your home, your water, your electric, the rest is maintaining these liveables to enjoy your freedom, a state of being that I believe God truly put us on this earth to have.


In October of 2007, my house despite all the troubles, set backs and problems was finished, and I was able to move in with my family.  It was and remains one of the brightest moments of my life.  At this point I felt like a true Afrikan repatriate.  Here I would raise my children, plant my trees, and enjoy the sun.  Seven years in, my house requires quite a bit of renovation and upgrades, but in the meantime while I’m back in the States I hope to fund these renovations in time, I welcome you when they are done:-)

Living room, finished.

entrance to hallway and kitchen

outside/side of house finished…

me with cashew trees in the yard…



I remember being pregnant with my last child (3rd) and thinking how this move would affect him/her.  My two daughters who were born in america and were 3 & 5 years old had tasted what being in this country was about.  Its not something you think about growing up, because you are where you are.  It was late 2005 and I was already in the first phase of moving to The Gambia.  My house was unfinished and I wanted to be there so that when it was finished, my family and I could move in.  How this would affect my then unborn, I wasn’t sure, but I was sure that i wanted them all to have a different approach and understanding about life and who they were as Black citizens of the world, not just america.

P1010538 P1010864

When my son was born, it was clear to me, that moving to the Gambia was best for him.  I did not want america to have him, have his mind or body.  I wanted him to be free of the unfortunate shackles of being a Black male in this society.  In June of 2006, my infant son was 6 months old, when we left the US and moved to The Gambia.  He couldn’t speak a word, but his eyes and ability to adapt was amazing.  By 9 months he was walking and by 11 months he was speaking small bits of english and understanding Wolof.  My daughters also had made the transition fairly smoothly also, and had picked up on the Wolof language enough to help translate and be an interpreter for me.  It was by far a high achievement, hence no one in my family on my mother’s or father’s side spoke no other language other than english.  A default tongue that has been with us since our enslavement in american shores.  To know that my children broke the cycle and paradigm by not just speaking another language, but speaking a mother tongue of their heritage was tremendous.  That in and of itself is liberating. Raising them in the Gambia was like seeing a new world for them to be a part of, a world that I wanted them to participate in, an Afrikan world of the 21st century that had new opportunities, but with old traditions and modern updates to them.



Amijah my oldest daughter, pounding rice


For The Gambia today remains a place steeped in African traditions, mysticism, behavior, motifs and cultural norms.  For example, all children when greeting adults, give courtesy, shake hands and there is a level of respect that is given and shared.  Children play and run almost freely, with no fear of ‘where are they’ or limitations on where they can go outside.  The usual fears of them being outside without direct supervision were melted away, hence everyone on the entire 2 block radius knew them.  There was no one that was really a ‘stranger’ in the sense that children were deemed to fear.

Afrikan children have an open door policy to visit friends and neighbors and to play… a simple rule that they all seem to follow without any regard.  Sure there is some watching tv, but most children spend most of the day outside, not boxed in the house playing video games.  That activity is usually for the night, but even in the night Gambians are outside, and socializing is a continual pattern after parents get home from work.   I loved having this access for them, as they grew, and them gravitating to the cultural norms, the Afrikan dress, the prayer times of Salat, hence Gambia is a mostly Muslim country.  The food and the way it is cooked, the sharing of food in one bowl that is the traditional way of eating.  These norms shaped them, and opened them I believe beyond any negative stereotype they could have ever heard or be conditioned about Africa.   Because they were living in this tiny country on the continent, they were just pebbles on a large beach on this glorious continent.  Not marginalized, not having to feel any sense of racial inadequacies or any idea of what racism is.  They were able to be a part of a majority, wherever they went they saw reflections of themselves from the high to the low in all spectrums of society.


preparing to cook Gambian style…

By the time my house was finished it was time for me to head back to america to earn money to support my family.  Like so many African migrants who go to europe or america to achieve this end, I truly understood the immigrant experience, for I too felt like that same migrant, and I understand why they go.  Because often African money, in this case the Gambian Dalasi, is not enough to suffice when your needs are in dollars or euros…

The many business ventures I had embarked upon had not panned out, and thus I had to return, I left my children in their new home, that was all theirs and they remained in the Gambia for 7 years.  I had returned on vacation stints and stayed for 3 weeks or 1 month at a time, but each time I was amazed at their growth and fluency of Gambian culture and language.  My son had become a fluent Wolof speaker and was picking up Mandika, my daughters were also fluent, and were well entrenched in the Gambian lifestyle.  Being american didn’t have any meaning to them, and at a point they became inquisitive about this place because it was mysterious as to why many people talked about it being so great, none of which they remembered.  My kids went to a Gambian school called The Swallow which was run by a German woman with donations from Belgium and Europe that gave it a unique international edge.  Most of the children were Gambian, and they were taught the varieties of Gambian culture, history pre european arrival up to modern day.


When I had to leave, I knew they were ok, because I was leaving them in the arms of Mama Afrika, and God Almighty who would care for them in my absence.  Their father, a Gambian, kept them safe while I went back to america to work.  But my heart would not be happy until I knew I could reunite with my family for good and remain in The Gambia, in my home.  That would happen in 2012 which I finally decided to leave and return to Africa and stay.  With all good intentions, I have had to leave again, but this time, I brought my children with me back to america, and now they are re-learning the ways here, but with a much more different value system.  Having raised 21st century Afrikans, I pray their experience of living in Gambia will give them a more enlightened approach to being in america, and to know they have roots and they are always welcome to return to them when they choose.


There’s a lot of discussion from an African American perspective about what African people think about us from the continent.  The views vary, as our relationship with Africa continues to develop, our conversations about African people as a Diaspora must also continue to develop.  However we tend to only have a one sided view of what we think ‘African’ ppl think of Black Americans.  There’s the tendency to say they look down on us, they don’t like us, they say negative things about us, they think we’re lazy.  Some of that may be true in conversation, but we may also play antagonists in saying what we think African people feel without actually knowing any. Without having any continental born Africans in our immediate circle of friends or family.  And more importantly, having never gone to the continent we could have an even more skewed idea as to what they really think about us.

ImageThere’s no real way to tell how one group of people thinks about another, because all groups no matter how homogenous have sporadic breakdowns and stereotypical ideas of one another.  With that said, there is no one way that Africans on the continent can think about Black americans.  As well when I use the term “African” this speaks to the Diaspora notwithstanding country or ethnic group. We are all different in our experiences and our outlook on life.  But what I do feel is necessary is for Africans and Black americans to have a dialog that extends our outreach to them here and vice versa.  There needs to be better communication between us to better understand the nuances of each others history, and a road map to better plan for our future as a unified group of Africans.  These bridges that have divided us, as well as the physical ocean, keeps many stereotypes being played out and not being addressed in an intelligent and developmental way that leads to better understanding and cooperation.

I feel extremely blessed and honored to have experienced both sides.  As a Black american, this country is mostly all I’ve ever known, all I’ve ever understood and it wasn’t until much later in my life that I actually began to have African friends, marry an African man and move to Africa.  Before that, I had no way to gauge or understand what an ‘African’ thought about Black americans.  Being able to attend ‘their’ parties, attend ‘their’ cultural celebrations, listen to ‘their’ music, that I began to see a world that did not mirror what I had been brought up with but rather it magnified it.  I was intrigued with their language, the way they dressed for events and the food they cooked.  Witnessing the African existence in america I got to see how Africans exist amongst their own for survival.  Maintaining their cultural motifs here, while striving for the american dream.  A lot of that has nothing to do with Black americans on the surface.


Gambian women cooking for a party

African people may not have any Black american friends either, and what contact they do have with us can be superficial, i.e, at work, in passing, or in the media.  They may not even engage with us enough to even know the deeper dynamics of our condition in this country, or even our history as Black americans, and as a result ‘we’ are mis understood and not seen for the diverse people we are.  We too also judge ‘Africans’ by this standard, not knowing their history, not knowing their point of view or the conditions they were raised with, so what we know is lost in translation. But through our shared histories, I believe we have more in common than the differences that divide us.

When I lived in Gambia, I always made it a point to see how people gauged me, did they see me as one of their own or a stranger.  Of course most times, I blended right in and the only difference that set me apart was my dreadlocs which is not common amongst Gambian women, and when I spoke, it was clear I was not from Gambia.  So I was usually asked ‘where are you from’? I’d often oblige this answer with Black america.  I wanted my Gambian brothers/sisters to understand I wasn’t just from america, but I was from Black america, and that was a different place than ‘america’.  The america most Gambians/Africans understand is the one of strength, power, abundance and opportunity.  The underlying dynamics of struggle, exploitation, oppression, slavery and genocide is not often the narrative understood by Africans.  They are mostly interested in the ‘brand’ of america.  Their ideas about Black america is not one too different, strength, wealth, fame, fortune and music.  Our music has reached the African continent more than any other product we have produced, and thus the images of that music has also been exported.  Black american hip hop has transformed African traditional griot storytelling to the modern.  The word ‘niggas’ has also reached the continent via Black american hip hop, I’ve heard some African hip hop mimicking this aspect of Black america (my niggas slang), but African hip hop is as diverse as the continent and I found a lot of it to be politically and culturally uplifting and not degrading.  You see a lot of youth wearing Tupac and .50 t-shirts and it is clear, young Africa loves Black america’s hip hop icons, but is that all they see or know of us?

Maybe in some circles and maybe in others they see a different view, they may see the Malcolm X, the Martin Luther King, the Barack Obama, but these are wide ranges of personalities that does not speak to our experience in totality.  So who we really are, can be totally mis informed and not understood by Africans on the continent.  But their outlook to me was always typically positive.  Though there were times I was called a ‘toubab’ meaning white person in Wolof, which I was offended by, but this word eluded to the fact I was from the white man’s land, speaking the white man’s language, not necessarily a racial epithet.  However, I was normally addressed as Sista in everyday conversation, and that was refreshing.  As a Black american, I was always welcomed ‘home’ because on a deeper level Gambians do overstand that we are ‘home’ that slavery separated us, but they are very curious what its like to live in america.   And this was always an interesting conversation to have, because I tried to give a very real perspective of what its like to be Black in america. These are the roads that bring our bridges closer to understanding.  Giving African people a view of what its like to be a Black american takes skill and some level of historical knowledge to bring the reality and not just the perceived fantasy or image of being ‘famous’ or rich and wealthy as so many believe.  Explaining day to day racism and how it affects us, and how we have managed with over 400 years on american soil, while trying to keep a fresh modern approach to what can be achieved here.  Many Africans praise america for its greatness, because they understand the difficulties of living in Africa, the extreme poverty for many and lack of infrastructure are things they notice in comparison to america, which is seen as having all.

My experience of living in the motherland, I feel also gives me a wider view to explain to my Black american sisters/brothers about the differences and realities of African life, and what is happening on the ground there in the 21st century and it is not a place simply of the past, and  relating that information to what’s happening here in america.  Black american youth need to understand there are many opportunities in Africa too and we have been programmed to think so negatively about Africa, that we are alienated from the continent, which leaves a huge void in our Black american existence.

There is much more to this dialog, but anytime I am amongst my ‘African’ friends in america, I know they are learning about us, and seeing the variety that we are, most still feel ‘Africa is home, and plan to return, they know that home has significance, home is culture, home is the essence, and for us as Black america, we are welcome to come ‘home’, if we want to also.


Dear america,

I want a divorce, its not working out, we’ve tried but your abuse towards me is not healthy. If I want my life I have to leave you.  This has been on my mind for a long time as you know. I have tried leaving you on two occasions, because the abuse was just too much.  I did not feel like I belonged to you or rather with you.  You deride and defame me in public, you’ve abandoned our children, you lock them up in your man made cages and make me feel as though I will have to be a single mother forever.  america, for 400 years you have enslaved me, segregated me, created ridiculous laws just to prove I am human in your eyes.  Yet I have remained loyal to you in the face of all your tragic activities against me.  I’ve maintained my position to support you even to others who have called out your hypocricies, even when I wanted to call them out, how could I?  I have been reminded, a marriage is always worth fighting for, and that to give up would be to give up on all the sacrifices.  But I’m not giving up on the sacrifices america, I’m just giving up on you.  Because it is clear your callous and dysfunctional racism does not allow you to love me unconditionally.

Let us both acknowledge, I did not ask for your hand in marriage, you kidnapped me remember? It was a forced arranged marriage of the worst kind.  I was told I had no choice, I could not go back to my former love and be with him because you were more powerful, and my success would be appended to yours.  But more power does not equal a better life.  How I have sustained my self with you has been through the pure graces of the Almighty God, my ancestors and the fact that I have only wanted to see you change.  But you don’t, in fact you’ve become worse under the cloak of plastic roses you give to me, under the guise of protection, you offer abandonment.  I have to carry the burden of people always laughing at me when they come to see you because you are always much nicer to other people, but to me america, you remain virulent and truant.  I have been with you since the beginning, and you treat me as if you just picked me off the streets yesterday.  Most people who are abused cannot leave their abuser, they end up staying for years beyond recognition, how can I love u america, my abuser, my lyncher, my murderer, my incarcerator? If I want my life, I have to leave u.  If I have any sanity left, it will be because I left you for good this time.  I won’t come back.

But like any good divorce, spousal support is required, the last times I left, you did not help me with the children nor did you help me get back on my feet, so this time, I need full compensatory damages, alimony, a trust for the children, child support, and payment for my attorney fees.  Some would call this reparations, because the irreversible damage you have done to me is with full merit and evidence.  But your refusal to compensate me for my long suffering, rape, abuse, infidelity, libel and disenfranchisement has created a bankruptcy amongst my own standing.

america, you owe me a great deal hence you were the bread winner, and you kept me in such an insubordinate position that i was never in a place to become a bread earner.  The time has come for you to pay for your transgressions against me, america.  The love we were supposed to have, you could not find it in your heart to reciprocate, instead you denied your love to me because of your depravity, shame and guilt.  But I am ready to move on, start a new life, maybe with my old love so that we can be together.  But I most certainly can not be with you anymore, if I want my life, I must leave you so I want a divorce.


In my quest to give solutions to or movement towards a more progressive ideal, I think its more important for Africans to be discussing what we can do instead of chiming on the constant racial inequities and racist propaganda that amounts to no more than complaining.  Its important that we have dialog about the circumstances we find ourselves in, the circumstances of our historical past as racism is a system that has perpetuated itself in our lives for over 500 years.  We are trying to find methodical and realistic solutions to free ourselves from its staggering impact, today this generation and beyond has better tools, communication and education to do that more than ever before.  We no longer have to be complacent with complaining, but instead do something.

I wasn’t rich when I decided to repatriate to The Gambia, however I did work a regular job and made investments that allowed me to move to the next level, and that was moving to the continent.  My first investment as a repatriate was buying land.  I bought two pieces of land in The Gambia, I have since sold one of them and the other my family compound resides there. I’ve learned alot about the phenomenon of African economics, the poverty and the pervasive way in which people will redirect your funds if you  aren’t there to watch them. My next investment in Africa was buying a tippa truck.  A tippa is basically a dump truck. A beautiful 10 wheel dumptruck that was going to be used for shipping sand for construction outlets in The Gambia.  The housing boom in the country has not decreased, but has steadily increased and shows no signs of slowing down.  A dump truck is a highly accessible and useful item to be in simple business.  Transporting cement, sand and other building materials, each trip garners a significant amount of money.  However, due to my inexperience at running this business, something went wrong with the truck and if you can’t fix it yourself, be mindful that everybody that says they are a mechanic are many times not qualified but that’s their job.  Your truck will be left in the hands of uncertainty.  This is to say, know your business on the ground, know who will help you if something goes wrong or if it needs fixing, or when you need parts. While my business failed here, it didn’t stop me from trying further.  I sold the truck, and later invested in fishing boats.


Fishing is a highly useful venture and business in The Gambia and most West African countries, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean.  In The Gambia, people from all over the world come specifically here to do their fishing, the variety and types of fish is enormous and profit yields can be very good.  Most Senegalese fishermen come to Gambia and do their business, using huge pirogue type boats that are built from scratch.  These boats usually seat anywhere from 5 to 25 fisherman at a time, they throw nets out into the sea and stay overnight for their catch.  On any given day a good catch can garner over $2000.00, or like any gamble, you can catch very little to nothing.  You have your workers to pay and paying the expenses for the boat, fuel and bait.  These types of ventures require experienced fishermen and equipment.  Most importantly it requires you have solid tools to stay in business a top of the line engine and strong nets is fundamental.  I had a good boat, but not a good engine, so I came across many problems trying to keep my boat in the ocean. But a loss in one hustle, you must learn how to move on to the next.

I’ve learned how to sell used clothing and shoes, people are always willing to buy these types of goods if you have good quality stuff. Children’s clothes and shoes, mens and womens wear of course goes a long way.  Good quality shoes as simple as flip-flops are highly regarded, since most stuff you buy on the ground are the cheapest Chinese exports, they are of poor quality.  You can get quality items rather cheaply in the US or Europe and have them sold for the market value in Africa.  You may not make a large profit off of this, but it can keep you floating along.  Another business I found very attractive and easy to do are Internet Cafes, the explosion of technology use in African countries is not slowing down, as more areas are becoming populated Africans are online and reaching out to the world.  Have a few good computers, xerox machine, scanning and basic utilities to run a cafe and you are in business every day.  The only downfall I saw in this business is when electricity goes out and it does quite often in Gambia and other countries, you can lose alot of business, so this is where my next interest comes in.  Solar.


Having solar technology either using it in your business or making it your business is a sound investment.  It goes a long way and has become more efficient and less expensive over time.  Its important to understand this technology and its uses on the ground in Africa. But it is a very profitable venture as people are seeking ways to have electricity 24/7 and tire of power cuts that become annoying and absolutely tiring.


There are many other businesses that I found also to be good long term ideas, real estate.  Real Estate in the Gambia is massive, all one has to do is either buy a building that is for sale or build one.  The way to make money several times over, is by having store fronts on the bottom, rental units on top and have a constant flow of tenants that assure your longevity.  Mini markets are growing in the Gambia as people look for conveniences and the opportunities for these are plentiful.  Agriculture, there is no doubt people have to eat everyday, so investing in the land is always good business.  Soil in the Gambia is excellent for planting all kinds of fruits and vegetables, Bananas, oranges, mangoes, mandarins, cashews, the potential is extraordinary if you have the land to plant and water to maintain.

These are just some ideas that I found and experienced on the ground myself, as there are many others that I could go on about, eco-tourism, guest houses, restaurants, taxi and bus services, sectors that are directed towards tourism are great ventures.  I personally want to try to do business online in The Gambia should I return by selling the art and beautiful wares the country produces.  But this gives the potential repatriate some ideas and lessons to learn from someone who has tried and failed, but I will always continue to keep trying… Trust me!


I spent most of my 2013 living in The Gambia, West Africa.  It was a tumultuous year.  A year that I experienced theft directly in my home while my family and I slept, a year that found me unable to discern whether it was worth it to continue being in the country when I had invested so much of my time, effort and money.  But all wasn’t sad, being in Gambia for that length of time, and out of the american psyche, out of the american racist machine that constantly parades its racial inequities as diet, was indeed very healthy for me.  My mind is always refreshed to my memories of seeing all Black people everywhere, and listening to the pulsating riddems and sounds cascading in the African air.  My observations as an African American repatriate in The Gambia is mostly positive, because I found that despite all the things the media, the news, and even the political situation in the country, Gambians are proud and remain a beautiful people.  They are not defined by these things, not even their President.  It is really the Gambian people who make him look good.  The very essence of Tendaba, a natural hospitality that Gambians have is in all spheres of life.  While the individualistic norms of western culture are pervasive and interfering in the qualitative natural culture of Gambians, it has not totally impeded it yet.


ladies in the market enjoying a show

I learned in 2013 how to have neighbors, how to be and live in a community, a real community.  To me a community is living in a place where everybody knows your name, they know your kids, and vice versa.  You eat at each other houses, you share intimate stories, you shop and borrow all in the same place.  This was a community for me.  In my community in The Gambia, for many of us even shared the same water tap to fetch from, when the rains came we helped clear the roads or put bricks in for easier passage, we shared certain vegetables and fruits from each others gardens, we shared garden tools even to plant before the rainy season.  There was an intricate daily interaction without becoming intrusive or annoying, it was something you expected.  I looked forward to drinking attaya with my neighbors, a green tea that is cooked on open coals, like most things.  I learned how to cook all the Gambian dishes from my neighbor Adama, who was so dutiful and patient with me, I found myself staring at her natural beauty and calmness of her daily routine of going to the market and cooking.  She was a deep inspiration for me, for she was at least ten years younger than I, and yet she was well rounded and mature, a mother of 5 and pregnant with her 6th.  We’d sit in her yard under her cool mango tree and cook.  Always intrigued by it all, I often felt like I was in a world that was not in this world, this fast paced dog-eat-dog world.  But living in Gambia reminded you, you were in a country that is a work in progress.  I have solar, but no batteries so I didn’t have light, so I had to know how to survive without it, I had a borehole but no generator, so I didn’t have running water, and I needed to know how to fetch buckets and carry them on my head.   It wasn’t the kind of work I had hoped to be doing in Gambia, but it was the work that made me a more stronger woman, a person with more character.


Me, tending to the home

I had hoped to be over there filming and taking pictures of the extraordinary and ordinary culture and life of the Gambian people, because I find Gambia to be all the things that we know not.  I had taken many exquisite pictures and film until that fateful day a thief came in my home and stole all of my equipment underneath my nose, my phone and tablet.  It was heart breaking, and i was deeply deeply saddened, as I had experienced having my shit stolen in Gambia many times before, but this was the first, I think, that had impacted me the most because all my images and pictures was telling the story of a place that was beyond any beauty i had ever come in touch with.  I’ve been taking pictures in the Gambia for years, but due to the length of my stay, I had captured a real quality this time.

I ended up returning to the US to regroup, and to try and recapture the moments that were snatched from me.  But some things pictures can’t tell, the gentle warm breeze in the night, the consoling songs and the familiar smells of food cooking on charcoal somewhere.  There are many things pictures cannot tell, but I was determined to capture what I could.  In 2013, I had lived like an average Gambian, without any special treatment and was afforded a certain richness I know I’ll never receive in America.  Living like this will humble you, and make you grateful for the things that america does have to offer, things that most of us just simply take for granted, but american life has always numbed me to the dull.  In Gambia, even without light, people are humane, and understand this is the way it is, they understand you have to charge your phone if they have light and you don’t.  They understand if you want cold water if they have it and you don’t.  I had to learn the challenge of not having.  In america, you wouldn’t get that kind of help if you don’t have, that’s why people have to depend on the government so much because the essence of human connection has disappeared.  Despite that, I’m back in america, to attain my hustle again, earn my money so I can go back to the Gambia, and do it all over again.  Learn.


As I scour the social media platform, I am amazed at the amount of whites going to and putting their presence on the African continent.  Their presence in Africa has always been one of agitation, but now they are welcomed as visitors, investors and even expats.  This welcoming part remains confusing since many Black Africans are not very welcomed in European countries.  America while a vast network of competing nationalities is also not an open welcome mat for Africans wanting to come here.  But the motherland in all her vastness, strategically broken up by europeans in the late 19th century, after having enslaved, kidnapped and tortured her people from the 15th century, and now we are in the 21st century watching a new enlightened white presence coming to africa.  Some of them come with their NGOs, and where they get all this masking money from has always remained a mystery.  Others come with their giving and helping the Africans on the ground, because something is pulling at their heart strings to help these people.

Then you have the tourists who come to see the ‘natives’.  They come with their relaxed cultural norms of stiffness and let it all hang out… literally.  Open shirts, belly’s hanging, drinking beer in the streets, smoking cigarettes like they at home.  Then you have the adventure seeking white folks because you know, they just want to see what more can they conquer?  African people are no threat to them, they are totally at ease.  There are many whites who are in Africa who work with various european or american institutions and of course that fills a void where ordinary Africans or the Diaspora just could not, and then there are the retired whites who have figured out, its far better living on the continent than it has or ever will be living in their cold conclaves of the North.

So with this influx of the relaxed and open white folks in africa, in a complexing africa that is merging more into the european world, native sons and daughters are coming home with their white wives and or husbands, bringing them to the motherland to see the real thing.  More whites are engaging with Africans on a give need basis.  Africans need something, whites want to give it, because they feel such a strong connection to all things African.  It remains a puzzling quest as to what are they planning to conquer again… oh yes, the minds of the uninitiated in Africa.  Because not everyone on the ground, especially the young people know much about the demise of their continent or country by the hands of europeans.  What they do know when they see them is, there is money and there I must try to get it.  So there is an open willingness to engage with europeans, make them feel at home, and present an almost hands off approach to them.  They don’t get stopped at the airport terminals, or by the police or by drug officials on the ground.  No they are white and get a red carpet greeting to come in Africa with all they have to offer.

In the Gambia, my repatriate home as an African of the Diaspora, I had to learn quick, we are the least in number and our Black presence is limited.  This is worrying because I have struggled to go to Africa every time, to live there and to make my business there, but I’ve always felt my success was always limited because I didn’t have a toubab in my corner.  Toubab is white person in Wolof.   Every African needs a good toubab that will assist them, send them money, help them build or whatever.  Its the African way… I’ve been pulled over by the police, I’ve been ridiculed at the airport terminal, cause I’m black, and something is very suspicious about a Black American coming to Africa.  While I lived in the Gambia, my experiences with whites were limited, for the most part I’d just see them in passing, and anytime I did see them most times they are with a native of course, guiding and driving them around, and then you see them romantically in cahoots with one, or you see them walking around/biking like roasted lobsters in the dust.  Their presence, everytime I saw them pissed me off, I had no good words to say, no good feeling seeing them there, and certainly my disdain at the brothers or sisters accommodating them was not positive either.  But its not within my control to ban white people from Africa, but if I could… I certainly would.

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