Op/Ed Kofi Quaye
The majority of African-Americans have no idea about the extent to which they have influenced the music, fashions, literature, movies, multi-media and other aspects of contemporary culture in other countries around the globe particularly in Africa and other parts of the Third World.
In streets in almost every African country, men and women take particular pride in wearing the kind of clothing described in the global media as urban gear, bearing such labels as G-UNIT, PHAT FARMS, SEAN JEAN, etc. Turn on a radio station in most African cities, and quite often the music you’ll hear is either straight up rhythm and blues by a leading African American artist or a fusion of African rhythms with R & B with African vocals.
Television stations air programs featuring African-American movies and reality shows. African-American owned television programming has a huge fan base in Africa. The impact has occurred in pretty much the same way in both Francophone- French speaking African countries and the Anglophone-English speaking African countries.
To most Africans, the American ‘cool’ is best represented by African Americans in ways that are unique to African-Americans and in a manner that only African-Americans have mastered. No matter what it is, to most Africans, particularly the youth and young adults, the African American ‘cool’ is the true representation of cultural trends in America.
It ranges from the street lingo to the latest dance steps to the current jewelry sported by African American celebrities. So pervasive is the influence of African-Americans on the music, fashions, movies, literature and practically every aspect of contemporary culture in most African countries that it has created a huge demand for music, fashions, movies and related products that make it possible for them to keep up with the trends as they occur in America.
I cite the emergence of the braids as a major example of African-American and Caribbean influence on African fashions. It became a global cultural phenomenon only after it became popular in America and the West Indies creating as alluded to already, a huge demand for hair-related products that are used in beauty salons. Today, African men wear braids as a fashion statement and look at it as the cool thing.
There is a problem though. The African-American community in America and West Indians have not played any significant role in meeting the demand for their products and trends—at least not in a manner that indicates a conscious or a concerted effort to on their part to cash in on a goldmine that was created largely as a result of their creativity and ingenuity.
It has been the Chinese, Malaysians, Indians and Europeans and Caucasians who have cashed in on the trend. African-Americans and West Indians are missing in the action to a large extent. The goldmine created as a result of African-American ingenuity and creativity is being exploited by every other ethnic group except African-Americans.
The Chinese invasion of Africa is real. They are taking over. They have succeeded in creating a strong presence in most African countries. By investing in African countries, they have appropriated for themselves the power and authority to run different businesses, ranging from road construction to gold mining to refining and running water bottling plants. They are enriching themselves in the process, leaving the Africans with little or nothing.
A recent article published by YAHOO NEWS pointed out that factories in India are manufacturing and exporting all kinds of hair and beauty products to African countries. A source in Ghana told me that a major bank in the country that plays a leading role in foreign exchange transactions is owned by a Malaysian. Another article in a leading business was titled- MADE IN CHINA IS NOW MADE IN AFRICA. The point I am making is that African-Americans and West Indians have contributed significantly to creating business opportunities in Africa, but have not participated in developing and benefiting from it and the question is: why?
The answer is not farfetched. The majority of African-Americans don’t even know about the fact that they have contributed to the emergence of a huge cultural phenomenon around the globe that has created a booming market that is being exploited by others. They have no idea about the impact that African-American music, fashions, movies, literature has created n Africa and the rest of the Third World.
And the reason is simple; it is not the kind of news that the major news and television networks will focus on. We know only too well the kind of coverage Africa and the Third World gets in the global media. If it’s not about Ebola or Boko Haram or some other atrocious behavior that reinforces negative perceptions about Africans and African-Americans, you can forget it.
I have written about the need for African-Americans and Africans in business, the arts and the non-profit sector to work together to create businesses and create opportunities that will make it possible for them to participate in the process of meeting the demand in Africa and other of the Third for products that they helped create. African-Americans have excelled in entrepreneurial activities in America. They can do the same in Africa.