Black British Tourists in Africa: A Strange Disjunct

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The Tourism Industry in Africa has a unique problem. This is especially true when it comes to Africans in the diaspora. This means Black British people like myself, who wish to travel back home.

The problem is this, we are not interested in the heavily marketed aspects of Africa. Safari, Honeymoon, and Eco-Tourism packages that dominate much of East Africa’s Tourism… These advertising strategies don’t appeal to Black British tourists all that much.

Instead, we are more interested in visiting and sightseeing in the social and intercultural aspects of ‘local life’ than the heavily marketed Safari. When we travel to Tanzania, we do not want to see London in Tanzania. We want to see Tanzania. This is also true for other countries.

 

Black British are not locals... They like safaris, but that is not their main goal in visiting Africa.

Black British are not locals… They like safaris, but that is not their main goal in visiting Africa.

Black British are not Locals…

Personally, when I visit Africa, I feel a strange disjunct. I can never blend in with the locals. But at the same time, I am different from other tourists. My Swahili is OK. But my Maasai, Chagga, Pare, and Sheng are practically non-existent. English and Swahili can certainly get you by when in Kenya and Tanzania (and parts of Burundi, DRC Congo and Uganda).

But when I venture to the deep and rural without an aid, like I do, I lose track of what people are saying very quickly. And this is a problem. Since it is this deep and rural experience that what we Black British people are looking for when we visit our motherland.

Besides, I have no relatives or friends in Tanzania. I stay in hotels and eat food that is catered to me. This is not what the locals do. Not to mention how I can never get used to the beautiful weather and delicious food!

 

Arusha, Tanzania Marketplace

Arusha, Tanzania Marketplace

…Yet Not Quite Tourists

On the other hand, I’m different from other tourists. For one thing, unlike other tourists, I just don’t do cities. Dar es Salaam is nice and Arusha is great. But i’m in my element when in Makuyuni.

Another obvious aspect is that I’m Black. When Black British people, or Black tourists in general, travel to Africa, some unique things happen. I explained some of these things in my previous post about ‘Exploring my roots around the world‘.

This doesn’t have to be a problem, of course. Depending on one’s confidence and language efficiency, one can blend. But the locals will always discern an outsider from miles away. It’s always good to bear this in mind.

And, lastly, in the same way locals can see things about their community that visitors can’t, the reverse is also true. Beauty indeed is in the eyes of the beholder. Like the Swahili proverb:

Uzuri wategemea mtazamaji (Beauty depends on the one who look at it.)

 

Seeing the Motherland

In spite of this disjunct, there’s something deep, self-fulfilling, and even spiritual when Black British people visit Africa for the first time. It’s the little things: Being in a place where you, your skin colour, your culture, and your language are are the majority.

Thus, it should not be surprising that young Black British people like us want to see our motherland with our own eyes. We don’t want to experience it through the narrations of various British media outlets and ‘academic’ materials. We desire for an “Afro-Renaissance”.

As far as tourism goes, we want to be recognised and involved in the debate of local agencies. We are making initiatives. And what are these initiatives? Stay tuned to Hai Afrika for more of this story.

 

Brilliant like-minded Black British professionals who are leading initiatives to get our young guns visiting and taking pride in their countries of origin. We have Neneh Umusu of Change Nigeria Project, Siana Bangura who established the Salone Collective, Michael Otatende of Young Professional and Congolese, and Barbara Frimpong of Sankofa Africa.