Feature Article of Sunday, 15 January 2012
Columnist: Asare, Moses
By Moses Asare, AFRICAN LEADER
Bronx, New York City. On a beautiful summer day in June 2009, an African pastor named Dr. Mensah Otabil delivered a prophetic sermon that would define the destiny of US-based African immigrants forever. “African immigrants in the U.S should not see themselves as immigrants. Instead, you should see yourselves as pioneers (first settlers) paving the way for the next generations. Whether you like it or not, your children will never go back to Africa. This is the great migration. You have come here not out of your own desire. You have come here because of difficult circumstances in your home countries. What you see today as a painful legacy will turn out to be a blessing in the future. 100 years from now, your children will be Presidents, Lawyers, Chief Justices, Ambassadors, Teachers, Doctors, Nurses, Judges, Soldiers, CIA Directors and Senators of the United States. Already, one product of this African migration is President Barack Obama”. Coming from a well respected, international pastor and a great motivational speaker who started his church in a small classroom and built it into a “conglomerate” of churches in over 20 countries around the world, University, Philanthropic projects, businesses and real estate assets, Dr. Otabil’s prophecy must be taken more seriously like a divine instruction.
Fact is, every African wants to go back home, at least in theory. We all thought we would be here in the U.S for a short time, make some good money, turn around quickly and go back to Africa and establish something big. Done. No way. In reality, it’s a different game. Many of us have been here for a long, long time but have gone back to Africa only once or twice. Even when we do go, we are in a hurry to come back to the United States. Most of us have become U.S citizens, whether by birth or naturalization. Practically, we are Americans! As Dr. Otabil said, “we must see ourselves as pioneers and American citizens, not immigrants”. I remember watching a U.S TV series in which the lead star suddenly discovers that he is Jewish, after all. He burst into tears of joy and declared, “Oh God, I’m Jewish” and he cried like a baby. The first time this realization hit me, I felt very emotional. “Oh God, we are Americans!” Guess what, our destiny is now inextricably intertwined with that of the United States. If the U.S economy goes down or God forbid something terrible happens to America, we all go down. On the other hand, if America becomes paradise, all Africans living here will benefit…..our lives depend on America. Period.
The argument is even more compelling when it comes to children of African immigrants. These African-born U.S citizens, who may be referred to as the third generation, hardly know Africa . Many have never set foot there, many speak little or no African language. I have been blessed with three of such kids. The sad truth is that the next generation of African-born U.S citizens may never go back to Africa. The Irish, the Italian, German, Jewish, Russian, Scandinavian and more recently Korean immigrants never packed bag and baggage and left the U.S for good. So why would Africans, especially when economic and political conditions at home are not relatively good? That does not mean we would abandon Africa. No way. Of course we are Americans but we will always be African in spirit. As the Irish-Americans still love Ireland and the Jews also love Israel, so would we love Africa. Make no mistake about that.
THE GREAT MIGRATION
Today, an estimated 3.5 million strong African and African-born population live in the US. Other
estimates put that number at well over 5 million, including undocumented Africa immigrants.
Several geopolitical and demographic factors are creating an entirely different landscape. In the next few decades, baby boomers will retire. The graying of US population and the hollowing out of the workforce will quicken. There will be a huge aging population expected to live on the average up to nearly 100 years. They must be fed and cared for. Pressure on the work force will mount. To be able to balance its labor force and maintain its strategic competitiveness, the U.S policy makers would need to act, as they have always done. They may well turn to African immigrants, among others, to fill the gap in the labor force.
And for good reason. African population is the most youthful according to the United Nations. Two-thirds of the population are youthful and are under age 35. About 600 million youth are projected to be in the labor force by 2035. No other continent or region even comes close, not even India or China. To smoothly absorb these army of youth, African economies must at least triple the 5 or 6 percent current growth rates, qualitatively and quantitatively. In the absence of such growth, even regardless of growth, African youth may be compelled to migrate and flood the U.S and EU labor markets to seek greener pastures whether they exist or not.
Also, African immigration quota is still paltry, possibly under 3 percent compared to India or other countries. There will be the need to increase this quota. The outlook is favorable to Africans. In the U.S, Africans and African-born U.S citizens are largely per
ceived to be peaceful and
hardworking and relatively trustworthy. Such Africans are preferred Managers in stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and even some banks, not to mention hospitals and nursing homes. Even though some explicit and implicit forms of glass ceiling and cultural uneasiness still persist, they will disappear with time, naturally.
It may be hard to tell, but in the coming years, U.S immigration policy may generally favor diversification away from Latin countries and increasing of quotas for non-Latin countries including Africa through such vehicles as the Visa Lottery and other policy instruments.
The result of the above is that the African and African-born population in the U.S will continue to swell exponentially, and along with it the U.S African consumer market.
Another angle is that, US-based African immigrants will significantly benefit from the current significant economic growth in Africa. While some may set up joint venture operations with foreign investors from the U.S, EU, China and also Brazil, many of them will directly benefit from increased Foreign Direct Investment inflows to Africa. As investors flood Africa, more and more African immigrants and African-born U.S citizens may be hired back to work in Africa as “expats” . This
is because they may provide better guidance on a familiar territory; they may be perceived as possess
ing the experience, education and training Westerners especially prefer; also they may culturally connect better with Westerners in particular. This will further increase the clout of U.S based Africans.
OUT OF THE PERIPHERY AND INTO THE MAINSTREAM CONSUMER MARKET.
According to the recent New American Dimension study, the U.S African consumer market is worth over $50 billion and booming. This is bigger than the GDP of dozens African countries. Some experts believe that within 5-10 years, the U.S African market may move from the periphery and well into the heart of the $10 trillion U.S consumer market.
If current estimates hold, the U.S African market may well double in scale to over $100 billion by the year 2020. Already, some Fortune 500 companies including Procter and Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, BMW, and others are showing increasing significant interest in the U.S African Market and are stepping up direct consumer advertising in what they call multicultural marketing. Already, it is believed that about 50% of some remittance companies’ revenue comes from US-based Africans. Remittances from the U.S to Africa are going through the roof. According to the World Bank, in 2010, remittances from the U.S to Nigeria alone was $10 billion.
The result is that the U.S African market will transition into the mainstream consumer market similar to the nearly
$1 trillion African-African market and the nearly $800 billion Asian market, all of which were largely smaller only a few decades ago.
THE GREAT WIND OF CHANGE
I have been told by my Indian friends that about 60% of 7 Elevens, Dunkin Donuts, Motels, Pharmacies and so forth are owned by Indians. Impressive. For Africans in the U.S, a great wind of change is blowing. Never before have Africans been so optimistic and ambitious. Across major U.S cities, Africans are getting more “established”. From convenience stores to restaurants, financial services to beauty supply, car workshops to clinics, legal offices to mega churches, real estate to transport services, Africans are opening new businesses in significant numbers. In New York City, African owned businesses are popping up in many locations. Young men from Senegal who hardly speak English are setting up shops. Today, Africans can be proud that they are contributing to the strength and prosperity of the United States, the most exceptional country in the world (please see article on page 27)
THE NEXT LEVEL
The truth is, the U.S has always been a land of opportunity and a nation of immigrants. Today, with the election of President Obama, all barriers have come down and everyone can achieve their dreams. For African immigrants, a great door of opportunity has opened. It’s time for mainstream African immigrants to move from the periphery and into mainstream American social, economic and political lives just as the Indian, Chinese and Korean immigrants have done.
To do this, we will all need some tough love. I believe African immigrants must de-emphasize cultural activities. There is too much drumming and dancing. Instead, we must focus on how to get in the big game. Firstly, we must figure out how the U.S capitalist system works. Secondly, at least for the purpose of marketing or administration, there is the need for U.S based Africans to define and differentiate themselves from other groups. This need has become more urgent than ever, now that marketers are beginning to significantly chase the African immigrant’s hard-earned dollar. What do we call ourselves? African Americans? American-Africans? US-African citizens? African immigrants? African-born US citizens? I personally do not like the term “African immigrants” because we are not. We are U.S citizens like everyone else. Thirdly, African community leaders must come together and set achievable, ambitious goals. Lastly, African-born U.S citizens (I like this one better) must begin to make waves. Instead of African leaders coming all the way from Africa to meet the President and Congressional leaders, why shouldn’t African community leaders in the U.S do the same and lobby Washington and Wall Street? Better yet, we must begin to gather courage and set our sights on building great businesses, running for Presidents, Governors, Senators, Mayors, District Councils, Borough Presidents and more. Our market is booming. Our clout is growing. And after all, “we are Americans!”
About AFRICAN LEADER,
AFRICAN LEADER is a New York City-based media company serving and reaching the over $50 billion U.S African consumer market through direct subscription, email list, event sponsorships, networking, newsstand sales and online platforms. Analysts generally agree that there are between 3 to 5 million African immigrants, non-resident African immigrants and African-born U.S citizens currently living in the United States. The mission of AFRICAN LEADER is to become the most trusted and respected global media brand of choice for discerning consumers in growing markets, delivered through multiple interactive platforms. AFRICAN LEADER is published and delivered to its growing list of consumers from the heart of New York City, probably the most vibrant and cosmopolitan market in the world. As the trusted and reliable media brand for the U.S African market, AFRICAN LEADER is available in a newspaper format and also online at www.africanleader.net . You may contact AFRICAN LEADER at [email protected]
About Moses Asare
Moses Asare is a director and special writer for the AFRICAN LEADER, a New York City-based media company serving and reaching the over $50 billion U.S African consumer market through direct subscription, email list, event sponsorships, networking, newsstand sales and online platforms. As the trusted and reliable media brand for the U.S African market, AFRICAN LEADER is available in a newspaper format and also online at www.africanleader.net
Moses Asare is a respected expert on the U.S African Market, a booming niche market valued at over $50 billion. Analysts generally agree that there are between 3 to 5 million African immigrants, non-resident African immigrants and African-born U.S citizens currently living in the United States. In various key executive positions, Moses Asare has been actively involved in the U.S African market for about 10 years. Through his consulting work in Africa, Europe and the U.S and also as a strategic advisor to a New York-based communications firm providing marketing and advertising services to Fortune 500 clients, Moses Asare has provided strategic advisory services to leading multinational companies seeking to grow their brands and improve ROI in marketing to international, multicultural and niche consumers in the United States.
Moses Asare is also a director of Convergence International, a non-profit, New York City-based global think tank established to promote free enterprise, entrepreneurship, investments and opportunity particularly in emerging markets and disadvantaged communities in the United States. Moses Asare has written extensively on key global issues and current affairs. He is currently living in New York City with his wife and three lovely children. You may contact Moses Asare at [email protected]