By Chi Ibe
The word Afropolitan first appeared in a 2005 magazine article by Nigerian/Ghanaian writer Taiye Selasi. Selasi wrote about multilingual Africans with different ethnic mixes living around the globe — as she put it “not citizens but Africans of the world.”
Brendah Nyakudya, editor of Afropolitan magazine, produced in South Africa is a Zimbabwean based in Johannesburg, but has lived in London, she describes being Afropolitan as having Arican roots but being raised by the world. “That’s helped form my identity,” she said.
An Afropolitan is someone who has roots in Africa, raised by the world, but still has an interest in the continent and is making an impact.
Tolu Ogunlesi who is a Nigerian journalist dosen’t think the term Afropolitan is that easy to define. He says it’s a problematic term and its meaning is hard to pin down.
“It’s a problematic term because it’s supposed to combine (the words) African and cosmopolitan,” says Ogunlesi. “What it should mean is an African person in an urban environment, with the outlook and mindset that comes with urbanization — people who live Lagos, Nairobi, and have this world-facing outlook. But people who consider themselves Afropolitan are not here in the continent, they are out there in the global capitals,” he said.
Minna Salami, who blogs as Msafropolitan, is a true global citizen. Born in Finland to a Nigerian father and a Finnish mother she has lived in Nigeria, Sweden, Spain and New York, and now lives in London.
She settles with the perception that some people see Afropolitanism as existing only outside Africa, but says that, in reality, it applies just as much to people living in the continent. “Some people have interpreted it as a diaspora movement but it absolutely isn’t. When you go back to the original term ‘African and cosmopolitanism,’ Africa has very many cosmopolitan cities … and in those cities you have art scenes and music and all kinds of creativity that’s influenced by cosmopolitanism,” she said.
For her it’s a movement that is politically aware and has an obligation to correct decades of Africa being misrepresented as a “dark, failing continent.”