AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

For the last few weeks social media has been abuzz with comments about a new Youtube web series set in Accra called “An African City.” The series tells the story of the “Afropolitan Returnee” and as one viewer aptly put it, it is “Sex and the City meets Americanah where she [the book’s protagonist] goes back to Lagos.” Though not as finely tuned.

Here’s the trailer:

You can watch the first four episodes here.

The five main characters are all well-off, well-connected or both.

From the chatter online, there appears to be no qualms about the demographic that is being portrayed. And thus far, it is unapologetic in doing so. So much so–as was pointed out to me–that the characters acting as waiting staff are reduced to shots of their backs or headless with an outstretched arm.

Having said that there were some cringeworthy moments in the first episode at comments like “Dad is now the minister of energy, so this is the time to be back” and “ I’m here for work… big government contracts.”

No doubt these conversations do happen in certain small circles but I couldn’t tell if these bold declarations were being mocked or glorified.

For years we have seen the rich and beautiful float across our television screens in flashy cars, shiny houses and glossy outfits. Why not Accra or any other African city?

The series represents moneyed Africa and those for whom the idea of spending US$5000 per month on rent for an apartment is feasible, as are dutiful drivers and rich daddies–real or otherwise. Just watch the opening moments of Episode 2.

It may not be the reality for the majority but it’s a reality that is valid. These people exist.

It should be noted too that because of the lack of diversity of the characters one would be forgiven for thinking that all ‘returnees’ are silver-spooned gentry. This is not the case.

I think the show is for lighthearted entertainment purposes, with conversations about careers, sex, loves lost and potentials that are much more relatable.

And some viewers think that the series does well in highlighting relevant issues such as high housing rents, problems clearing goods at the port and the erratic power supply in the city.

Others have written it off, classing it as skewed and over-exaggerated.

“An African City” serves as the alternative to the words and images of a war-torn, famine-ridden, economically-blighted “Dark Continent” that we’ve been assaulted with for decades. It comfortably falls into the high-end ankara/kente print-wearing, culturally-savvy, new middle-class ‘Africa Rising’ rhetoric.

So now we’ve had a fair share of the two narratives perhaps other African filmmakers, writers and speakers can pick up the baton and give the world balanced views of what it’s like to live in their African cities.

Image Credit: An African City’s Facebook Page.

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Billie Adwoa McTernan

Billie Adwoa McTernan is a freelance journalist living in Accra. She writes about political and cultural affairs across the continent with a particular focus on Ghana and West Africa.


10 thoughts on ““An African City,” the web series about five single women in Accra, Ghana

  1. I actually enjoyed the show. I have watched all 4 episodes that are available. Often, when a show is not based in a Western country, or has its premise based on a particular nation, there is an attempt to analyse whether ‘it does justice’ or ‘truly represents’ a particular place. I don’t think this is necessary all the time. No TV show is ever a true representation of anyone, anywhere all the time. I found the show to be quite funny in its comedic moments and genuinely emotional in its sad parts. There is certainly room for a more balanced picture- however, a little positivity about an African country, is no bad thing.

  2. This show is fascinating on so many levels. There is one key element that Billie has not mentioned, though some of the comments on youtube have: the question of women’s dependency or independency in Africa. Despite the trashy setup a deep question is being treated here, and it may just be best discussed in just this trashy pop culture context.
    I’ve also been wondering who the target audience is, because the show explains a lot of basics about living in Ghana that you would expect in a show aimed at a foreign audience. Again judging by the comments, it seems to be a young African female audience?

  3. I found this show a week ago and watched all the episodes, it does a great job of not only highlighting Accra but reflects individuals across most African cities, it also has a great potential to grow into a show with the right direction and its always nice to see our stories being told.

  4. Yeah, it’s fun, hip and over the top, possibly with elements of Colbert-like satire or reality depending what side of the spectrum you’re on… So far it’s been a great 15-minute wrap up to a working day, provoking twinges of reflection before turning in… Lots of potential; have a laugh and revel in new stories millennials are telling about the Diaspora. Thanks, Efua!

  5. It seems mostly made for “returnees” as it turns on the exact same tropes as the book “The Imported Ghanaian” by Alba Kunadu Sumprim. And, the themes are very familiar to expats in Accra as well. But, while this exists in GH, it does not really provide a thorough understanding of what life in Accra is like for most people ..

  6. I’ve watched all episodes in an effort to support Africans doing something different, but I must admit that I cringe more than I actually enjoy the show. I understand that this is only a lighthearted Sex in the city in Africa web series, but I’m pretty disappointed by the missed opportunity. I see a poorly written, bad acted, stereotype using series that would be a low level BET series but in Africa. The show wouldn’t actually be much different with (colonial) white women talking trying to date white men in Africa. It seems the show was written by an American tourist who visited Ghana for 2 weeks. People can show a bright side to Africa without completely copying bad American sitcoms and just plug in Americanized black actors.

  7. The show should add a couple of women who are true locals. I love the show hope to see more African series like this, one set in Lagos that shows the Male perspective. I would like to see that.

  8. I saw this only yesterday; and watched all the episode to 10. I love it; as am a genuine returnee; but in my case built my own condo; so do not have any of of the housing wahala. However; my case is the expectation from distant relatives; with their problems; and would like that included in the episodes. Get locals into the show & it would be a perfect ending,.
    AN.

  9. I love this show! It’s so refreshing to not only see women of color, but to finally see Africa, to see Ghana, in a great light. I love the dialogue, and being in my late twenties, can relate to the characters. I can’t wait for season 2! I hope this opens doors so shows such as this one can be more mainstream.

  10. I think its a wonderful attempt to create something different and i actually enjoy it. I think its a little over the top though. Too American. The characters seem unrealistic, i mean real African actors might have come closer to the bull’s eye. For the most part, most Africans may not be able to relate to this. Good attempt though.

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