“Never compare two homes with each other”
My return to Ghana was not really a return – because when I came to the country in 2010, it was my first time of ever coming. Born to a Ghanaian father and a German mother, I grew up in Berlin, Germany, for the first 20 years of my life.
My sense of belonging was always bipolar, even though I did not know what Ghana, or even Africa was like. I speak fluent German, but I just do not look German and in many cases, people there would treat me as such. When I finished my undergraduate studies, I was oh-so-curious and eager to finally spend time in Ghana and get to know my second home. The second home I had never seen. In the last couple of days before my first ever trip to Ghana, which was going to last for a year to embark on my first job with a project of the Gates Foundation, I frequently asked myself the question why I considered Ghana to be my second home.
The primary reason was that I had been exposed to the culture through my dad in so many ways. I knew that many things in our family were different from other German families and I sort of assumed that the reason for that was his Ghanaian roots. So despite never having been there, Ghana shaped me. The other reason was that Germans always labelled me to come from somewhere else – and I was looking forward to finally go to that country that everyone assumed me to be coming from. When I boarded my plane to Ghana, I told my dad: “I am so excited to finally travel to a country where I look like everyone else – Black”. Only to figure after my first two days in Accra that people in Ghana view me as a White person!
Luckily I take things with a lot of humour and the fact that people in Ghana did not view me as one of their own (unless they ask me and learn where my dad is from) did not make me shy away from embracing Ghana as a home. The first few weeks in Ghana were such an intense experience because a lot of behaviours, beliefs and phrases were so familiar to me from my father, but now I was finally able to place them and understand what they mean in the Ghanaian community. I started feeling at home in Ghana quite quickly and developing a deep appreciation for Ghana’s people, despite some of the problems faced by the country. Today I feel home in both Germany and Ghana, but for different reasons. Germany is more of a home because of networks and friendships from the very old days and because it shaped who I am as a professional. Ghana is a home of belief, where I can live up to my authenticity and pursue my personal as well as career goals for a very clear reason – because I believe in the business potential of the country, in fact the entire region, and I believe so much in the people having deserved to be better off. I view it as a luxury to have two homes and often call myself a “cherry picker”.
The one important thing that I view as a key contributing factor to me being able to feel home in both places is that I never compared. I am not one of the people who start talking about how roads are so much better in Germany or how the weather is so much sunnier in Ghana. Each home is like a lover or boyfriend, they all come with sweet and sour sides. And as we gain experience with romantic relationships, we all learn gradually learn that being in a relationship with someone only to expect that he or she will change certain things is never a healthy approach. Those relationships usually do not last long. Neither do the relationships where we start comparing the new person to the previous one. Hence I have decided to rather embrace each home as it is and, thus far, it has been a wonderful ride.
Yasmin holds a degree from Oxford University in African Studies and recently founded Africa Foresight Group (www.africaforesight.com), an African advisory firm, to follow her passion of serving local companies on the continent that want to grow into large multinational firms. She also serves as the Executive Director of the Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance, a network of 250 entrepreneurs from more than 35 different African countries. Prior to her current positions, she worked with McKinsey & Company for five years focusing on clients in Germany, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Kenya.