Yesha Callahan

Akon Thinks African-Americans Are Afraid to Visit Africa

Akon

African-Americans should acknowledge “the rights… and the blessing they do, you know, have actual access to.” — Akon

This past Saturday’s episode of Talk To Al Jazeera, the five-time Grammy nominee Akon shared his views on ‘rebranding’ Africa, race relations in the US, the relationship between African and African-Africans — and how he feels African-Americans should start visiting Africa more as tourists.

When asked about his views on the 2014 deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and the overall issues African-Americans continue to face in America — Akon said he understands the frustration of African-Americans as “the system in America was never built for black people.”

“I don’t want to speak too much for them, because I think I might have some knowledge they might not quite have, because I’m in the position where I have experienced Africa and I’ve experienced the United States. I always felt like Africa was for Africans. So when I see African-Americans in America dealing with all these issues, my first question is: ‘Why don’t they just go back home… Back to Africa.’

“In Africa, the way I grew up, let’s just pick a [housing] project in New York, for instance: that’s a five-star hotel compared to the environment I came up in… They actually get money from the government, there actually are programs that help the impoverished and the poor, and you get food stamps. I mean, they have it good, compared to Africa, you follow… If these groups were to be taken from the environment where they are now to the same ‘equal’ environment in Africa, they would be crying to come back to America.”

“How many African-Americans do you know actually consider Africa as a vacation spot?… Even, just for knowledge, just to know where they came from, just to get an idea of what that is. There is so much fear instilled in them that they wouldn’t even want to go there to visit. You mention Africa, they start shaking.”

Akon, who is also an activist and a philanthropist, discussed his latest project “Akon Lighting Africa.” “Akon Lighting Africa” is working to bring solar-powered electricity to Africans in 49 countries by the end of 2020.

  1. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    “the system in America was never built for black people.”
    Absolutely true. However, I would love to visit Senegal and the Ivory Coast. I just want someone else to join me. Most my friends don’t have the means or desire to travel there.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Delia

      The same is true for me; friends don’t have the means or desire to travel to some of the places I want to go. I’ve decided to travel alone because if I wait for someone else, I’ll never go! I’ve also looked into travel groups. Groupon often has travel deals that include air, hotel, and tour guides. I’m going to China in the near future.

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @KnottyNatural

        That’s what I’ve been thinking I have to do. I’ve been eyeing groupon’s deals to Thailand, a place I’m desperately trying to go.

        • February 4, 2015 - Reply

          @Delia

          Thailand is HIGH on my list of places to go; if you’re serious, I’ll meet you there 🙂

          • February 4, 2015 - Reply

            @KnottyNatural

            I’m DEAD serious. I know a coworker who went to Bangkok and the shore lands. Food there is cheap and good from what I hear.

            • February 4, 2015 - Reply

              @Delia

              My old office mate went for his honeymoon…It’s inexpensive and beautiful. I’m going to follow you so that we can keep in touch!

              • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                @KnottyNatural

                Is it okay to give you my email address to the one on your site?

                • February 5, 2015 - Reply

                  @Delia

                  Yes Ma’am!

          • February 4, 2015 - Reply

            @KnottyNatural

            When I get the time, we can definitely make it happen.

            • February 4, 2015 - Reply

              @Delia

              I tried to follow you but I don’t see the option under your profile.

              • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                @KnottyNatural

                Most girls are straight not bi sexual.

                • February 5, 2015 - Reply

                  @tbss

                  Que?

              • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                @KnottyNatural

                I think I have it set now. I did start following you though.

          • February 5, 2015 - Reply

            @KnottyNatural

            Thailand is a must-go for every traveller! Lots of people travel to places like Thailand the year before they go to University (gap year) here in the UK

  2. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    I would love to travel throughout North Africa, East Africa and Madagascar because of it mix of cultures and animal life. Never had any interest in visiting West African countries, though.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @vintage3000

      Yet North Africans HATE Black people, and there is more to Africa that West Africa, central and south Africa are extremely diverse in term of culture and biodiversity.

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @Myllee

        “North Africans HATE Black people”

        The same can be said for regions all over the world, should we not travel anywhere? Plus I have met a few educated Egyptians and Moroccans who not only had a deep respect for the civil rights struggle of Black Americans, they also had more to say about white folks than I do-lol. Not saying anti-Black racism in North Africa does not exist, but when I hear about Black people wanting to visit certain countries where dark skin is considered mark of evil I think the same thing-xyz HATE Black people why go there? Well they travel there anyway and have great experiences. No way would I visit China, when i hear about elderly Chinese people in NYC Chinatown spitting when a Black person walks past. But still there are Black people who travel there and enjoy their overall visit.

        • February 3, 2015 - Reply

          @vintage3000

          Not all North Africans/Arabs are racist. Still, there is still a lot of racism against black people there. They usually hate being called Africans. To this day some are still practicing slavery in countries such as Mauritania.

          Just this week random Black people have been killed in Tunisia simply because they lost the soccer qualification to an “African” team.

          • February 3, 2015 - Reply

            @ZORINO

            Unfortunately, the same could be said of America and it’s painful even just to think this given the current racial climate. Anyone overseas could say that it appears that Black lives are insignificant here, even with a Black president.

          • February 3, 2015 - Reply

            @ZORINO

            wow.

          • February 5, 2015 - Reply

            @ZORINO

            The irony was that Tunisia was competing for the Africa Cup.

          • February 7, 2015 - Reply

            @ZORINO

            Don’t forget that slavery started with the Arabs & North Africans too. The reason not so many West, South & Sub Saharan Africans are seen/survived in those countries is that they used to castrate the men so they couldn’t intermarry with their women and kept the women as parts of their harems or as house slaves. When kids were born from the women they would again castrate the males and keep the women as house or sex slaves. In that way they population of slave offspring was kept low and they kept draining the population of SubSaharan Africa. How could nations develop under such conditions of depletion of human resources and then you the exploiters turn around and say they are backwards? Sigh!

      • February 5, 2015 - Reply

        @Myllee

        This isn’t true. Have you ever even been to/associated with North Africans?

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @vintage3000

      That’s too bad, because West Africa is most likely where black people outside of Africa originate from.

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @Delia

        African Americans also have significant Central African roots in places like Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Northern Angola (technically Southern Africa.)

        • February 4, 2015 - Reply

          @Anthony

          That’s true too. Oh and thanks for the info!

        • February 4, 2015 - Reply

          @Anthony

          Isn’t Boko Haram terrorizing those countries right now? When Akon says Black Americans “start shaking” when hearing about Africa, we aren’t the only ones hesitant to choose many African countries as a “vacation spot”.

          • February 4, 2015 - Reply

            @vintage3000

            Thanks for the kind words. Boko Haram is only an issue if you go to the far northeastern corner of Nigeria that borders Chad and Cameroon. The fact that Nigeria is such a politically fractured country has allowed Boko Haram to flourish, because people outside of that region don’t care about what happens there.

          • February 4, 2015 - Reply

            @vintage3000

            I would advise you to travel to asia instead because some east african countries have issues with terrorism and north africa is not as stable as it used to be with the muslim brothers taking over some governments.
            And even in asia stay in countries like china or japan because some south east asian countries are fighting against terrorism too.
            Or you can always come to europe.

            • February 4, 2015 - Reply

              @eve-audrey

              I would be careful with advising people not to go to a country b/c of terrorism. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t go to Oakland, CA and Brooklyn, NY b/c of extreme violence (I’ve lived in both places, nothing ever happened to me or anyone I know). I’m from East Africa…it’s a big region and very safe for tourists. Don’t believe everything you hear/read. You’re being swayed by sensationalism in the media. If you prefer to visit East Asia or Europe, go ahead but don’t give bad advice about Africa’s various regions.

              • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                @Bey

                “I’ve been told that I shouldn’t go to Oakland, CA and Brooklyn, NY”

                When I moved to Bed Stuy before the takeover, my brother told me he would never even drive through Brooklyn. I had to remind him that he lived in Baltimore so he had some nerve-lol

                • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                  @vintage3000

                  HA! I’m a Baltimore native. Needless to say growing up here has kind of eliminated my fear of going into the hood. lol

                  • February 6, 2015 - Reply

                    @♎Lauren♎

                    I know what you mean–since i live in bed stuy i like to think i can “hang” going into any urban hood. But my moving here after the gentrification started eliminates all street cred i suppose.

              • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                @Bey

                She seemed afraid of going to certain regions of africa because of terrorism that is why i gave some “advice”. Don’t assume you know where i prefer to travel because i am personnally not afraid to travel to africa and would like to visit the entire continent when i’ll be able to.

            • February 4, 2015 - Reply

              @eve-audrey

              Good ideas thank you, plus aside from the terrorist issue there’s the problem of being a woman travelling alone in Muslim countries.

              re: Europe I have also always wanted to visit Spain, Italy and Prague looks interesting.

              • February 4, 2015 - Reply

                @vintage3000

                Prague is on my list too!

        • February 4, 2015 - Reply

          @Anthony

          My brother did a quick ancestry test and almost 25% of our roots came from Cameroon then Nigeria and Congo.

          • February 4, 2015 - Reply

            @♎Lauren♎

            Me too, we are probably tenth cousins or something! LOL!

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @Delia

        Yeah i know, still have no interest in visiting those countries.

        • February 4, 2015 - Reply

          @vintage3000

          Lol ok…

  3. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    Ive always felt that way. America is great. Im not complaining because I know on my worst day many have it Worst.

  4. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    I know plenty of African Americans that would love to visit Africa. They just can not afford to. You are talking $1000.00 each way, plus food and lodging.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @John Henry

      I agree with you Brother.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @John Henry

      And we aren’t gonna spend all that money on a flight and then stay somewhere dangerous either. We can stay home and pay the mortgage or rent instead.

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @Love.tweet.joi

        It’s no different than here, really. You have dangerous neighborhoods and safe places. Senegal for instance is a great tourist destination.

      • February 4, 2015 - Reply

        @Love.tweet.joi

        I think Africa gets a bad rap! I realize that this thought process is influenced by what we see, but often times, it’s not reflective of the real world. This world belongs to me and I plan to see it. Like @ZORINO said, you can be at work, the movie theater, school, etc and get shot and killed.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @John Henry

      Actually $1000 round ticket plus hotel. So for $2000- $2500you can fly and stay at a hotel. Depending on seasons of course.

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @ZORINO

        Every time I check, it is 800 plus up each way, plus taxes, and baggage fees (round to 1000). Also, the lower price tickets are flying from the East Coast. But even $2000-$2500 can be stiff, especially when you have a family. You can’t go to Africa and leave your wife or children.

        • February 3, 2015 - Reply

          @John Henry

          Sure, it’s more affordable if you’re flying from the East Coast.

  5. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    Many Americans are closed minded, to include Black Americans.

  6. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    Ask most African Americans who have actually lived in Africa for an extended period of time, and they will tell you that eventually they come to terms with the fact that they are not a product of the local culture where they live. That is not to say that African Americans don’t move back to Africa, and are very happy and successful, but that successful integration takes some serious work in terms of learning local languages, and flexibility in terms of personal habits, or even a change of religion.

  7. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    I… (sighs).
    I just feel like his statement is too…Half-a**ed. It’s as if he had made the suggestion of only using band-aids to heal a gaping gunshot wound. Just re-locating to an African country is not going to solve the on-going problems.
    Plus, I believe that his statement reeks of “Y’all should be grateful that you live in this country! You don’t know how bad it is in other countries.”
    Akon was right about one thing: he should’ve held on to his thoughts.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Michelle

      His comment didn’t help convince African-Americans (AA) to go visit a country in Africa. Why would AAs want to spend their money visiting a place worse than the ghettos in New York?

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @Objection

        Plus, I was also thinking about the possibility that not every country’s government are going to be too welcoming towards foreigners.

      • July 2, 2015 - Reply

        @Objection

        Because that place has more history and heritage behind it than the ghettoes in New York.

  8. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    I will add that I have been to Africa eight times, and I have worked in Africa. I have always loved spending time in Africa.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Anthony

      Where would you recommend to visit?

      • February 3, 2015 - Reply

        @Delia

        South Africa is an easy first visit because it is so much like home. Kenya, Senegal, and Ghana would be good choices too. Angola and Botswana are a bit off the radar, but are stable countries with good facilities also.

        • February 3, 2015 - Reply

          @Anthony

          Anthony when I visited South Africa it seemed and felt like Atlanta in the 70s. South Africa is a lot like the US more so than other countries on the continent

          • February 3, 2015 - Reply

            @GeekMommaRants

            Small town South Africa remind me of the South more than the big cities except Port Elizabeth which reminds me of being on the Florida Panhandle. Johannesburg reminds me of a cross between LA and Chicago. Durban makes think of California. Culturally, Cape Town makes me think of New Orleans, but it looks like the American West to me also.

            • February 3, 2015 - Reply

              @Anthony

              That is so hot! A well-traveled man! LOL.

              • February 3, 2015 - Reply

                @Love.tweet.joi

                I earned a Fulbright Study Abroad fellowship when I was a younger professor, and was able to travel to most of South Africa’s provinces for one month. I visited there about three other times too for conferences.

                • February 3, 2015 - Reply

                  @Anthony

                  So, I was poking around on the Fulbright website and one of the eligibility requirements is that one must speak and write the language?

                  • February 3, 2015 - Reply

                    @Love.tweet.joi

                    It may be for some fellowships. The award I got was designed for teachers and college professors to get firsthand experience in countries that they cover in their survey classes. I don’t think professors are eligle for it anymore, but secondary school teachers should go for it!

                    I have not looked at the Fulbright website in a while, but I plan on visiting Africa again myself in a few years.

      • February 5, 2015 - Reply

        @Delia

        East Africa really is the best holiday destination. Places like Kenya and Uganda are soo friendly and welcoming, you’ll be treated well especially as you’re from the West, the food and weather will give you a really relaxed holiday as well as incredible experiences such as safaris and amazing natural landscapes. You could also go to somewhere like Zanzibar (island off of Tanzania) for a really picturesque beach holiday

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @Anthony

      That is fantastic, Anthony. I’d love to go, but am afraid to fly. LOL.

  9. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    Traveling to Africa is a blessing. Going to Africa can be expensive. That is why many African Americans have difficulty in coming into the Motherland. Many African Americans suffer poverty and economic inequality. There should be more travel into Africa, but we have to address the problems in America too. Many African Americans are not afraid. African Americans have stood up against slavery, Jim Crow, racism, police brutality, and other injustices for centuries. African Americans have developed a strong culture in music, legal affairs, athletics, dance, etc. that has been imitated by people the world over. Also, many African Americans have not only visited Africa, but set up cultural, economic, social, and political ties in Africa from WEB DuBois, Maya Angelou, etc. Therefore, there should be no caste among all black people internationally. Africans are not superior to African Americans. African Americans are not superior to Africans. At the end of the day, we are one people. I will give credit for Akon on making the accurate point that the system in America was never built for black people. He’s 100 percent right on that point.

    • February 3, 2015 - Reply

      @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      Preach on, truth!

    • February 4, 2015 - Reply

      @truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      Well stated brother, no question.

      • February 4, 2015 - Reply

        @Chazz A

        Thank you Brother. I had great African professors while I was in college and we are going to continue to fight for the justice of our people.

  10. February 3, 2015 - Reply

    From what I hear Chinese people running a lot in Africa and some Black Americans who run into them feel disrespected imagine that. Anyways I’m not afraid of Africa more afraid of deh necessary shots

  11. February 4, 2015 - Reply

    As an African American, I have always had an interest in the motherland. I have always sensed that something has been missing. I have always wished that all members of the African diaspora could bridge gaps amongst how cultures inorder to advanced economically. I try to different things such as buying ‘fairly traded’ products which often aids communities in developing countries to advance in the creation of healthcare facilities and irrigation systems. Many African nations benefit from such programs. The African diaspora is rich is pride, culture, and tradion and I beliece that AAs could definitely benefit.

    Akon says that AAs fear Africa, but that is untrue. Factors such as economics influence opportunities for travel. I think that as an activist, he could try to encourage AAs such as many celebrities to invest in businesses in the motherland. I think that this would aid in encouraging AAs to partake in issues within the motherland.

    • February 4, 2015 - Reply

      @Lakitha Goss

      That’s an excellent idea.

  12. February 4, 2015 - Reply

    I was just telling a friend that Africa would be on my preferred travel list but the AIRFARE??! YIKES!! Over $1K? That’s why Africans tend to spend a month there. If I paid that much for airfare I wouldn’t stay for 1 or even 2 weeks either. But who has the time for that?
    Now I’m single but to anti up the cost of a trip like that would burn me. Asia and Europe tend to be cheaper which makes it accessible for folks.
    Africa is a catch 22. The poverty level for most who were born there drives them to the US. But at least Africans go BACK to improve their family’s well being. The same with the Caribbean. This is coming from someone who has a blended background so I know from experience.

  13. February 4, 2015 - Reply

    I think the fear of Africa that Akon speaks of centers around mass media’s demonization of Africa and not a personal fear of African people, so to speak.
    I traveled to Ghana in the mid 80s (when I was much younger) with a friend and native Ghanaian and it was the best experience I’ve ever had, in terms of travel and cultural significance. At the time I was not nervous at all.
    Being a native New Yorker, I grew up in a melting pot of Caribbean and African ethnicities. With my friend as my interpreter and tour guide, I was able to gain a realistic, personal understanding of the culture, than as a regular tourist.
    Although family travel is not cost effective, I encourage young, single brothers and sisters to put their money together and visit Africa.
    Here’s an fyi, when traveling to any African nation, always have an open mind and positive attitude.

  14. February 4, 2015 - Reply

    Traveling to Africa is expensive. Visiting family can be a financial bummer. But dear black American kin if you ever have the ability to visit please do.

  15. February 4, 2015 - Reply

    Well to be fair, African Americans don’t travel much in general especially to Africa whether it be for socio-economic reasons or ignorance.

  16. February 5, 2015 - Reply

    I’d go to South Africa and Senegal. No interested in other destinations.

  17. February 5, 2015 - Reply

    I would love to visit Ghana but I don’t have the money to. I am definitely not afraid of visiting. I know all too well the way the media distorts what goes on in African countries.

  18. February 7, 2015 - Reply

    Leaving the US is the best thing black Americans can do. As an American, we ignore our privilege just like;other Americans. When you travel abroad, you will see your privilege.

  19. April 2, 2015 - Reply

    “Go back to Africa”??
    If this was a white artist talking their career would be over.

  20. April 7, 2015 - Reply

    Travel to Africa, nowadays not a big task, you can easily book your flight to FlyABS by the online service, very cheapest fair compares to others.

  21. June 8, 2015 - Reply

    Akon what royal tribe are you from Ghana? Hierarchy is the “standard” African nations understand Akon response. Not generalizing it’s perception if valid to travel
    to African nations which. Not western influence culturally yes Helen going to admit this I have preference. African nationals whom western in thought Francophile I’ll telling honest truth! Ivory Coast ideal society of my choice Akon do actual believe
    Hood if they could. Destroy trust family unity Ghana many problems rape and murders of fellow tribes! Roots historical drama Alex Haley (1921-1992) conveyed be
    proud of heritage didn’t dissuade nationality just where culture derived. Avid Black
    American those misinformed no excuse if business savvy. You reach back if you chose to paradox. Those disputing racism USA don’t favor African nationals contradiction never. Promote fair economic policies benefit Blacks and Africans a
    paradox of confusion! Going to worsen increase influence of gang society still Akon
    opinion. Many undecided have no interest Blacks 40% don’t associate with Africans.
    Don’t go there with me reason economic and educational your still reminder of commodities game that is slavery! Blacks failed to become independent didn’t entail
    segregation economic influence. Asians playing this game why society silent whom
    leaders purchasing stocks and homes. Hello those able play control USA economics!

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