the difference between an expatriate v local returnee

The topic of racism is an uncomfortable one. It has been over 400 years since the last boat sailed from Africa with black men and women, sent to the new land to work as slaves for the plantation owners. It has been over 55 years since the first black African country was handed back its own country from the colonial masters which took them free of charge in the first place. Since then we have had civil rights, equal rights, acts in parliament which forbid discrimination, in theory, racism should be a thing of the past.

It should be, but it is still there. I am not saying my CV is spectacular, but when you go through it, you will see that I am highly educated. I have been working for over 15 years (20 if you count my mum’s Salon, McDonalds and Boots Retail Store while I was at school) and I have received recognitions for many of the project I have successfully executed. However, when I was in England, every time I was rejected for a job I applied for, there was always something niggling in the back of my head asking if it was because of my colour, my CV didn’t speak well enough or it was true, I wasn’t qualified for the position.

So I came to Ghana, where the majority of the population is the same colour as me. Surely, this feeling of insecurity would not be there as I am in the majority. As an added bonus, I was trained and worked in the Western world which is like heaven to my people; surely it should be like a walk in a park. So I thought.
Since I have got here, I have suffered probably the worst kind of racism. I am not white, but I am ‘not a Ghanaian’ either, I am somewhere in limbo. The amount of times I have been asked why I left UK when so many people want to move there, I should write the answer on my forehead. It is like people feel that I must have somehow failed over there so I am here to start again, so frustrate me accordingly.

I was recently offered a job at unilever. The position, a demand planner, the position is one that I used to be the manager of for 3 years. My boss would be my former colleague who I used to bounce ideas from and actually sat at the desk next to me throughout those three years. It is like my whole 15 years worth of work experience completely ignored, and my salary less than what I started on 3 years ago. It made me wonder, if I was a white expatriate, with the same CV, would I be treated in this nature.

A former colleague, white and French with no work experience at all was put on a fast track programme, sent to Ghana for 3 years, totally messed up, but still is now in Dubai on the fast track to senior management. I have already been in a senior management position, but I am being offered an entry level position as if I had just left school yesterday. I was reading the profile of another of the Executives at my former employers, he had been a brand manager for 2 years promoted to a Senior Brand manager and in less than 5 years was an executive working in Ghana. I was told, I would have to do brand management for 3 years, I would then have to get Sales experience for another 3 years before I was considered for any substantial promotion to senior brand manager let alone executive. Fine, I had no prior brand management experience, but what made the Executive so special that he was fast tracked and sent to Africa as an executive. I don’t know, but I also don’t have the time to wait.

The most irritating experience I have had in this country was during a discussion over medical insurance. The expatriates were sent to Lister hospital while the locals were sent to Nyahoo. Nyahoo clinic, well it is supposed to be a private clinic but I am not too impressed, I have had sinus problems for the past 5 years and they haven’t been able to detect the problem. So I ask why the difference, I was told that the whites are used to a certain standard of medical care (exact words). This coming from the mouth of the HR manager at the biggest multinational in the country, I couldn’t believe it. So I told her that if that is the case, I wasn’t born here either and not used to such levels of healthcare, her response was that I brought myself here, they were sent here by the company. I made up my mind there and then that if God forbid anything serious happened to me, I would jump on a plane and straight to the nearest NHS hospital. At least I have that option.

You could be reading this and think that maybe I am a bit bitter. However, I spoke to a colleague of mine in the Caribbean, a qualified lawyer at the top of her game in London went back home. Her white colleagues were respected more and given the best cases, she being black, female and considered a local returnee was left twiddling her thumbs.

I was having a discussion with my French friend, same issue, even small details like asking for information. When she asks her junior colleague to send information over, it could take days with a million and one excuses being made when in that time the analysis could have been done and sent over in that time. A white colleague or even a ‘local’ colleague asks for the same information and within minutes it has been sent over. To me it comes over a little spiteful but I could be wrong.

Now I am not saying that the mere fact that I spent the first 31 years of my life abroad automatically sends me to status of Chief Executive Officer. I am saying that my career spans more than the 5 years I have been in this country. I didn’t come here because I had failed, in fact I could have stayed, I was in employment when I came to Ghana and I was doing ok. Since coming to Ghana, yes I have worked in 3 companies. Well of course I will not stay in an entry level position begging for a promotion, I strive for greatness and if where I am is not going to get me there, I move on. Had I been in a job that gave satisfaction I would have still been there. But I wasn’t, instead my work experience prior to relocating was ignored and I was put in an entry level position. I did that once, because I wanted to get my foot in the door, but I am not going to do it again 5 years later.

If we want more local guys abroad to come back, we know that we are not going to earn the same salary as we used to, but at least appreciate us for the careers we had prior to moving to Ghana. We come here because we want to make a contribution, but if we are going to receive racism worse than received back in our place of birth, I might as well go back. After all, being a minority I am used to it.

Just because I brought myself here, it doesn’t mean that I am not qualified to be here.

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About efiasworld

The black Bridget Jones and an English woman in Ghana
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10 Responses to the difference between an expatriate v local returnee

  1. YK says:

    Please get out of my head!!! because what you have written is what I have been/going through since I moved here 1 year ago from London. I work for a very reputable firm but the discrimination and politics is preventing any progress I can make. Wow, seriously its like you have been watching me when you wrote this. Well done on your blog, its a must read!

  2. r says:

    It is a bit arrogant to think that mere training and employment experience is sufficient. The most simple way to counteract this perception of “failure abroad” is to have capital

    > I was recently offered a job at unilever. The position, a demand planner, the position is one that I used to be the manager of for 3 years. My boss would be my former colleague who I used to bounce ideas from and actually sat at the desk next to me throughout those three years. It is like my whole 15 years worth of work experience completely ignored, and my salary less than what I started on 3 years ago. It made me wonder, if I was a white expatriate, with the same CV, would I be treated in this nature.

    Perhaps you should consider to compare to activities that the prospective boss did during these 15 years?

    > I was reading the profile of another of the Executives at my former employers, he had been a brand manager for 2 years promoted to a Senior Brand manager and in less than 5 years was an executive working in Ghana.

    Too many Africans are short-termist; a duration of less than five years from a European office to an executive position in Ghana seems reasonable. What’s the problem, why the impatience?

    > “…I brought myself here, they were sent here by the company.”

    This is a significant difference. Few non-Africans go to Africa to obtain a local job; they appear to create and identify an opportunity in advance.

    Seems that both you and your Caribbean friend should be more self-confident to start your own independent enterprises. That would be a far more significant statement of “making a contribution”

    • efiasworld says:

      Hi
      thanks for your feedback, glad you had time to read and analyse my blog.

      Without running the risk of sounding arrogant, my point being raised is that racism exists and the worst type being people of the same colour as me. Sad but true, when preferential treatment is given to a race purely because of colour and no other qualification, then there is some sort of discrimination involved. We like to think that racism died in the 70s and 80s, but putting our heads under the carpet will not deter from the fact that it exists.
      Maybe I am being arrogant, but I am talking about the way I see the world, obviously we all walk in different shoes and we don’t all share the same experiences. I am not sure what your nationality is, but there are quite a few people who are walking in my shoes and have shared the same experience, however, you are also entitled to view the world the way you see it also, so I will not patronize you by getting into a lengthy exercise defending my point.

      Without sounding arrogant again, I am not expecting to be CEO of the top multinational in Ghana, but I do expect to continue as I left off as opposed to starting from scratch just because of ‘circumstances’. I can only talk from where I am coming from and I am not talking like a graduate straight from University, and would like to be treated according to my coat size not 3 times smaller, but again, I will not go on the defensive, your point is well noted.

      I am not sure how your point about African’s being short-termists correlates with my point maybe we can have a debate about it once i fully understand that point.

      But, I am proud of what I have acheived up until now, I have a roof over my head and my parents can stay with me as opposed to relatives who will soon grow weary after the second day of their visit. That however what I feel is my own personal acheivement, whether it fits in with your level is neither here nor there as we both view the world differently

      Regarding , the reason I came to Ghana is different from a Non-African, as they are exactly that, Non African, they came here for the sole purpose to work, where the experience I came from is far richer than that, so I cannot really respond to such statement because it is like comparing apples to pears. However, regardless of salaries, certain benefits should apply to all who work in the same company i.e.health benefits, for which I understand i refer. Segregating this kind of benefit by colour can be likened to 60s when black performers where asked to come through the service entrance even though they were performing with white entertainers.

      Lastly, I think starting a business (from my point of view) requires a little bit more than self-confidence, and it takes more than that to venture out on your own, and well once again, we all wear different shoes of different sizes. My father worked in the same company for 20 years, my mother owned her own business, both were successful and making a significant contribution in their own right. I am sure that there would be many a business venture opened by individuals if we were to solely measure the level of success on self-confidence, however duly noted.

      Once again, thank you for your feedback, I probably sound arrogant sometimes, I may also sound defensive other times, but I write to show one the world through my eyes because that’s the only view I have. Have a good day x

  3. Wendy says:

    I was introduced to your blog, by a new friend made through an expat site, great read and so insightful. Thankfully I have landed a job with a good company, well from what I have read and what they have presented me with lol. Good on you for staying and I defo hope to hear more as well as write down my experience when I land in Gh next month. Thank you xx

  4. Steph says:

    Gosh Efia and YK-I hve been here for like 5months and all ur saying is all I see too. Gosh Politics run the corporate world. Discrimination so real. It’s bad

  5. Diane Corriette says:

    It is a shame that this type of discrimination takes place. I want to live in the Caribbean even though, like you, I am UK born. The stories I have heard are similar to this one and it makes you wonder, why bother? Yet the overall experience and pace of life seems to be far better – plus the lack of winter rain and snow. Maybe “why I left UK when so many people want to move there” could be the title of your memoirs 🙂

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