The Continent in International Business II

I’m typing this now while it’s still fresh in my mind and while I’m still seething, so forgive me. I just got out of my Comparative Management class. As in, just now. As in class ended fifteen minutes ago.

This is without a doubt the single most frustrating, infuriating, irritating, annoying, despairing, unbelievable, and completely incredulous experience of my entire academic life.

I took everyone’s advice from the last post and decided to take it up with the professor. I did that today after a fashion. We were discussing trade blocs (e.g. NAFTA), and I raised my hand and asked the professor why there were no African trade blocs on the screen such as ECOWAS (now I know ECOWAS isn’t purely a trade bloc, but it partly involves the ostensible free movement of goods, money, and individuals among its member states). The professor said that was a good question and then asked the class whether anyone had considered investing in Africa and why they would or would not invest in Africa.

And that was when all hell broke loose… in my head at least.

Please be aware that this is a 300 level class. In other words, this class is populated almost entirely by Juniors and Seniors (i.e. Third and Final year students). Based on this, the answers they started giving threatened to give me a mental break down.

I quote.

Let me repeat that.


“But isn’t Africa’s only industry agriculture?”

“But the United States produces all the things that Africa produces so what would we want to buy from them?” [Yeah, and that’s the reason why people are dying every day in Congo so you can have your mobile phones and diamond engagement rings right?]

“But there are no banks in Africa.” [I kid you not. AND, this is the SECOND time I am hearing this particular one, in TWO completely different classes.]

“Isn’t there lots of crime going on there?” [Wow because the United States is sooooooo safe]

“But there are Somalian pirates all over the place.” [Yes, because Somalia stretches across the entire continent]

“But aren’t most Africans like illiterate? Like how will they be able to do business?” [Yes, but never mind the ‘African’ girl sitting IN FRONT OF YOU that answers all the professor’s questions correctly while most of you are still negotiating your nerve synapses]

“Who cares? It’s Africa”

          “Last I heard, Africa’s government had collapsed.” [Yeah, because there is one government in Africa]

“But there’s genocide there.” [Yeah, genocide is just floating about in the air bumping off unsuspecting foreign investors in any corner of the continent]

“But Africa is an agrarian country” [he said it twice. Even after I said ‘but it’s a continent’]

“Mugabe won’t let us” [as if Mugabe is the president of Africa]

“Africa is really dangerous. There are diseases there.” [as if there are no diseases in any other part of the world]

“What’s the point? There’s no technology there.”[which of course is the reason I flew to school on the back of an ostrich. Or was it a flying giraffe?]

“But how will we understand the African dialect?” [But of course, Africa is a country and all Africans speak ONE AFRICAN DIALECT. Note, not language, but DIALECT. ]

These are all direct quotes from my classmates. They are still ringing in my ears. It’s that fresh. I couldn’t even find the energy to argue. It’s like one moment I was so angry, and the next I was in disbelief and shock and the next I suddenly felt so sad that I just put my head on the desk and covered my ears. It felt like if I heard anymore, I would cry.

I am completely appalled at the arrogance of these people. Yes, it is arrogance, egotism, and unparalleled self-centredness. How dare they sit there and feel comfortable not knowing even the first thing about Africa not to speak of Nigeria, yet they expect me to know everything about them and their countries and their economies?

I feel so disgusted right now. You have no idea. In my International Marketing class yesterday the professor asked the class to list all the African countries on a piece of paper. He didn’t give us enough time because we were trying to rush but that’s beside the point. The point is, when he said ‘stop’ I was on number 36. The next person after me had five countries. Five. FIVE!!!! That’s all you fucking know?? FIVE???

I listed 36 African countries and given enough time I would have finished writing the whole list. I can list at least 80% of the countries in ANY continent on this planet, and they all sit there feeling okay and satisfied, and FUCKING PROUD about being able to list a measly five African countries. Who the fuck do these people think they are? And why the fuck do I have to be the one to do double work to know all about them and myself while they don’t even do me the common courtesy of REMEMBERING that Africa is not even a country.

Things got even worse when he asked us to guess the populations of a number of countries he listed. Because I’m from Nigeria, the professor listed Nigeria as one of the countries along with Belgium (the country of those other boys I mentioned in the last post).

Majority of the class guessed the population of Nigeria to be under 10 million. Someone actually said the population of Nigeria is 2 million.

It’s not funny anymore. It is NOT FUNNY ANYMORE!!!!

I’m serious. I leave every class feeling defeated. Not just because of the level of ignorance and stupidity surrounding me, but because anyone that tries to correct their impressions of Africa is met with anger, indifference, and outright disregard. The professor had to literally beg them to listen to his explanation about economies in Africa. The looks on everyone’s faces suggested that most of them would rather be doing something, anything else, and that they thought the man was wasting their time. And this is not a class that anyone hates. Everyone in that class LOVES this class and this professor. We have so much fun in class, it’s unbelievable that it’s a high level class. Yet once the topic moves to Africa people pull out their phones and start texting, drawing in their notebooks, gisting with their friends, etc. Most people don’t even take notes because they feel they won’t need it.

And on top of everything, they now regard me as a bad person for daring to take the focus of the class away from their beloved Europe and shine the spotlight on Africa. I don’t really care what they think but being the class enemy is tiresome and something I’d rather avoid, only I can’t. I cannot in good conscience go through my business classes learning nothing about the continent. It would be cheating myself. But I don’t know how to deal with this, I really don’t. Every class that otherwise would be amazing is leaving me feeling like shit. It’s like I just realised for real this time that in the eyes of most non-Africans, we don’t mean shit. In their eyes, we’re not even worth the gum stuck under their shoe.

It just hit me so hard. We Africans have to work SO HARD for these idiotic people to accept us. We have to learn about them, we have to speak their language, we have to adopt elements of their culture, we play their instruments, we play their sports, hell, we even straighten our hair and bleach our skin and give our children stupid sounding names in their languages just to accommodate them, only to have them throw it in our faces like it’s nothing. Where is the reciprocity? All this talk about globalization is crap. It’s not globalization, it’s Westernization parading as globalization. Globalization implies equal exchange of ideas, trade, information, culture, etc across all borders not the general conglomeration of everyone culture wise and everything else wise towards the West. What makes me so angry is not even the fact that I know all this stuff about Europe and America but that none of them think we’re worth learning about. They can’t be bothered. To them we’re insignificant, yet every day we figuratively throw ourselves at their feet. The question we should be asking ourselves is: What are THEY doing to accommodate us?

Answer: Nothing. BIG FAT NOTHING.

Yet we changed our entire lifestyles because of them. We change everything for them. We do everything THEIR way.

They think it’s actually okay to not know anything about Africa and live their lives. These same people would be shocked if I said I didn’t know something about Europe or America. Yet not knowing how many countries there are in Africa is not a big deal.

You know what? Between my business classes, the guy on DeviantArt that said that most African women have shoulders that are much wider than their hips (he then went on to say that Caucasian women have fully developed breasts and hips), and the Japanese idiot that proclaimed that for a business to be successful it must have access to three markets or it will fail – Japan, North America (excluding Mexico) and Europe, I fucking give up.

Oh yeah, Japanse Dude-dono, why don’t you shut the fuck up and tell your crackpot theory to Adenuga? Last time I checked Globacom had access to only one market: THE NIGERIAN ONE and they seem to be doing just fucking fine.*
It’s disgusting. That’s all it is. I feel sick.

How about this? I give the fuck up.

*Yes, I know Globacom has expansion plans and may have already even expanded into other continental countries, but even when it was restricted simply to Nigeria, it was doing stupendously well.

There are 25 comments

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  1. Marin

    What can I say. Sorry. It seems Americans are the stupidest of the stupidest people. At least Europeans are more aware, and try to hide their prejudice.
    If it is any consolation to you, if they had been asked to list countries in Europe, you might have had some funny things to recount here. An American student once famously asked if London was in England or vice versa. And an american friend confessed that he thought Hispanic, black and caucasian were the races – after asking me for confirmation that another Nigerian girl had said it was Caucasoid, Mongloid and Negroid……..And this is a harvard educated lawyer! So, all you can do is keep your head down, graduate well- don’t let your frustration affect your grades. Then, after school, write and economics book for dummies, or open a blog dedicated to African economics, or something. They are ignorant, and arrogant, and that is even worse than just arrogance.

    Something to make you feel a bit better –

  2. Azazel

    Umm btw Sugarbelly why should they reciprocate and learn about us? Amma need you to take enough political classes and you’ll learn a lot. It’s all about POWER!!!!..
    Africa has no Power, we have no influence, why should they give a crap?? This is about their life and future, none of them don’t want any future in Africa.. Let’s be honest here, until Africa becomes like a place like Dubai we are the underdogs.. And please don’t act so self righteous, if the roles were reversed most of them would be like them. So lets not be hypocrites here, moreover these people do not give a shit. And to be honest, the only reason you are pissed is ebcause you are african/nigerian. And the reason we have to learn about their own culture etc is because they have the power and we don’t.
    The ‘strong’ do what they want and the weak endure what they must. You will learn that in due time. It’s POWER!!

  3. The Misses

    Azazel is right about power and influence.

    I think it is important to learn about the place in which u come from especially if u are going to do business there, but since your part of the world don’t have power and influence you can’t expect those that have power to promote u or learn about u because they are not. Maybe the people of the continent that’s in education will haft to take it upon themselves to bring the curriculum to the colleges. That’s the only way as of now you are going to seriously learn about business in that part of the world.

    It’s all about money and power your country has the potential as well as other countries on the continent but until they become major power players, they will always be put on the back burner.
    When big things start happening in that part of the world, everyone is going to come to do business and then your country or the continent won’t be excluded from the texts but Africa should have some of the same policies as Canada does when it comes to dealing with other countries and people that are not Canadian.

    I know America have some great universities but are there not one school in your country or any other country on the continent that can offer u waht you want?

    Hopefully one day you’ll be a big success and will tell your story to the world about your American college experience.

  4. Imoteda

    So i was reading this and laughing and then I stopped and shed two tears and then I looked with my mouth open and I went back to laughing then crying. I feel like I was sitting in that class with you because its something I have experienced over and over again.
    Now I just tell myself I’m in their country so I will suck it up until I can go back to living a lifestyle in Nigeria that most of them can only dream of living.

  5. Omotade

    Azazel makes plenty sense….

    Africa in itself corrupts power so how can they influence the world? I don’t really blame these people’s ignorance…but I do blame the fact that they take no interest in looking no further than America.

  6. Kilishi Diaries

    I agree. SugaB you can’t really expect any semblance of understanding about anything African from 99% of people in your college classes. The fact is they have never needed to look elsewhere for anything…therefore they are ridiculously close minded. You are angry, understandably so, but I think you should also feel pity at their inability to think globally and be interested in un-American things… not sure where u go to college but I’m sure things would be a little different at an Ivy League such as Harvard, Yale etc… Anyway sha, keep your head up! Know it’s not only you sha…in my health care class all I hear day in and day out is about how all the most horrible diseases are centered on the African continent…a doctor today was telling me about studies that were conducted east of Nigeria…did he mean the Atlantic Ocean? lol ain’t nothing but water east of 9ja…they still don’t get that Africa is a continent….abeg don’t let them stress you out jare!

  7. F and M

    I am stuck between laughing and crying… “There are no banks in Africa” REALLY??? Wow… I do see Azazel’s point that it is about power, though. They see no use in educating themselves about something which poses no apparent benefit.

    With that being said, what the hell is the essence of all the talk of “open minds” or a proper education if the knowledge provided is so incomplete? Those already with power are handing over that control to a generation of ignorant “Africa is a country” folks who look down on those who actually have a more informed view of the world than they do. And that scientist guy claims we are intellectually inferior… SMDH

  8. Last Born Child

    I’ve been lurking on your blog for about 3 weeks now and what I get is that you are an intelligent, articulate and emotionally mature individual.

    I’m sorry you find yourself facing ignorance and trying to tear down walls constantly in your class. It’s human nature to be concerned mainly with what affects you directly and what will get you ahead.

    It doesn’t help that the sterotypical images they are bombarded with from our continent portray a bleak and pitiful existence.

    Watch It resonantes and it will make you feel better.

  9. leggy

    @azazel:thats just colleges cannot beat the top universities in nigeria…just because they have a lot of strikes doesnt mean they dont get thought anything.dont forget their are also private universities in nigeria that are really good but i wont even talk about that.
    why do you think nigerians come to america and london to do their masters and still top their classes?there might be inconsistencies in their schedule but they still get taught.
    the nigerian students who come for masters in my school are immediately given tutor positions and graduate assistantships.
    you always hit on sugabelly for fact should learn to check yours.dont just say stuff off your head.

    you should consider going to an ivy league for your graduate studies…they actually even teach igbo there..yup, not everyone in america is close minded…you just seem to have met the ones who are.

  10. One3snapshot!

    I concur wholeheartedly with what nneoma said.

    I faced the EXACT same thing when I was your age but I sucked it up, put my head down and graduated. I now harbor a closeted ill-feeling towards certain groups of people.

    Sometimes you just have to leave the place of ignorance, not saying that East Coast grad schools don’t have their own ivy-league level of ignorance but at least they try to be better informed. And levels dey, you cannot communicate with someone on a lower intellectual level than you and not expect friction.

    Pursue graduate education and learn to talk to these people like Dambisa Moyo and the likes.

  11. Azazel

    Lol yeah right..
    Leggy I still maintain what I said..
    I went to a community college right here and am saying that the community college out there will beat out the top university even the private ones in naija. I never said that they do not teach them anything in the schools in Naija.
    Huh @ factchecking..
    Lmao what fact is there to check?
    U said that i said something when I never said what u said I said?
    Wen did I say that the universities in Naija don’t teach the student there anything??
    Please read before u type, I said the community college here would ‘OUTRANK’. Do u kno what ranking is? They havin ranking systems for all the universities in the world. sheesh

  12. nneoma

    errr…I’m going to have to go with Leggy here. in fact I’ll even go as far to say that the idea of a community college outsmarting a top university of Nigeria is just as ignorant as some of the comments that were uttered by Sugabelly’s classmates.

    I am very much in support of community colleges here in the US and the work they do in providing opportunities for those who otherwise would not have access to higher education…
    …but I have to call your BS, Azazel…you do know that a sizeable portion of those who go to community college could not even cope with high school….right? Let me not even begin to go into details of how a ten year old in Nigeria could probably outsmart many American public high school graduates. Over the weekend, NPR had a special on community colleges in America and they found that although the program length is ordinarily two years, most can’t even finish in 5 years. Our only excuse are strikes not ability. In the US, a third enter community colleges and spend their first three years taking remedial classes inMath and English ….yes I said English, as in the language that should be the mother tongue of several of these students.
    I would have expected someone who has never been to Nigeria or outside of the US to assume that “oh, African country…people don’t go to school or their schools are substandard.” Yes, Nigeria’s educational system faces its unfair share of challenges. However, we are able to produce students, many of whom, when they leave the country, attend some of the best graduate schools in the world (not just the US).
    Again, I have nothing against community colleges. My mother teaches at one. I have seen some of their work, heard my mom’s complaints…and trust, put a Nigerian trained man or woman in some of those classrooms, and they’ll probably graduate in a year or less…and in a few years teach there. I agree, Nigerian universities are simply not what they used to be and the nation is doing a grave disservice to our young people. But Nigerians are a unique bunch and the community college comparison (an option for high school drop-outs and provide distance-learning options for people in jail) is an insult….actually, let me go as far as saying that it’s stupid….there I said it.

  13. Azazel

    I honestly did not get your point, saying that what I said is not true with no proof isn’t going to prove ur point.
    same way as me saying a community college or the best community college here would outrank the best in Naija. I also have no proof of it.
    So what say we postpone this lil tit for tat until one of us can come up with suitable proof to back up their claims..
    Lmao @ a ten year old probably outsmartin most high school graduates..
    And leggy please don’t say what u can’t prove as well.
    I can’t prove mine and u can’t prove urs..
    I am sayn that the best community college in this country will OUTRANK the top universities in nigeria..

  14. DunDun

    I am a long time reader of your blog and i only rarely comment, not because i don’t have anything to say, but because most of the time, well……..

    I however feel that i must comment on this particular point because while i am not surprised by the level of ignorance exhibited (in England I was asked like honestly that did i live in a mud hut, i told them no, in Nigeria things are so backwards i actually live in a hole in the ground and i think they believed it) but the fact that they have not considered that they will most likely have to work in Africa at some point in their career.
    Let me explain, they might not have to visit Africa, but they will most likely interact with Africans in Africa who know much more about their continents business model, but also international business models. Don’t worry the numbnuts will learn except it might just be too late for them

  15. zara (my alter ego)

    have i ever told you i loved u?
    sad as the reality might be, u had me laffing real hard!
    they r so idiotic.
    my lecturer once said to me he wouldnt go to nigeria cos they just might kidnap him and i said ‘they wouldnt, youre not what they are looking for’
    and truly, who wud kidnap a mere lecturer,… except he owned an oil field!
    keep educating them irl, do ur own little bit, its our duty to keep letitng them know that we are a continent! not a country..
    if you havent seen chimamanda adichie’s a single story… you shud you tube it.. worth watching…

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