The Continent in International Business

So I just got out of International Marketing, and we’re supposed to form groups and develop a marketing strategy between the United States and a chosen country. I overheard some of the conversations that other people were having, and it sounded like some of them were going to do it with Canada. This could be quite difficult, as there will be a lot of financial matters to think about, such as looking at their cra foreign income policies. Of course, this will be the same for everyone, but I have a feeling that a lot more research will have to be done to understand how their foreign affiliates work and how to declare it on their tax forms. But that is for them to worry about. In the end, I joined a group with two Belgians and one American, and they immediately suggested France (I wanted to do Nigeria). They then found out that France was already taken, and then suggested Germany. In the end I insisted on Nigeria and just wrote it down on the paper and gave it to the professor before anyone could protest.

I know I strong-armed them and I feel slightly guilty for it but the whole thing makes me mad as fuck and here’s why. When they found out France and Belgium were taken they suggested Germany, a neighbouring country in Europe. When I suggested Nigeria everyone looked at me like I had grown a second head and with slight disgust as if I was crazy to suggest an African country. I just want at least one of the reports to be on Nigeria for once. Why can’t a project be about Nigeria? Why does it always have to be about bloody Europe? Why? Why??

It kills me… it infuriates me that nobody ever wants to talk about or discuss or learn about African countries. It just totally kills me. I am an INTERNATIONAL kw Business major, yet in all of my business classes we NEVER discuss any African countries in any capacity and even when they are mentioned, it’s only for the briefest of moments and individual nations are referred to as ‘Africa’.

I hate that word. I honestly do. I never thought much about it growing up, but ever since I came to America, “Africa” has sounded like a dirty word to me. To me, using the word “Africa” when you mean Nigeria, or Ghana, or Tanzania is the equivalent of going to Mass during the homily, grabbing the mic from the priest and screaming “pussy” to the congregation. That’s how much it upsets me. And what makes me even more upset, sad, and frustrated is that in three years I don’t think I have learned anything that might help me do business more effectively in Nigeria or on the continent. Oh, I’ve learned how to do business with Europe, and America, and Asia, but every time I bring up something in class to do with Nigeria’s economy, or I try to relate the class material to the current economic and financial situation in Nigeria, I hear people grumbling and muttering and sighing as if I’m derailing the class from learning relevant information by introducing an off-topic discussion. People in my business classes just act as if African countries aren’t worth learning about as though we aren’t part of the international market. It galls me. I’m telling you, it fucking galls me.

The general attitude is ‘oh we’ll never have to do business with Africa…” or “who does business with Africa?” or like someone in my Macroeconomics class said, (and I kid you not) “There are no banks or stock markets in Africa”

Don’t get me wrong, I love my classes. I love my business classes so much. I love learning about the different aspects of business like Docusign integration, trade laws, the employment side of things etc. There is so much to learn, as being involved in a business in general is demanding, but even more so at a global scale. I guess that is why there are things like global PEO services (find out more here) to help to make things easier for those running the businesses. Anyway, the stuff we’re learning is exciting, relevant, and real. But it is INCOMPLETE. The textbooks have breakdowns of every continent EXCEPT ours. Sometimes after class I feel like crying because I’m so frustrated, not just by the lack of information about Nigeria and other important African economies but by the attitude of my classmates who behave as if African countries and their economies are so far beneath their notice that learning anything about them, even their names would be a waste of their school fees.

I feel like by the time I graduate I’ll be able to stroll into Paris or Tokyo and do business, but if I want to do business in Lagos or Harare then I’m going to have to completely go it on my own on a wing and a prayer and without even one fucking textbook to back me the fuck up.

I’m sorry I’m swearing so much in this post but it’s either swear or cry. My group members seem very annoyed that they will have to do this marketing report on Nigeria, and they’re pretty much treating it as a joke. They’ve already broken into two camps based on their assumptions. One side is assuming that there will be little to no work to do and everything will be easy because there can’t possibly be any kind of significant economic activity going on in Nigeria. The other side is upset because they are assuming that they will have to work extra hard because it will be almost impossible to find any kind of useful information about the economy or culture of an African country.

I swear the way people say the word ‘Africa’ in my business classes, it sounds like a swear word. They say it with this little laugh as if ‘ oh, it’s just Africa, what could there possibly be to learn about Africa?’ You have no idea how mad it makes me. No freaking idea. I once voiced this complaint to an American classmate and she said to me “Well this is America. I didn’t come here to learn about Africa. I came here to learn International Business. If you wanted to learn about Africa why didn’t you stay in Africa?”

Is it just me or does she not know that International in respect to America means every other country in the world besides America… including the African ones?

Update: Just got out of my Comparative Management class and we were talking about globalization and discussing the winners and losers of globalization. So the professor asked us to come up with reasons why some countries or companies have been globalization winners and why others have been losers. So among other things I mentioned that countries that have lost in globalization tend to have many desirable resources but weak governments that do not enforce laws that protect citizens and ensure that most of the benefits and revenues generated from those resources are retained within domestic borders for to the advantage of the citizens. I then said that in the first century of globalization (i.e. early 1800s to the 1900s), faltering political institutions in certain countries allowed many western nations to come in and literally steal resources or manipulate and abuse trade agreements to gross degrees.

And then this boy in front of me turned around and said ‘Well if you don’t like America so much, why are you studying here?” I get statements like this all the time. And I’m like ‘what, you can’t take hearing criticism about your country but you think it’s okay to criticize mine?” I wasn’t even talking specifically about his country but it’s so annoying that people here get so defensive the moment you even slightly disapprove of their trade practices (even if they were a hundred years ago), yet they have no problem talking about corruption and going on about African countries as if they’ve lived there all their lives and totally know the deal with what’s going on. I don’t even get what he was angry about. Hell after all the talk about globalization, Africa wasn’t mentioned once. Not even once. I felt insulted by that, should I be angry too? It’s like these American and European students can’t handle a world in which they and their countries are not the centres of attention twenty-four-seven. If it all wasn’t so sad, it would be amusing.

It’s not like I raise hell or even say anything bad in any of my classes. My business classes are full of a lot of discussion, and the problem is that the American/European students are always so shocked and irritated when I disagree with their general consensus. It’s like they can’t handle hearing a different viewpoint. They don’t seem to understand that things, business practices, attitudes and opinions to their trade practices or their economic policies are different in other parts of the world, and that does not make me evil for saying that Americans are partly in their recession because they are such slaves to purchasing on credit. It’s true. If you don’t like hearing it from a Nigerian because you think that I’m “African” and therefore should have no right to point out your faults then I’m sorry but fuck that and fuck you for sitting on a high horse in the first place. I’m Nigerian, I’m not starving to death. I never had to trek anywhere to find clean water, and surprise, surprise, I actually like my country and enjoy living there. Yes, it’s different from your country, and I admit that there are a lot of things I’d love to see improved, but I am SO TIRED of people in my classes expecting me to be gushing with gratefulness and wonder at being on American soil because they assume that because I am “African” then I must have suffered terribly and come from a horrendous life in my country. I’m sick of it. This is the age of the fucking Internet. There is no excuse to walk about thinking all Africans are the same and hopeless and dying. No excuse. I don’t want to have to be the person that keeps correcting everyone or that has to ‘educate’ people. I don’t expect other people to have to constantly educate me about their culture. I do my due diligence and do my research if I’m going to be in another country or culture for any significant amount of time. It’s only mutual respect and obviously Africans aren’t respected anywhere.

I probably should go book an appointment with my shrink because if this is how I’m going to feel after every business class then I’m going to need psychiatric support. I was so excited to be doing all business classes this term. So excited. But right now it feels like in the eyes of the world we are insignificant and not worth learning about and it hurts.

There are 18 comments

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  1. F and M

    I can imagine how frustrating it must be for you… For some reason, the generally held definition of “International” excludes “the country called Africa”. We all know tHat many people still think the entire continent is just one country and we all speak “African”… I should stop typing now before I go into a rant… SMH

  2. L-VII

    I understand your frustrations completely . Truth be told,it is not as bad in this country as it is in America. The British at least pretend to be interested in Africa, if only so far as to perpetuate their own points of view.

    I am proud that you did that. Well done.


  3. Sting

    I think u should take it up with someone in your department. I can imagine ur frustration. Also, this could be an opportunity to show them that they are wrong.

  4. cake

    I’m glad you took it upon yourself to hand your professor that note. Your classmates obvioulsy don’t care about your opinion so why should you care about theirs. They’re ignorant, they know they are & they don’t care to change it. like Oo said this is your chance to educate them.

  5. KG

    To say I feel your frustration is an underestimation. The ignorance and apathy towards the continent in the West is heartbreaking on all levels.
    I swear I would have clocked that your stupid American classmate who made the daft comment about staying in Africa….grrrr!!!
    Situations like this just make me shake my head at the amount of work we as Nigerians (and by extension Africans) have to do to be somewhat relevant on the global stage. We lack relevance to the international community and Lord knows we have to reverse that. Will take a lot of work though.
    LOL @ your Mass homily comment.

  6. LucidLilith

    *fist pump* *back slap*
    Good for you. I would have done the same thing. These snobs need to find out they can learn a lot. Although this may be the last thing you want to do—PROVE to them that there are opportunities in Nigeria. Heck start by overwhelming them with about half a dozen options that no one else will think of:

    Coal and other minerals
    Arts and Crafts (Think Pier One)

  7. leggy

    i was just filling applications for my sister for her masters in UK and all the schools i came across had pages dedicated to nigerians..i felt so proud..and these are like very top schools in the UK oh.
    as everyone has mentioned..i guess its not that bad in the UK…its not bad in my department either…im nigerian, im studying chemical engineering..ofcourse they are going to mention my country!!

  8. msthang

    i understand when you say “African” sounds like a dirty word. i’m at the point that i don’t like hearing people say “africa” because its like they are spitting it out of their mouths. what did africa ever do to them???? i was in class today an a girl just used the word “africa” and when she did, she put some type of nasty emphasis on it that makes me want to scream everytime.

  9. Ginger

    I feel your pain. But pls dont handfeed them info: then it would look like you re forcing Nigeria down their throat. You’ve got to give them the opportunity to do their bit. Research: the library, internet and find out about Nigeria themselves. the same way they would have had to do for anyother country. Do tell us how it goes.

  10. 2cute4u

    your righteous indignation is lost on billions except a handful who don’t really matter and can’t change it… however, you concerns and frustration(lol)….. just relax ok?time was when.. germans suffered discrimination..time was also when America didn’t always have it easy.. time was when egypt was the beehive of civilization.. Time was when ghanaians came to Nigeria for greener pastures, now we go there even school there.. some have migrated there.. America has even adopted ghana.. time was when south africa was a no no.. so relax when it’s time, we’d get there..

  11. Miss Fizzy

    Ugh I so feel your pain. As I once said to a classmate, “I refuse to spend my time educating you when there is the internet.”

    Call it bitchy but I got sick of answering questions.

  12. AlooFar

    I can imagine how frustrating it must be for you… For some reason, the generally held definition of “International” excludes “the country called Africa”.

    Well-said. It is just disappointing, if not annoying, that supposedly smart people still hold that view!

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