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.