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“Send mo moni”: How Money is Fueling Resentment Among Hardworking African Immigrants and their Families

Not to say Africans in Africa are not hardworking, but for many African immigrants in the diaspora, the American dream is intrinsically linked to a sense of duty towards family back home. We work tirelessly, sending hard-earned dollars across continents, fueling economies, and supporting loved ones. Yet, a growing sentiment of frustration and disillusionment is emerging as most Africans grapple with the misuse and lack of appreciation for these remittances.

The Disillusionment of the African Diaspora

We have talked with many Africans, and stories abound of money intended for education being diverted to lavish weddings, investments meant for family businesses squandered on frivolous luxuries, and desperate pleas for financial responsibility met with radio silence or even outright lies. These experiences leave many Africans feeling exploited, undervalued, and questioning the very foundations of their sacrifices.

“It’s a painful irony,” says Nomsa, a Zimbabwean nurse working in New York. “I work double shifts, missing birthdays and graduations, to send money home, only to hear about new cars and designer clothes. It feels like my family sees me as nothing more than a cash machine. When I went home, I was surprised to see that they even dress better than me!”

Nomsa’s sentiment is echoed by countless others across the African diaspora in the U.S. This disillusionment, however, is not merely a matter of personal disappointment; it has far-reaching implications for both families and the broader socio-economic landscape.

A Complex Web of Factors

The misuse of money is a complex issue with roots in cultural expectations, economic disparities, and communication breakdowns. In African cultures, there is an indelible sense of entitlement towards the success of family members abroad, leading to unrealistic demands and expectations. Most Africans in the US would rather starve than let their families in Africa know that they’re not doing well. The vast economic gap between the U.S. and many African countries creates a distorted sense of wealth and inflates lifestyles.

Furthermore, communication breakdowns due to cultural norms exacerbate the situation. African Immigrants feel uncomfortable discussing financial matters openly, fearing conflict or judgment. Conversely, family members back home are reluctant to disclose how they are using the money, out of shame or fear of reprisal and also, the debatable truth that Western aid has over the years, created cultures of people that receive at the expense of sparking innovation and financial responsibility.

Setting Boundaries, Preserving Bonds

So, how can the African diaspora navigate these challenges, protect their financial well-being, and still honor their familial responsibilities? It starts with open communication and setting clear boundaries and changing the narrative. The narrative that the West is a land of milk and honey and that financial success is guaranteed if you are living in the West:

  • Transparent Conversations: Initiate honest conversations about financial expectations, both yours and your family’s. Discuss how the money will be used, set limits on the amount you send, and establish clear timelines for financial assistance. Make your family back home understand your own budget in the USA and that of your family. Engage in open and honest conversations about financial expectations with your family. Discuss how the money will be used, set clear limits on the amount you send, and establish specific timelines for financial assistance. Help your family back home understand your budget and circumstances in the USA and the needs of your own immediate family. As Davina, an insurance sales rep in Minnesota, put it, “I was married to a white American, but our marriage broke down when I explained to my husband that I couldn’t justify spending $450 a month on horse lessons for our daughter while my family back home was surviving on $200 a month. In that moment, he realized his hopes and dreams would always be influenced by the moral dilemma of conspicuous consumption versus the very real struggles of my family.” “When my family found out the reason for my marriage breakdown, they were shattered. I wish I could have been more honest but I thought they wouldn’t understand. Davina concluded.
  • Targeted Remittances: Consider sending money directly to educational institutions or service providers, rather than giving it directly to family members. This ensures that the funds are used for their intended purpose. “After years of paying school fees 4 or 5 times for my niece, I insisted I pay the fees directly to the school. This angered my brother who wanted the credit of “paying school fees” for his daughter, but after one too many stories about misuse, I decided to communicate with the school and pay directly. Since then, my niece is always provided for and I can concentrate on being an Auntie and not fighting about money”, John from Ohio said.
  • Invest in Joint Ventures: If possible, explore opportunities to invest in joint ventures with family members back home. This not only fosters financial responsibility but also creates a shared sense of ownership and accountability. Yes, that money can be misused too, but you quickly learn among family members, who have a good head for business and support those that don’t. As any investor, be prepared to lose some money before you finally find that family member who is responsible enough and has a good head on their shoulders.
  • Seek Support: Don’t hesitate to seek support from community organizations, financial advisors, or mental health professionals. They can offer guidance on financial planning, conflict resolution, and coping with the emotional toll of this situation. All families are complex, so it is important to learn how to navigate your family and still love and honor one another.
  • Celebrate Small Victories: Acknowledge and celebrate any positive changes in your family’s financial behavior. This reinforces positive habits and fosters a sense of progress.

Remember, honoring your family does not mean sacrificing your financial well-being or turning a blind eye to irresponsible behavior. By setting healthy boundaries and fostering open communication, you can strike a balance that supports both your family and your dreams.

Register for the It Takes a Village Conference

Secure your spot in the “Mental Health and Wellbeing” track today! Let’s build a brighter future for African diaspora families together!

AfriThrive Inc.

"It Takes a Village African Diaspora Family & Youth Conference" is designed to celebrate the rich heritage of the African diaspora while empowering families and youth. Hosted by AfriThrive Inc., the conference draws inspiration from the African proverb "It takes a village to raise a child." It fosters a sense of community, provides opportunities for networking and learning, and champions the successes of individuals within the diaspora.