…or, Why the African Parent has the Tendency to Push their Kids into the Elite Traditional Professions
I often wonder why most African parents belonging to the older generations are so keen on getting their kids (my generation) to become doctors, lawyers, bankers, dentists, engineers, accountants (or any other job title that comes under this umbrella).* I have come up with a name for this type of parent:
Afridicto (n.) /ˈæf.rɪ – dɪktəʊ
1. The African parent who is of the belief that their child’s career path must be determined or heavily influenced by the opinion of the parent.
(From Latin Afri: of North African descent, and dicto: to prescribe/dictate)
What motivates the Afridicto to favour the steady (and often high-paying) “cash cow” role instead of the exciting and creative (yet often low-paying) “sexy” role? It’s all down to the “Sex and Cash Theory” which cartoonist and writer Hugh MacLeod explains in his manifesto, ‘How To Be Creative’:
The creative person basically has two kinds of jobs. One is the sexy, creative kind. Second is the kind that pays the bills…As soon as [people] accept this [tense duality], I mean really accept this, for some reason [their] career starts moving ahead faster. I donʼt know why this happens. Itʼs the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way—who just want to start Day One by quitting their current day job and moving straight on over to best-selling author…well, they never make it. Anyway, itʼs called “The Sex & Cash Theory.”
Keep it under your pillow.
But what are the other factors for this phenomenon?
The Afridicto will take on at least one of the following dispositions at any one time:
This Afridicto (typically the father) loves to tell you, on a fortnightly basis, about how “in his day” there was no spoon-feeding or set reading list or syllabus. You had to learn everything under the sun and hope you’d studied enough to know every single answer to that question paper that was placed in front of you come exam time. The Afridicto adores everything about education. Qualifying as an accountant or lawyer may not even be enough for them if you didn’t secure that distinction or first-tier grade on your Postgraduate/Masters/PhD degree. The Afridicto’s love of all things academia is why MacLeod’s “sexy” career doesn’t cut it. “Did I pay school fees so you can draw and paint?”
Note, however, both the dualism in MacLeod’s Sex and Cash theory and the need for more than one type of investment in Investopedia’s definition. Neither the sex/cash dichotomy nor the principles of diversification seek to eradicate or denounce the creative side project. And neither does the Afridicto. It is not the maintenance of the creative side project that is frowned upon, but rather the idea that one’s side project alone can be a solid investment on one’s future. After all, it is equally as imbalanced to place all of one’s eggs in a singular basket titled “convention” or “cash” (MacLeod) or, similarly, to maintain a portfolio carrying a dozen of the same kind of traditional investment (diversification).
The Thoroughbred Racer
This Afridicto is #WINNING. Literally, winning. Who else can saunter around the hall at Aunty Mavis’ 60th birthday party, casually dropping the fact that their son or daughter is a Great Ormond Street doctor or Goldman IBD analyst or Freshfields associate to anyone who will listen? Not you, Uncle Ernest. Not you either, Auntie Gifty. The Afridicto is always in undercover battle with his or counterparts as to whose child is blazing their career trail the hardest. How can you draw top points on the ‘My Child is Better than Yours” scoreboard if there is no elite professional career to talk about? They will never speak directly of it, but there is always an element of competition in Afridicto territory.
The Fund Manager
You, kid, are an investment. After all, it will be as a result of your hard work that the Afridicto will shell out on their next home. The fear of the Afridicto is in the latter part of MacLeod’s description: ‘it’s the people who refuse to cleave their lives this way…they never make it’.
Online financial resource Investopedia defines diversification as:
‘a risk management technique that mixes a wide variety of investments within a portfolio…Diversification strives to smooth out unsystematic risk events in a portfolio so that the positive performance of some investments will neutralize the negative performance of others’.
It is the reasoning of the Afridicto Fund Manager that a foundation in a traditional profession such as medicine or law is less subject to risk and thus a more solid investment for his or her child’s future (“Cash”), whereas a career in the arts, music or professional sport (for example) may ‘perform positively’ as a portfolio investment but is ultimately more prone to risk (“Sex”).
Sons and daughters of African origin (read: we) should consider MacLeod’s theory each time we recognise any of the three dispositions of the Afridicto, and do our part in ensuring that if we are to go down the “cash” or “sexy” route that we also maintain an array of side projects in order to render ourselves indispensable, well-rounded individuals within our current economic climate.
*This analysis is in no way applicable to all African parents or households, and has been devised and defined solely for the purpose of this essay
Jasmine Boadi is a 22 year old English Language and Literature graduate and recent Law postgraduate. Born and raised in central London with West African origin, she began writing by contributing to company websites during summer internships and publishing material for her own online blog which focused on questions of social and cultural identity, literature and current affairs. As a writer, her main areas of interest include postcolonial discourse, the educative system in Great Britain and feminism/gender equality. Recent essays can be found at 60 Days of Thought. Find her on Twitter @whatjazzthought.