It's a familiar scene: a group of smart, sharply dressed women sipping cocktails as they discuss life, love, and…power outages? That's how the conversation between friends plays out in An African City, a series exploring what it's really like to be a young, professional woman who settles in Africa after years of living abroad. Inspired by Sex and the City, the show is centered on the experience of Nana Yaa, a New York-raised Ghanaian who decides to move back to the country's capital city of Accra after earning degrees at Georgetown and Columbia. Yaa reconnects with four friends who've also returned to what they lovingly call "the continent" in search of professional success, love, and a sense of identity. “There are 7 billion people in the world," Yaa, who narrates à la Carrie Bradshaw, says in the series' opening scenes. "Every once in a while, one of those people find his or her way home. Or, once in a while, home finds them.” The show, which has billed itself as Africa's first web series, has touched a nerve with women around the world. The first season's episodes racked up hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube apiece. Season 2 debuted on Sunday, both online and on some networks overseas.
We’ve focused on and shown a lot of Accra that people have never seen, that people don't even know exist.
Millie Monyo, Executive Producer
The so-called "returnee" experience was a natural focus for the two women behind the show — both moved to Ghana as adults after spending years working and studying in the United States. And they're not alone. While exact numbers are hard to come by — news stories and online support networks supporting the trend have emerged of late. According to one Christian Science Monitor report, 3,000 African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans have taken advantage of Ghana's open-arms policy for transplants with African heritage in recent years. Executive Producer Millie Monyo, who was born in New York but has Ghanian roots, said being a returnee is "a valuable experience that people are looking to tap into" in Accra and beyond. “There’s tons of opportunity," she said. "You can see something here, start it there, and have it be the first. Where else can you do that?"
But there are also challenges. In the show, the characters struggle to navigate everything from gender-role expectations in local dating culture — "I got dumped by a guy that expected me to cook three meals a day every single day. I am not a full-time chef. I am a lawyer," one woman quips — to relearning cultural customs and norms. On multiple occasions, the characters accidentally hand a menu back to a waiter with their left hand — a big no-no. Comforts of home, like Starbucks, over-the-counter medicines, and vegetarian fare, are often out of reach. Not all "returnees" find those trade-offs worth it. Monyo ended up eventually moving back to the United States. "You’re in this situation where it’s not comfortable, with those unreliable conveniences, there's only so many you can deal with," Monyo said. "It kind of got to that point to me, where I felt like, I'm not really sure that this is for me at this time." Others, like creator and writer Nicole Amarteifio, have made the transition work. As the show enters its second season, Monyo and Amarteifio hope to continue to draw from personal experience to expose viewers to both the "returnee" experience and the realities — good and bad — of life in Accra. “We’ve focused on and shown a lot of Accra that people have never seen," Monyo said. "That people don't even know exist." Even with that focus, the experience of adjusting to life in a foreign — even if somewhat familiar —place is something that's resonating with viewers outside of the African continent. “It’s touched tons of people," Monyo said. "We're getting emails from people in Korea, Vietnam, [and] the Caribbean who somehow found the series and were like, 'You’re telling my story.'" Season 2 of An African City, which premiered on Sunday, can be purchased here. Catch up on season 1 on YouTube.