In 2014, Nicole Amarteifio set out to introduce the world to a mostly unseen side of Africa. One that was composed not of war, poverty and famine, but instead of cocktails, stylish women in bright dresses, big cars and swanky bachelor pads. She created and wrote An African City.
The popular web series follows five educated and modern Ghanaian and Nigerian women who have returned to the continent after living abroad for years. They have made their way back home in search of identity, love, career, and money. Every day they sit in posh nightclubs in the Ghanaian capital Accra, drinking and talking about everything from power cuts, water rationing, potholes, gender roles, and Pepto Bismol to cultural shocks, relationships, sex, dating and sugar daddies.
The show, inspired by Sex and the City, makes these urban, confident and bold women the storytellers responsible for changing the dominant narrative about Africa. The narrator, Nana Yaa (MaameYaa Boafo), is modelled on Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw. Nana talks us through the everyday adventures and struggles of her friends in this hip and cosmopolitan African city. Daughter of the minister of energy, she claims to have come back home for big government contracts. But there is love in the equation, and as early as episode one, we get a glimpse of her own Mr Big, the man who ensures that nobody is ever going to be good enough.
But the series is not only about her. Sade (Nana Mensah) is the bold and vivacious mistress of a rich man who prays right after he cheats on his wife. She lives in an apartment gifted by one of her former lovers, and advises Nana Yaa to not fight the male attention, but to get what she can out of it. A direction that Nana Yaa clearly does not follow when she chooses to pay for her atrociously expensive apartment herself.
Unlike Sade, Ngozi (Esosa E) is saving herself for marriage. What makes her an oddity in the group is that she is a vegetarian. Makena (Marie Humbert) is a University of Oxford graduate, a lawyer without a job, and recently divorced – not surprisingly, no part of this equation seems to be working for her in Ghana. And then there is Zainab (Maame Adjei), an entrepreneur who makes $30,000 per sale on each container of Shea butter she ships to the United States of America– yet all she wants at the end of a long day is a glass of coke, without a lemon slice in it.
Completely Western in their accents and attitudes, the women strive to fit in while ensuring they maintain their individualities. As they talk about booming business opportunities in the country, they also discuss how hiring house maids feels too much like colonialism. They may have always gone dutch on a meal in the United States, but a man who expects the woman to pay in Ghana is as unacceptable as handing the waiter the menu with your left hand.
The production quality is decent, as are the performances, for the most part. The fashion and costumes are stars in their own right. The soundtrack showcases what various African artists have to offer, while fitting the narrative perfectly.
While it may have been inspired by the iconic HBO series, the series is a lot more than a weak imitation. By garnering thousands of views per episode in the first season alone, the series has established that it speaks to women around the world. It is relatable storytelling, situated in an environment that is new and real. The series celebrates Ghana by making it a place to return to, and gives voice to a continent that has been depicted for far too long through the eyes of those who do not belong to it.
The second season of the series has recently been launched and is available for online viewing. But we suggest you start from the beginning.