Five glamorous girlfriends sit at an outdoor café sipping lemonades and talking about sex. "Last night Edem and I used the pullout method," says one to the horror of the others. "What are you — in high school?" another woman asks, before a third chimes in: "The only time you will hear me support the pullout method is when happily discussing the British pulling out of Ghana in 1957."
Welcome to An African City, the brainchild of 34-year-old Ghanaian creator Nicole Amarteifio, who writes and directs the show. (Amarteifio is also an executive producer, along with native New Yorker Millie Monyo.) The web series has been dubbed Africa's answer to Sex and the City — with a few twists. Instead of Manhattan, the show is set in Accra, Ghana's capital city. Instead of Carrie Bradshaw and company, it follows the exploits of a 30-year-old journalist, Nana Yaa (played by Ghanaian-American actress MaameYaa Boafo), and her four BFFs, all "returnees" — women of African descent who have left their lives abroad to come home to "the continent," where they must learn to cope with malaria outbreaks, fuel shortages, power outages, noisy generators, and nosy aunties. But life in Accra also has its pros: perfect weather, beautiful beaches, mangos, "and then there are the men … dark and chocolatey. YUM!" says sexy banker Sade (played by Nana Mensah, channeling Samantha Jones). "Big biceps, big hands, big … "
Like Sex and the City, An African City is about sex, but it's as much about the search for identity in a traditional culture. It's a theme that resonates. Since An African City premiered on YouTube in March of 2014 and reached one million views within a few weeks (season two is available for $19.99, and they're hoping for a third season), the show has gained fans around the world. "We've been getting emails from women in Korea, Puerto Rico, Italy," Amarteifio says. "It just shows that women carry similarities across ethnicity, across race."
The show especially hits home with Ghanaian, or "GH," women and other viewers of African origin who have taken to cultural forums like GhanaWeb as well as Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs to voice reactions ranging from total adoration to total outrage. "As a Cameroonian girl living in Amsterdam I am LOVING this!!!!" one commenter gushed after watching the first season on YouTube. "SHOWS LIKE THIS WILL MAKE GH WOMEN MORE PROMISCUOUS," another viewer fumed on GhanaWeb, before ranting about how Sex and the City ruined American women.
It's late February when Amarteifio and I chat, and soon she will be en route from New York City to Accra — it's a journey she knows well. "Oh my goodness, I've been doing the move back and forth for a hundred years," says Amarteifio, formerly a social-media strategist for the Africa Region at the World Bank. Born in Ghana, she relocated with her parents to London shortly after the coup of 1981, later moving to Westchester County, New York, where she was raised until the age of 15. She spent the next few years ping-ponging between countries: she attended Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, before once again returning to Ghana post-college, and eventually she earned her master's degree in corporate communications and public relations from Georgetown University. Although Amarteifio identifies as Ghanaian, "I have this kind of dual consciousness," she says.
She's not alone. Despite instability in recent years, Ghana's economy has lured a steady tide of young professionals seeking better jobs and lifestyles. Many feel a loyalty to the country that their parents fled: by the mid-1990s, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of Ghana's population (then around 20 million) was living abroad. It's difficult to know the precise number of returnees, since many have dual citizenship and don't need to register, but the country is experiencing a considerable "brain gain."