African Marriages As Business Ventures

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

There was a time when Africans, especially the men, kept to their promise of someday returning home to marry the women they left behind. And indeed, a great many did without regard to the women’s financial or social standing. Promises were generally kept, and love honored. Others retuned to marry women that had been prearranged based on same or familiar culture, religion, and or family relationship. Those days are mostly long gone as relationship between fiancé and fiancée, at home and abroad, would generally come to an end within a few month of one party leaving the African shore.

Today, most Africans who return home to marry do so for different reasons — reasons that have no bearing on past relationship or on family connection. But somehow, most would not confess or admit to the true reasons why they return in search of a bride or groom; and neither would those in the continent admit to the real reasons why they agree to such marriages. As it turned out, there is a usually ulterior motive behind such marriages. The way I see it, it is mostly economics. On both sides, that is.

As the economic situation in the continent becomes dire, and as abject poverty becomes endemic, more and more African men and women find ways to snag overseas-based suitors. And as overseas-based suitors ponder their lot in life, most would come to the realization that their lives would be better off only if they could snag a partner with high financial potential to improve the household’s economic and social standing. In other words, recent marriages within the African community in the Diaspora are a bet on future income and prosperity. Altruism is out; self-indulgence and narcissism is in. Seen from both ends therefore, economic consideration becomes the overarching and decisive factor for marriage.

Put another way: marriage is a business venture. Most no longer speak of, or allude to love and affection and respect and rapport and common interest and common vision and such variables. Economic considerations trump all “emotional” arguments. That love is overrated, inconveniencing, and gradually becoming a nuisance is not lost on most African suitors; therefore, the vast majority of prospective brides and grooms have at the top of their minds a simply cost-benefit analysis. They wonder if marriage would be beneficial and wonder also what their prospective partners will bring to the table. And more so in recent years, those who discount economic considerations are now in the minority — their numbers thinning and becoming statistically insignificant.

But of course there are exceptions to this proposition as some marriages are still based on love and affection, family and cultural considerations, and on religious tenets and value.

But to truly grasp what is happening to marriage, one only needs to examine the African community in the United States of America where stories abound of how men go back home to get married to professional women and then come back here only to be used and abandoned by the women. But of course, imported professional husbands are also abandoning their wives.

In the end though, many African marriages are a farce, and an embarrassment to the marriage institution. It has gotten to this state mostly because men and women enter into the union based on false premise, false pretext and bogus promises. The lies and the deceits on both sides, the superficiality of intentions on both sides, and the unkept promises coupled with high expectations have become the bane of African marriages.

Africans, Nigerians especially, prefer nurses and doctors. These groups of professionals are considered cash-cows in the United States. If you live in any of the big cities in the United States, you are likely to hear about or be invited to a welcoming party for newly arrived African wives, who are sometimes 10-18 years younger than their husbands. And every so often, the new arrivals would be men, imported husbands.

Most African women come from systems and traditions were the men are better educated and are at the helm of political and economic power and therefore, in most cases, are the sole economic provider. But once in the US and able to go to college, work and provide for themselves, most of these women will no longer see their husbands as the sole-captain, but only as a co-captain, a co-breadwinner, and a co-equal. This realization changes the way they relate to their husbands.

Consequently, the big cities are replete with African women who are single mothers, or women who are in their second or third marriages, or who are simply providing sexual favors to hungry African men. And then there are groups of single or divorced African women who “move” from one city to another in search of husbands. Most are well read, well traveled and have achieved some measure of financial and career success. Buy then the question for most is “What is success without a husband or a children-filled home?”

Rare is the African man in the US who will marry a woman with children or marry a woman who just went through a messy divorce. So, for all those “homegrown African wives” who thinks they will find another husband once they leave their matrimonial homes, well, they are in for a big shock…a rude awakening! After the shock come the sadness and depression and hopelessness.

As for the men, well, most will feel cheated. They feel used. They feel like failures, and may develop psychological hatred for African women. It is never easy on the men. Never! After several years of sending money to Africa to support these women and having to go through the tedious immigration process and then to now have the women unilaterally declare self-independence, walk out of the marriage and in severe cases, call in the government to intercede, can be injurious to the men’s ego and sense of self. And once the men come out of the aforesaid experience, they tend to marry women of other races. Their view of the African woman is never the same again.

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Matthew Ise June 26, 2007 - 6:02 pm

Absolutely brilliant piece of work. You may have read most Nigerians' minds on this topic. I made a concious effort to get married here in the US after going through the same thought process as you mentioned – been married for twenty years. I thought it was too risky to just go and pick up a wife you hadly new and bring her over and hope for the best. Whether we like to admit it or not, Nigeria is a materialistic society, the car you drive and the size of your house do matter when it comes to your potential wife's expectations. They have this lofty expectations based on what they watch in the movies or from what they see when some Nigerians go home and display their hard earned dollars. These women don't know how long it took the poor guy to save up that much money, and the guys don't help the situation either by not being real with these women. I have seen countless older Nigerians go home to bring much younger women – as you already mentioned – only to loose them to other men that didn't put in the effort and the expense to bring them here. I think the solutions to this situation is for the men to start being realistic with Nigerian women and lowering their expectations before they get here, and women themselves need to stop saying yes to any guy that comes through the door and say I want to marry you. These women see this as an opportunity to escape the poverty back home, even if there is absolutely no attraction to the guy. A twenty year old girl will say yes to a fifty year old man and you don't need a crystal ball to tell you that that union is dead before it even begins – absolutely nothing in common. And, most of these girls pay a hefty price because, more than likely their much older husbands will try and get them pregnant as an insurance that they wouldn'd loose them, which gets them stuck in a loveless and unhappy marriage with probably no good education and independent means to support themselves. Anyway, both sides of the Atlantic need to be more realistic in their expectations.

Reply November 5, 2006 - 3:38 am

Sad but truly reflective of the Nigerian society of today. Could it be that we have been scamming other nationals so long that we have become so good that we now scam each other? Our culture seems to have become so desperate that we are now eating each other alive. Cannibalism that rips apart the very threads of civilized society is no longer left to government officials who deny jobs to other peoples children until after their children are well taken care of.

We must not forget that when one marries an unsuspecting person for that green card or has cousins who are citizens of the appropriate country with different surnames marrying each other just to get the right stay documents, it is a lowering of moral standards and the basis for society destroying confusion.

It was not so long ago that Nigerian women in any type of relationship with foreign men were called whores who were unable to find Nigerian men. It was not so long ago that Nigerian parents did everything to get their daughters away from marriages to "foreigners" not because the marriage was problematic but because it was considered such a shameful act.

Now, I see the reverse occuring. Nigerian parents are actually encouraging their children to seek foreign spouses- not all of them necessarily for the right reasons.

Some parents seek insurance of their child's happiness which they think is no longer posible with a Nigerian spouse; some because they see a possibility of financial security with a spouse who will not cheat heir child…the list goes on.

I do not know that we have ever considered love as the main focus in marriage. It has in my opinion, always been about duty, obligation, expectation etc. Love was always the last thing considered if indeed it was considered.

We. as a people need to redefine our expectations and our mores. Times are changing and we are allowing ourselves to be washed along by the tides. We need to stop. We need to decide what we consider valuable and how we are going to go about achieving it.

Reply November 3, 2006 - 5:21 am

Read your response to Sabella's article and though I live in Nigeria, I don't think we should be hybrid Africans when in Diaspora. Asians that I work with,eg Japanese still remain and maintain their cultural heritage while here. Our interaction with American culture should not make us lose sight of where we come from and those values that hold us together. I think Americans have come to terms with the perils of humanism and hedonism devoid of values…We should be proudly African at heart, yet contemporary in our expression of our Africanness cos Truth will always be the True reality.Those values that sustain the marriage institution and well the same whether it's Victorian,Tibetian or Nigerian.Times may change but the value of African virtue will remain the same,and truly roles may swap when people marry in today's world but marriages are sustained when both the man and woman religiously adhere to their God-given roles respectively,and that was what our Africanness taught us…in the past long before we became Africans-in-Diaspora!

Nnenna November 2, 2006 - 9:39 pm

Oga Sabella! Nice write-up!! So youve been married twice? No wonder you know so much about the whole intricacies of the marriage institution! You have had a lot of practice! LOL!!!!!!

Pity that people with so much knowledge can most time not apply it to themselves; hmm! They say doctors can not treat themselves; so true!!!!..

The real deal to being single or married in America is to be adapting where you can but most importantly staying true to yourself!!!!!

Do not be deluded though even in Naija the marriage institution has changed a great deal from the days of our parents; most NIA men get very disappointed because they allow themselves to be stuck in a time warp expecting women to play the very same roles their mothers played back home; ofcos they are so nostalgic for these, the head back to Naija in search for a wife to try and recapture what the know but boom!!! It hits them in the face and disappointment soon follows

Good one though!!!

Sabella Abidde November 2, 2006 - 11:04 am


I have been there and done that two times over. Institutions are not for me. I dont do well in restrictive environment. I enjoy roaming the wilderness as a free man doing this and that and that and this. You are a married manno be so?

Sylvester Fadal November 1, 2006 - 3:30 pm


So when are you getting married? With all the knowledge on women issue, I think it is time. Please notify me ahead of time so I can get a discount ticket in advance since I am on a budget. Hopefully, after your marriage, we will arrange that of Paul…and that my brother will be a big owambe party.


Godwin Kwushue October 31, 2006 - 10:40 pm

Lady Rosie,

I empathize with you on your disappointment with views expressed by me on the subject matter of Sabellas article, I was brutally frank though, but those views are the truth as I see them and they are well considered, however you disappointment will not discount the element of truth in this matter

How on earth do you expect me to apply my views on trend common among women with hybrid system of thought to men in the same boat? The consequences for both sexes are not the same, head or tale, the male in American setup will always be the immediate loser.

Please note well, that my comment is not borne out of an effort to disparage anybody, it is a product of my sympathy for those I have had the privilege to share their pain. Our men and women crave each others company more than anything yet our sisters keep driving themselves into situations where our men tend to have reservations in making commitments, why should our sisters lack in the midst of plenty, this is most unfortunate to say the least.

I beg no let your anger boil till tomorrow o, I believe say everything go don fizzle out before you wake up

Best regard

Godwin Kwushue

San Diego

Rosie October 31, 2006 - 2:55 pm

Sabella, Well researched and thought out article.

Godwin you said "Most of our women arrived here in America in their twenties but within the twinkling of an eye they have become more American than the Americans in their attitude on issues in a selective and whimsical manner."

Your judgemental feed back feels me with so much anger … no disappointment is much better word. You neglected to say this goes for both men and women. To survive in America, everyone needs a make-over. Everyone goes through a make-over. My make-over was painful and I fought through it all. I wanted to retain my identity, who I was. Psychologically, we are formed by our experiences. Living in America changes you. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst. Don't blame women for dealing with the change and probably failing most of the time. You need to help provide coping mechanisms for men and women to retain part of their cultural identity, yet fit into this America. I am proud of my "Americanized" way of thinking. It did not come easy. And I am not ashamed of it. I am molded by two things: My Nigerian upbringing and my American way of life. F& it! I am done explaining myself.

The end product of this selfish self inflicted partial attitudinal makeover is a woman that comes across more as a bundle of confusion, an individual that is not African or American, she becomes a person that is only adept at applying convenient rules from both cultures to achieve selfish desires in a relationship.

Godwin Kwushue October 30, 2006 - 12:06 pm

Hello Sabella,

You have said it just the way it is, your write up on human angle issues on this site is second to none.

African women seems to have found two resources in abundance in America; namely freedom and affluence, it is their inability to put these two to judicious use that is at the root of their predicament.

Most of our women arrived here in America in their twenties but within the twinkling of an eye they have become more American than the Americans in their attitude on issues in a selective and whimsical manner.

The end product of this selfish self inflicted partial attitudinal makeover is a woman that comes across more as a bundle of confusion, an individual that is not African or American, she becomes a person that is only adept at applying convenient rules from both cultures to achieve selfish desires in a relationship.

Africans in America, men and women need to take a cue from Asians living in America, who would rather remain Chinese, Filipinos, and Indians in all their ways rather than making effort to morph into something they are not and may never be.

Adherence to tradition and culture by Asians living in America is the bedrock of the success of marriage institution in their community.

Once more, I want to say thank you very much to Sabella for the enlightening and informative write up

Godwin Kwushue

San Diego

MrsKenna October 30, 2006 - 9:51 am

Hi Sabella. This was an interesting article. Pretty informative.

Anonymous October 29, 2006 - 9:22 am


Good job as usual.


It is great to read a honest and heart-felt plea for sanity by an African woman to other African women.

sakley October 29, 2006 - 8:31 am

Hey you are reading my mind. I woke up this Sunday morning and this topic was the first thing that popped into my head..I have been thinking about this for a while…i even sat at the edge of my bed lost in thought about the state of African families.That is why i logged on…i almost knew u will something to say..

You are very insightful concerning the state of gender relations in Africa. I really enjoy reading your posts. I hope Afican women come to the realization that our survival as a specie depends on how healthy African marriages are.It is the quality of marriage that determines the quality of individaul morals.The West has been working overtime to sink Africa. Our old way of family organization whereby the man was the provider and the woman the caretaker was what held the society together.

As a young African woman, I am ashamed at the ruthless ambition a lot of College-educated African women in the U.S tend to espouse. You cannot hold a conversation with them without being cut-off. We know too much. And that is what is killing our families. The news in Ghana is that homosexuality is taking hold. Well, no suprise…it is a feature of societies that are headed by single women….and with the feminists poisioning our women back home left, right and center, I don't know if there is any hope for marriage in Africa…

we Africans should examine Western ideologies before we embrace them..And mind you because of our lack of knowledge about how the world works we embrace these house wrecking ideas the tightest.

You are right, single African women here are lonely, depressed and miserable. Our college degrees cannot keep us warm in the winter, make us kaugh, and after a year or two of roughing in the work world, many if not all of us are ready for a man-our wonderful african men–to carry the burdens of managing the finances, providing for the home,buying that house(Ouch!)Please come back and drive the car! I hate pumping gas, accompany us to social events, give us advice,take us to africa for a visit…shovel the snow…Men! We love them but can we say it out loud? No we are too proud. Our meaningless arrogance has become the bane of our existence.

African women are made to believe that they are under opression. Dosen't it amaze you that when White women have an agenda, they pull the whole world into it? How many Yaa Asatewa's do white women have to boast of? African women have been controlling the market place for centuries.From Ghana's Makola market to Nigerian market places to ..wherever in Africa .. it has always been the women wheeling and dealing..come millenium, we are told we are powerless and we believe it! i want my african sisters to understand that After 40 something years of feminism, there isin't a single sector of the American economy (maybe nursing only?)that whitte women control.They don't even control the health care sector…so maybe they were envious of the powerful position African women have always held in Africa…hence the feminist movement?

We African women know how to wield power and take care of the home and make our men feel like kings at the same time. Western women cannot juggle the two..It's either Vicorian era or feminism..that is NOT how our african society has functioned traditionally.I hope we are able tro take back our way of life with both hands. Hopefully it will not be too late.


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