East vs. West

Lisa in the office of our partner in Zanzibar (ZANGOC). Lisa was an Ambassador in Ghana before becoming an IYIP in Tanzania. She is currently in Ghana as an Innovator.

In 2010, I travel to West Africa for the first time to work with YCI in Ghana. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be chosen by YCI to work for 7 months in Zanzibar, Tanzania and spent some time in Kenya. Having spent time on both sides of the continent I feel it is time for a comparison list; East vs. West.

1.     YCI East vs. West:

In Ghana YCI works with the YMCA in Takoradi and Koforidua where YCI Volunteers facilitate capacity building workshops to the students of the YMCA Vocational school in Takoradi and YCI/YMCA Mentors in Koforidua. YCI programming looks different in Tanzania as we work with different partners in all three cities (Zanzibar, Morogoro and Arusha). While the partners are different, the main goal of YCI programming remains the same; to improve youth livelihoods.

2.     Food East vs. West:

Food in Ghana is very different than in Kenya and Tanzania; East Africans tend to not like spicy food whereas in Ghana shito (hot sauce) is everywhere, in everything and is very delicious! I found food in East Africa to be dull.  For instance, rice and beans in Tanzania is simply plain rice with a small side of beans, whereas in Ghana rice and beans is called “waakye” and is a spicy mix of rice, beans, sauce and hot sauce.

3.     Migration East vs. West:

In West Africa people tend to move around a lot from country to country. I think this is due to the fact countries are smaller and closer together andECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which allows West Africans to work in a surrounding country for up to 3 months at a time. I feel Kenyan’s and Tanzanian’s have a very rich sense of pride for their countries because even the wealthy East African’s I have met do not enjoy traveling.

4.     Swahili vs. Twi:

In Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania the official government language is English. However, in East Africa, especially in Tanzania, most people speak Swahili over English. In Tanzania, children are taught in Swahili until they reach secondary school and taught English as a second language (comparable to how Canadian are taught French as a second language). Whereas in Ghana and Kenya, all levels of schooling are taught in English.

5.     Muzungu vs. Obruni:

Everywhere you go on the African continent there is a local word for “foreigner”, or quite literally, “white person.” In Tanzania this word was “Muzungu” and in Ghana this word is “Obruni.” I think I heard muzugnu more frequently in Zanzibar because it was a very touristy place and there was a constant stream of foreigners coming and going.

6.     Handshakes vs. Greetings:

In both West and East African culture, greetings are a huge part of cultural norms; you would never walk into your office in Africa without personally greeting everyone who is there. With Swahili greetings in Tanzania, there are so many different phrases you can say to greet someone and in Ghana you never greet someone without an accompanying handshake with a snap at the end!

7.     Public Transportation East vs. West:

My last comparison is an easy one; in East and Southern Africa, people drive on the left side of the road (like the UK) and in Ghana people drive on the right side of the road (like North America). Everywhere I have been in Africa mini buses are used as public transportation and in every country there is a different word to describe these buses. In Kenya they are called “matatu’s” in Tanzania they are called “daladala’s” and in Ghana they are called “trotro’s”

-Lisa D’Alimonte, Youth Innovator, Ghana 2012


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