Picture this: Carrie, Charlotte, Miranda and Samantha chatting and dining in a swanky New York bistro. They’re discussing careers, relationships and sex — recurring motifs that made “Sex and the City” so iconic.
Now, let’s take these lovely women and put them in bustling Ghana. Their skin is brown, and their Prada ensembles are replaced with trademarks of African fashion. Their names become Nana, Sade, Makena, Zainab and Ngozi.
Goodbye, Manhattan. Hello, Accra. This is “An African City.”
A popular Web series that earned 1 million views within weeks of its debut, “An African City” details the lives of five young, highly educated African millennial women navigating their way to success, entrepreneurship and romance in modern Accra. The first episode hit the Web in 2014; the series’s second season is now available online, and scripts are currently being written for a third season, the show’s creator and writer, Nicole Amarteifio, says.
But will “An African City” maintain its appreciation for the African diaspora? Will it tell an accurate story of what it’s like to be a young, millennial Ghanaian woman in a developing nation? Amarteifio addresses these questions and more.
Why did you create “An African City”? What was the driving force behind it?
I wanted to change people’s perceptions of the continent of Africa. … I was born in Accra, Ghana, and raised in New York, and it seemed like everything on television about the continent was negative. I had amazing Ghanaian and Nigerian women in my life. The visibility of these women weren’t being highlighted in Western media, and I wanted them to be.
Besides “Sex and the City,” where else did you get inspiration?
Shows like “Real Housewives” are my guilty pleasure! But they also encourage me to do this work. I want the characters of “An African City” to show an alternate visual of female friendships. No fighting. No throwing. No punching. Instead, a sisterhood reinforcing a loving togetherness. Additionally, sitcoms like “Being Mary Jane” inspire me to try and incorporate real-world issues to the show.
Speaking of real-world issues, in the episode “Sexual Real Estate,” Nana Yaa is hesitant when a real estate agent tells her a condo she likes may not always have electricity, even though the price is comparable to that of a Western luxury property. Is this accurate in Accra?
That can be life in Accra! You buy or rent a luxury property, yet the sustainable availability of water or electricity is not a guarantee. The costs of some of these properties are only affordable to foreigners or expats, pushing out the average Ghanaian. It’s a problem.
How did you come up with the characters?
Well, the story line is inspired by “Sex and the City.” I started to wonder what Carrie Bradshaw would look like if she were Ghanaian. How would she act? What would the story line be? And that’s how the characters were born. The first actress to walk into the audition was MaameYaa Boafo, who plays Nana Yaa, the lead character. She immediately embodied what Nana Yaa is: stunning, intelligent, Ghanaian American. She was it. And it was the same story with the other leading ladies. They were “it” right away.
Is “An African City” popular in other parts of Africa? The world?
Oh, yes! Outside of Ghana, our top viewership is from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Senegal. Online, most of our viewership comes from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and France. We assume that viewership is from the African diaspora — first- or second-generation African immigrants. We have also received emails and tweets from South Korea, Australia, India and Pakistan!
Why did you want the women in “An African City” to have been educated in elite Western universities and colleges?
In the United States, the most educated immigrant group is African. Fact. So, for me, the five lead characters being educated in Ivy League schools should not be such a surprise. And if it is, one should ask him or herself why. “An African City” is here to disrupt the stereotypes — highlight another reality, another truth.
How will “An African City” change Western viewers’ perceptions of Ghana being poor? Will the show bring an accurate picture of how young Ghanaians live?
I believe the world has taught many African Americans to not be proud of their roots, yet when African Americans watch the show, they tell me how proud they are. Some have even visited or moved to Ghana because of the show. When I hear that, I think to myself: Mission accomplished.
What’s one thing you can tell Westerners about young, single professional women in Ghana?
I think the story of the single woman is the same everywhere. It’s tough and comes with a lot of heartbreak, disturbing surprises, and battles of self-love and respect. And that’s the whole purpose of the show. It’s a universal story about being a single woman, African or not.