African American In Africa: My Move To Côte d’Ivoire
Meet Assanouan G’bado (formerly Kelvin Green), an African American who moved from America to Côte d’Ivoire less than a year ago! He's sharing with us why he relocated, his business model for Côte d’Ivoire, and how he's adjusted Ivorian life so far.
WhY DID YOU DECIDE TO LEAVE THE U.S.?
As far as I can remember, I’ve always been curious about Africa. In fact, when I was stationed in Germany, I passed on an opportunity to visit the continent. Thirty eight years later, in 2015, I wasn’t going to miss another opportunity to visit Africa.
I volunteer for a non-profit organization called Back To Kama. Briefly, we share positive information and opportunities online for people of African descent to consider relocating their business to Africa. It’s with Back To Kama that I began to re-educate myself about our history. So when the chance came up to visit Africa, I did everything I could to be able to go. Thanks to a few credit cards, I was able to make the trip.
I had the pleasure of visiting Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire. Africa felt more like home to me than the U.S. I knew that one day I would return for good.
WHY did you CHOOSE TO MOVE TO Côte d'Ivoire specifically?
It’s here in Côte d’Ivoire where my Ebrié family welcomed me as family and re-named me. They are an Akan people who I initially met on my first visit to Côte d’Ivoire in 2015. I actually recorded my first experiences meeting them on video.
I am so impressed by how much of their ÉBrié (Tchaman) language and culture has been preserved after colonialism. And, through my connection with them, I have a wonderful opportunity to learn a second language. I also share the beauty of Côte d’Ivoire on social media. Finally, by living here there’s also an opportunity for me to help the less fortunate, as there people without homes and living in "shanty" areas.
What steps did you take to make this move happen?
I’m a member of the Raelian Religion and there’s lots of Raelian sisters and brothers in Côte d’Ivoire. So, I researched online and communicated with several Raelians that live in Côte d’Ivoire about the basic cost of living there.
I made sure that my pension and medical insurance wouldn’t be interrupted by my move.
I made plans to have a temporary place to stay.
I applied for a visa. My immunization record was still up to date from my last visit to Africa, so I didn't need any new shots.
My Raelian brothers and sisters arranged for people to meet me at the airport in Côte d’Ivoire.
I tried to make sure that I could continue to pay my creditors from my iPhone. With the help of my sister and niece, that too has been solved.
I booked a flight to include a stop to see my family and friends in New Jersey before departing the USA.
Just before boarding the flight, I was approached by a U.S. Marshall requesting that I sign a promise to return form, which I did. However, I don’t have any intentions on visiting the USA anytime soon.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Raelian religion?
There’s a great community of Ivorian Raelians in Côte d’Ivoire. Briefly, at the heart of our philosophy is both love and science. It’s an understanding and not a belief. I would encourage one to visit rael.org to learn more.
Religion has always been important to me. However, I left Christianity because I had questions that were never answered to my satisfaction. Like an incomplete puzzle if you will. When I read “Intelligent Design” all of my questions and much more were sufficiently answered. It was like having been given the pieces to a puzzle. Now, almost fifteen years later; I love being Raelian.
You recently legally changed your name to Assanouan G’bado. How did you choose that name? what was the reasoning for the change?
The chieftain of my Ebrié family in Abidjan gave me the name Assanouan. So, I changed my name out of honor and respect for my Ebrié family here. I’ve learned that I was named after a family member. It’s interesting how my family here honors my name change. Here in Cocody, I’m known solely as Assanouan.
On Professional Life and Business Opportunity
how did you fund your move to Côte d'Ivoire?
After researching the cost of living in Côte d’Ivoire, I learned it was even more affordable than Arizona. As a result, the sale of my car was all that I used to relocate. And actually, it was living on a pension in the U.S. that was not easy. When I retired in 2012, I moved from New Jersey to Arizona simply because of the cost of living.
On your Youtube channel, you mention THAT YOU'RE starting a SELF SUSTAINABLE HOME "Earthship" business. what are Earthships and why did you choose that business model for Côte d'Ivoire?
During my 2015 trip to Africa, I noticed buildings which resembled Old Europe, quite similar to many buildings in the U.S. However, there are few flaws in the basic design of these buildings:
- The electricity used often comes from fossil fuel or nuclear technology. Both are harmful to our planet.
- We flush our toilets with drinking water! Nuff said there.
- The waste is dumped into large bodies of water, which in turn pollutes the environment.
- Finally, the average house is but a box without the assistance of "life support" from local utility companies.
Mike Reynolds, the inventor of the Earthships accurately says, "each Earthship is like a little rain forest." They are self-sustainable homes which get their power from the sun or solar energy. Each Earthship is designed to capture rain, filter it, and use the water at least four times before returning it back to nature where it can benefit the environment. The toilets in an Earthship flush with “gray water” (water that has been used).
Earthships can enhance the quality of life to so many people here in Côte d’Ivoire. I would like to show and teach anyone who is interested in learning how to build and use this technology and start their own Earthship business. My first Earthship here will be for a fishing business at the Attoutou Village. I hope to showcase the technology to spring board a small business building Earthships.
are THERE many BUSINESS opportunities in Côte d'Ivoire?
Yes! Côte d’Ivoire is wide open for business. However, I feel that the French language would be challenging if you're not fluent. I’m getting better with French everyday. From time to time, I’ll run into someone who speaks English.
I would also recommend that people read 101 Ways To Make Money In Africa before deciding to expand or relocate their business to Côte d’Ivoire.
Do you plan on GETTING a "REgular job" in Côte d'Ivoire?
Other than volunteering for the Raelian Religion, Back To Kama, and establishing my Earthship business, no.
WHAT WAS YOUR IMMIGRATION PROCESS LIKE?
I used a visa services company named VisaHQ and they suggested a tourist visa for me because of my timing. They listened to my requests and delivered a visa, and their service was of a higher standard than I had anticipated. My visa is up this October. It allows me to come and go as I please. I’m going to apply for an extension in October.
It would be better to plan at least six months to a year ahead for the visa application process. A word of advice: do your own research and communicate clearly with whatever visa or immigration service you decide to use.
On Everyday Life
How are you adjusting into local life?
I’m having lots of fun riding my “halfbike”, making new friends, studying French, and going to the market to practice my French.
You live in Cocody, Côte d'Ivoire. WHAT'S COCODY LIKE?
I don’t want to drive here, that’s for sure. There’s plenty of taxi drivers and public transportation. It’s also very cost effective not to pay for the many expenses that come with owning a car.
Cocody is quiet and peaceful. I love the fact that there are no guns here. The nature is beautiful and Ivorians are generally very friendly and eager to assist others. However, I have been told that there are some tough neighborhoods to avoid. Finally, there are walls over ten feel tall around some properties here which suggests a history riddled with conflict.
What’s everyday life LIKE for you in Cote D’Ivoire?
Everyday life is basically morning meditation, working out, studying French, trying to get the approval for building my first Earthship, and last but certainly not least, communicating with my beautiful fiancé, Marina, who I met here in Cocody. She’s Ivorian.
The U.S. State Department warns expats to exercise extreme caution due to issues of crime and terrorism in Côte d’Ivoire. How does this warning match up to your experience there? How safe do you feel?
I’m used to the fear tactics used by current governments. It’s a shameful tool used to control people. I’ve been here going on seven months now and I don’t think that I’ve heard four police sirens. I feel more safe here than in the USA. It’s no secret how Black people are being killed by some police there.
What are the best parts of living in Cote D’Ivoire?
I feel that I’m healing from the stress of the U.S.—and that feels really good. I also love the culture that has been kept and practiced from pre-colonial times.
What are the most challenging aspects of living there so far?
By far the French language, but I’m consistently making progress. Cool and cold showers are also challenging!
How have you been welcomed as an African American expat?
I’ve been welcomed here as family.
Can you share a few details on the cost of living in your community?
I currently live in a villa, which is similar to renting a room. However, everyone has their own bathroom and the kitchen is shared. It rents for 180,000 CFA ($325) a month. It includes electricity and one meal a day. I average about $12 to $15 a week on food that I personally purchase. I’m saving up to rent a two bedroom apartment in September.
I’m still trying to figure out how I’m being charged for the internet service. I guess $50 to $70 would be a close estimate of how much I pay per month.
Would you encourage an African American or other diasporan to consider moving to Côte d'Ivoire? Why or why not?
Yes! As a matter of fact, my youngest daughter and her family are thinking about relocating here. Côte d’Ivoire is a beautiful country and if one is ready for a change, I highly recommend it. Just in my neighborhood there are banana, avocado, mango and moringa trees. The beaches are free to enjoy and the nature is something to behold. If you can learn French, the sky’s the limit here in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa.
Connect with Assanouan online:
Facebook: Assanouan G’bado
Youtube: Kelvin Green