From today’s Washington Post:
KISUMU, Kenya — With the U.S. economy in turmoil, his job as a truck driver no longer secure and his upwardly mobile life in the Dallas suburbs in jeopardy, James Odhiambo decided it was time for a change.
He wanted a healthier lifestyle for his family, less anxiety, fewer 14-hour days. So he recently traded his deluxe apartment, the pickup truck, the dishwasher and $4.99 McDonald’s combos for life in a place he considers relatively better: sub-Saharan Africa.
“Right now I’m no stress, no anxiety,” said Odhiambo, 34, relaxing in his family home in this western Kenyan city along the shores of Lake Victoria. “Think of it this way: When I was in the U.S., I was close to 300 pounds. Now, I’m like 200. The biggest thing for me was quality of life.”
While that may seem counterintuitive to Americans accustomed to bleaker images of Africa, recent studies have documented the flight of immigrant professionals from the United States to their home countries. Chinese and Indian workers increasingly say they see better opportunities and lifestyles at home. And diaspora associations of Nigerians, Ghanaians, Kenyans and other Africans say their members — mostly from middle-class backgrounds — are joining the exodus, choosing life in the land of slow Internet connections and power outages over the pressures of recession-era America.
“I personally know many people who are going back,” said Erastus Mong’are, who works as a program manager for an insurance company in Delaware and heads an association of Kenyans living there. “The people I know here work two or three jobs just to make ends meet, while in Kenya — despite its problems — people seem more happy. They seem to be getting more time with family. More relaxed. Here, if my neighbor sees I’ve parked in his spot, he becomes so upset.”