In my effort to remain connected to things related to Nigeria and Africa, I caught up with Tunde, one of two founders of a new invite-only dating site for Africans, www.bandeka.com. If you're a professional of African descent, this website is perfect for meeting like-minded professionals in your local area or abroad.
Tunde: We have members from different areas of the continent -- from West Africa, South Africa and East Africa. Specifically, we have a bunch of Ethiopians on the site. What's also cool is when you delve deeper, there's a bigger mix with Africans in New York, D.C., and London.
Lande: And are people finding love across the pond?
Tunde: I think it's becoming very local. Meaning that people are finding people close to them in their city and I think that's been helped by the events that we've been having. We've done events in ten cities across the continent and people have been able to come meet someone face to face. If you find someone there that's a new friend or a love interest that's great, but you could also go on the site and find someone as well.
Lande: What made you start this website?
Tunde: I founded the website with my co-founder Yaw who was my classmate in business school. We went on a trip with some business school classmates and everyone kept complaining that the traditional methods of meeting new people just weren't working for them. If they go out to a bar or to a club it might be fun for the night but they are not meeting someone they could date for the long term. These are awesome people too -- great backgrounds, very eloquent, attractive but for whatever reason they could not find someone to date. And we found that amongst Africans it's a bigger problem because you are far from home -- you are in a different city and still want to connect with other Africans but there is nothing bringing you together. We thought, why not have something that can be a platform to connect Africans regardless of location?
Lande: And do you feel the standards of people in the Diaspora are different from the people in Africa? Do you feel that also has an impact on who people choose to date?
Tunde: I'm not sure there's a big difference in standards. I think what we hear is that people want more options. Often times people say either I'm not meeting anyone, or I'm meeting a lot of people but what's missing is great people. In terms of differences between the Diaspora and the continent, because there is so much travel back and forth nowadays, people moving here are going after the same kind of crowd. All they want is to be put in a room with amazing people and increase their options of meeting someone special.
Lande: What's the demographic of a typical member outside of the fact that they're African? Where do they work, what do they do, what are their hobbies?
Tunde: I'm going to give you a cliché answer and say we don't have a typical member, but what I will say is in terms of background most of our members have a college degree from a great college either in the states, UK or back home on the continent. When we first launched we had a lot of members that were consultants, bankers, and a few graduate students. As it grew we started to see diversity, so we have entrepreneurs, people in graduate schools and different professions, which I think is cool.
Lande: Did you hear more complaints from girls or guys or across the board about not being able to find someone?
Tunde: I think in general people have complaints. How they express the complaints is different. We have found that women are more comfortable discussing their issues with finding someone. Men also have the same complaints but they might be a bit shy and afraid to admit it. Often times men would say I have no issue meeting someone but if you ask more questions you'll realize they have issues meeting great people too.
We have a feature that's called Pillow Talk where we discuss topics that are important to both men and women about relationships, and its been fascinating. Everyone is open to discuss certain topics like interracial dating or infidelity. We often get calls and emails from men saying, "Hey, that was an interesting point that I saw on pillow talk."
Lande: So tell me about how these Pillow Talks unfold. What directions do these talks go in, specifically the ones about the interracial dating?
Tunde: We started Pillow Talk because we found that when it comes to relationship questions men and women for whatever reason don't seem to give honest answers to one another face to face. We'd get politically correct answers. So we decided to let people ask a question and have people give anonymous answers. We hoped to provide a forum for discussion, which became pillow talk. On the topic of things like interracial dating for instance, a few things have come up. Some say that more races are approachable than other races or there's nothing against black women or black men but sometimes we just want to try something different. We may start out thinking the discussion may start one way but then things come up that we can all learn from.
Lande: And what about infidelity?
Tunde: That was a very hot topic. The outcome of the conversation was that it can happen in a relationship but the key thing is communication. What seems to happen is people go into relationships with certain expectations and then for whatever reason they're not communicating as frequently. When that communication link breaks down that's when you have problems and those problems can lead to infidelity. We do not endorse infidelity in any way, but I think what it taught us was that it can happen. The key thing is to talk frequently with your partner.
Lande: Well this is more of a personal question. In my family, I've observed that the women play a certain role and the men play a certain role in the household despite both of them having college degrees or careers. Do you feel like the women who are on the website today want a partner that is playing an active role in the household or are they willing to play more of a traditional role?
Tunde: We actually asked that in Pillow Talk, if men and women should have traditional roles and this was one of the most fascinating discussions we've ever had in a long time.
Lande: It is very prominent in African culture across the board.
Tunde: What shocked me was that most of the men said, "Listen, I grew up in a very traditional household and I'm just more comfortable with a man having certain roles and a women having certain roles." But the men also said they are willing to help out as much as possible if they are taught how.
So what that means is if you want help in the house or with cooking they are more than fine with doing that. We cannot deny these issues don't exist but part of it is just talking to your partner and see what is he willing to do.
Lande: So what are your goals for your website, how do you want it to expand?
Tunde: The big goal for us is to be a platform for Africans all around the world to connect with other Africans, be able to make new friendships, find someone to love, or for a business contact.
Lande: What's the process for someone who might not be connected to someone through the site?
Tunde: We are still invite only. If you want to join Bandeka, there are two ways to do it. Email us at www.bandeka.com, just tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you are from, what you do. Or you could get one of your friends to invite you. All members have an opportunity to invite their friends and I think it's cool because it means a couple things -- firstly, everyone on Bandeka has at least one friend. Secondly, our members are picking who is on the site. We're not the ones doing the screening 100 percent. You have a chance to define the community as well.
To learn more about Bandeka or to register, log on to www.bandeka.com. Also look them up on Facebook and follow @BandekaDate on Twitter.
Follow Lande Yoosuf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@LandeYoosuf