Home & Abroad With Ernest Danjuma Enebi

Ernest Danjuma Enebi, otherwise known as The Danjuma was born and raised in Kaduna, Nigeria and currently resides in New York City in the United States. He studied Mechanical Engineering and Business at Northeastern University, Boston, MA before moving to New York. He started his professional career in the construction industry and then left to establish the brand design and growth hacking company — The Denda Group, where he helps build and grow primarily Africa-focused Start-ups, Non-profits and Small-Medium Sized enterprises, by providing market insights, brand design, and strategy, to shape and inspire authentic, relevant, and differentiated product and service experiences. He is also a writer, culture critic, social activist and is one of the foremost champions of Africa outside the continent so we had him tell us about his travels in Africa and abroad.

Where do you consider home and why?

Hmmm, this is an interesting question. If home is where you pay rent, then New York City is home and the rent is too damn high. But Kaduna is where I was born and raised, so it will always be home. Abuja is where my parents live, so I’ll always have a room in their house (I think), although I don’t feel any personal connection to it. Lagos is where I’ve spent most of my time over the last 15 years and where I feel most comfortable, so it’s my home in Nigeria now. My phone number and my driver’s license tell a different story however; they say I’m from Boston, which is where I went to college and spent my coming-of-age years, so it’s also home in a way.

What’s the furthest you’ve been from home?

I’d say Moscow, Idaho in the United States is probably the furthest I’ve been from home — distance-wise. I went to give a talk at the University of Idaho on the Ebola crisis and the work of our collective — Africa Responds. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia is the furthest I’ve been from home — culturally speaking, because it was the first time I was in a place where I didn’t speak the local language. I went there because I was considering moving there, so I went to explore what it would be like.

Have you experienced culture shock?

Culture shock?! Yes! I mean, anywhere you go outside of your home country, there’s bound to be a bit of culture shock, so i’ve experienced it quite a bit. The culture shock I experienced moving to the United States, I think was the most significant though. Before I moved to the US, I thought I had a solid grasp on American culture, mostly from watching MTV and Hollywood movies. When I got there, it was a completely different story. My accent wasn’t quite as discernible as I thought it would be, my humor was a little bit off and so the out –going, bubbly personality dimmed a bit. I didn’t stay down for too long however, as I adjusted to my new environment and quickly became the nuisance I’d always been. But it taught me a valuable lesson — whenever you’re in a new country or city, take a moment to watch and absorb how the locals interact with their environment and each other, before diving in. It helps ease the effects of culture shock.

Where have you lived apart from your hometown?

I’ve lived in the UK for 6 months — after secondary school, when I was trying to get into college there, but I realized it wasn’t a good fit for me. Cape Town, South Africa for a month — I was working with township entrepreneurs to help build and grow their businesses and the United States for the last 12 years — I went to College in Boston, MA and then moved to New York for work and currently reside there.

What are your 3 travel essentials?

This isn’t traditional but I have to travel with a few shoes so I pack a separate bag for my shoes. My Beats by Dre pill speaker is a must and of course my laptop.

Any packing or travel tips?

Well in the US, the local airlines make you pay extra to check bags in. My cheap ass of course finds this repulsive, so I just carry my suitcase all the way to the plane, wait till most people have boarded and filled up the overhead lockers, then they help you check in your luggage for free.

Where have you visited in Africa and where would you like to explore next?

I’ve visited South Africa, Liberia, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. I would love to visit Somalia and not because I’m adventurous, but because its a place that gets such a bad wrap but has a lot of hidden treasures.

Any advice or suggestions for visitors to Nigeria?

Well make sure you take out cash before you get here, because you’ll get a much better exchange rate at the bureau de change than you will taking out cash from the ATM machine.

What’s your favourite discovery so far, your go-to place to eat, shop or escape to in your city?

I’m sure you’ve heard this over and over again, but some of the best things to do in Nigeria happen outside of Lagos. There’s an amazing castle in Kaduna that everyone absolutely has to visit and stay over at.

And your favourite city in Nigeria?

Oddly enough, I haven’t been to many cities in Nigeria but Lagos is far and away my favorite. The energy, the people, the nightlife, the diversity, the grit, and ultimately the payoff for success.

What are the last couple souvenirs you’ve picked up on your travels?

I bought a catapult from Abuja, a “fake it till you make it” postcard from London, Cuban coffee from Canada because of the 50-year embargo in the US, Cuban products aren’t sold in the US; I always pick up whiskey and coffee from my travels, since I’m a bit of a humble collector.

How does travel inspire you/inform your work?

As someone who drives brands, I am particularly interested in the way ads are created for different countries, cities and cultures. I always pick up elements from my travels to bring a different and unique element to campaigns I work on.

What’s your favourite comfort food? What’s the one thing you look forward to eating when you travel?

Comfort food — I always like to try the local Chinese food, because it’s always different. But anywhere I can get plantains is a winner for me.

Ticket & hotel reservations are a huge part of travelling, how do you handle that?

I’m a serious bargain hunter, and so I always try to get the cheapest rates for flights and hotels. Kayak.com allows me compare flights, hotels and cars to make sure whatever I choose is the best deal. Of course for local flights I use wakanow.com or kuruka.com. But nothing beats talking to folks on the ground to get the best recommendations, so I always check in with people on the ground or people who have been if I’m not familiar with the terrain.

Where did you go on your last trip (and why) and where are you going on your next trip and what are you looking forward to?

My last trip before coming to Lagos was to Toronto, ON in Canada for the NBA All-Star Game and its accompanying festivities. My next adventure is probably Cape Town South Africa for a wedding later in April. South Africa was the first African country I visited outside of Nigeria, so it holds a special place for me, so going back is always nice as I have a few friends there.


Originally published at www.stylevitae.com on March 3, 2016.

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