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Oburoni (or Obroni) is the Akan (or more specifically, the Twi language) word for foreigner, literally meaning "those who come from over the horizon."[1] It is often colloquially translated into "white person."[2]

West Africa does not have an equivalent of the ubiquitous "mzungu", used throughout Eastern and Southern Africa, and even within Ghana, "oburoni" predominates because it is common to the predominant local languages, those of Akan family, primarily Ashanti Twi, Akuapem Twi and Fante. Other Akan languages employ variants on "oburoni": For example, Western Ghana, uses the term "Brofo" or "Brofwe".[3]


"Oburoni" is not a direct translation of "white." For most Ghanaians, an oburoni refers to any person with lighter skin or straighter hair than a dark skinned Ghanaian. Asian, Middle Eastern, and African American people are all classified as oburoni.[2] Americans of Ghanaian descent are still considered oburoni because they come from abroad. Oburoni are considered an amusing sight, especially in rural areas, where children might follow around a foreigner, chanting the word.[4] The term is not derogatory, but a way to identify someone who is not a native-born Ghanaian, or an "obibini."

Oburoni has a few uncommon modifiers in colloquial Akan. "Oburoni pete," meaning "vulture foreigner" refers to foreigners from Asian, North African, or Middle Eastern countries. "Oburoni fitaa," meaning "pure foreigner" refers to white foreigners, especially those from Britain or America. "Obibini-oburoni," meaning "black -foreigner" refers to a black person or an African. Though these modifiers are infrequently used, they point to how views of different races are written into the Akan language.[4]


The word "oburoni" derives from the word "buro" which means "from beyond the horizon," and "ni" which means "person". The plural form of "oburoni" is "aburofoɔ" ("foɔ" is the plural form of "ni") which is often used to refer to the English language or English people.[citation needed]

There is another common theory that "Oburoni" is derived from the similarly sounding phrase "Aburo foɔ", which means trickster, "one who frustrates" or "one who cannot be trusted."


In Central and West Africa the name for a person of European descent is Toubab.

Initially among the Yoruba, and subsequently in casual speech in a number of other languages in Nigeria, the word used for a "white" person is Oyibo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Holsey, Bayo (2008-06-01). Routes of Remembrance: Refashioning the Slave Trade in Ghana. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226349756.
  2. ^ a b "Languages and Cultures in Contrast and Comparison". Books.google.co.uk. 2008-06-26. p. 187. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  3. ^ "The Akan Diaspora in the Americas - City University of New Kwasi Konadu Assistant Professor of History Center for Ethnic Studies". Books.google.co.uk. 2010-04-14. p. 237. Retrieved 2016-03-01.
  4. ^ a b Ann Reed (2014-08-27). "Pilgrimage Tourism of Diaspora Africans to Ghana". Books.google.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-03-01.