When it comes to dating, it is a brave new digital world out there. While I still hear the occasional romantic tale of boy meets girl at some random book fair, night club, church picnic, ice cream festival or meetup, I’m much more likely to hear of such a connection being made by way of an online site or a dating app. According to a 2016 Pew Research Center Study, 80 percent of Americans think a website like OkCupid or an app like Tinder are good ways to meet people while majorities also believe that online dating is simpler, more effective and leads to better matches.

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Amanda Spann, a marketing infopreneur hailing from Chicago, understands all too well the challenges specifically for Blacks in today’s dating scene and thus can understand the desire to use a dating app.

“One common challenge is isolation. Chicago obviously has a high population of Blacks but sometimes you may work in an industry where you may be the only Black person there. The odds of meeting someone are decreased exponentially. You have to do extra work and it’s all about luck,” Spann shared.

And that issue of meeting “the one” if you are Black carries over to dating apps as study after study has found that odds favor White men and Asian women on dating apps. Meanwhile, Black men and women tend to get the lowest response rates. To remedy this situation, dating apps specifically targeting Black populations have come on the scene: Bae, Meld, SoulSwipe and Black People Meet. But there is a new months-old dating app, Afridate, that goes even further in the name of cultivating Black love. Spann also happens to be Afridate’s cofounder and marketing director.

“My partners and I had been talking about creating a dating app for several months, toying around with ideas of exactly what we wanted to accomplish. We got to girl-talking regarding commonalties and challenges in the dating market,” Spann said. “As I chatted with one of my partners, a young lady who is of Nigerian descent, she described the pressures she’s facing from her family to settle down. As an American, I’ve done work on the African continent and dated men of both Caribbean and African descent. Often connections are possible but there’s typically a strong desire to meet someone who shares a common culture. The problem with existing apps targeting Blacks is that those apps treat the Black experience as monolithic when we actually have varying cultural traditions and practices.”

Afridate, therefore, allows its users to search for potential matches based on nationality, cultural preferences and specific location in a Tinder-style platform. For example, an African-American woman living in Raleigh, North Carolina may be interested in dating Trinidadian men in the same area or elsewhere.

“With Afridate, we’ve taken the time to explore cultural norms and preferences across the diaspora in Africa, Europe and the Americas instead of forcing users to pick from everyone. As the African diaspora has broadened and expanded, we’ve also noticed a willingness for Blacks to venture out into various parts of the world and therefore be open to the possibility of long-distance dating. We wanted to start a vehicle that acts as a catalyst for making connections in that way. We’re also LGBT friendly. If you want to meet someone of Ghanaian descent in France, you can.”

Spann went onto expand on the phenomenon of Blacks generally travelling more for both work and leisure but still desiring to find “homegrown” love in otherwise exotic locales. “That desire to meet someone doesn’t dissipate just because we might move to Asia. In fact, Afridate recently had ten new sign ups in China which speaks to the necessity for tools like this to help Blacks connect with someone who ‘gets them’ whether they are a Bahamian living in Thailand or a Jamaican living in Canada.”

Though the app allows users to search by such specific cultural and ethnic preferences, in no way does the dating tool require users to know exactly what kind of match they desire up front.

Spann explained, “We wanted to create a tool that at its core promotes Black love and Black unity. Yes, we want to help others find a partner they desire who accommodates preferred customs and traditions but we also realize that sometimes you don’t know what you’re looking for. Sometimes you may think that you want an American man from the South who is an engineer and stands at 6’4” but you may just find the perfect match who doesn’t fit any of that description at all. Afridate gives everyone an opportunity to search first for their preferences and then introduce great potential fits for them as well.”

Anyone wishing to give Afridate a try, can go to the website and download the app which is available for both Apple and Android users. However, once the app is downloaded, any right or left swiping is not likely to happen immediately. Users will notice that they are initially placed on a waitlist and that is for good reason.

“We have a waitlist because we want to avoid that age old ‘chicken or the egg’ problem. We’ve found with other apps that users may sign up only to find no one with whom to match, so they delete the platform and don’t return. We want to avoid having any user be without any potential matches to meet. Instead, we want to allow a fair shot for enough attention, followers and momentum to unlock possibilities in each market. Once we have enough people in a given market, we’ll open the market. We don’t want anyone to wait for years; we desire to have everyone off of the waitlist within a couple of weeks at the most.”

Spann therefore urges prospective users to have patience with the new tool and expect to benefit from features designed to enhance and support each of their experiences.

“We are interested in promoting safe, healthy, positive Black relationship dating practices—not a ‘hook up’ culture. We want to promote love which is why the home page on our website features a real couple who is actually in love. We plan to deliver an entire suite of features including precautionary measures to report, block and delete because our primary interest is a safe space for Black love in which our users gain the kind of responsiveness and feeling of empowerment they seek in a dating app.”

Since Afridate is based in Washington DC and Chicago, those markets are anticipated to unlock first with many more markets both nationally and internationally slated to come online soon targeting the Black community and the African diaspora at large. Spann and her partners are both excited and hopeful about the platform they are cultivating to add a new dimension to the possibility of Blacks worldwide finding and achieving real, heartfelt connections.

“We hear so many stories about Black women being the least desirable. But I find that when I talk to Black men, I hear so much about their love and appreciation for Black women. A lot of times, they can’t articulate in ways we understand and much gets lost in translation. With the Afridate app, each of us, no matter how we choose to love, can show our appreciation simply by showing up.

It is great affirmation to see that the Black users on Afridate are people who are specifically here for me, you, us. It means a great deal to say that, as a Black man or woman, I showed up specifically for you because I view you as an ideal mate. That’s truly empowering and liberating. I hope that people feel reaffirmed in the fact that Black loves exists and can be healthy and happy.”

What do you think about Afridate and its ability to connect users based on nationality? Share in the comments.

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Nikki Igbo is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and political junkie. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Political Science from California State University at Fullerton and a Masters in Fine Arts of Writing at Savannah College of Art and Design. When not staring in disbelief at the antics unfolding on CSPAN, she enjoys philosophical arguments with her husband, 70’s era music and any excuse to craft with glitter. Feel free to check out her freelance services at nikigbo.com and stalk her on twitter @nikigbo or Instagram at @nikigbo.

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