With one in five relationships now beginning online, Mary Fashoyin speaks to a London entrepreneur who’s given internet dating an old-fashioned twist.
Dating in the modern world can be a minefield.
With the popularity of online apps such as Tinder, Hinge and Bumble dictating how people choose a potential partner (swipe right for ‘yes’, left for ‘no’) it can be difficult for love to find people who they share more than just a mutual attraction with.
One out of every five relationships began online in 2021, according to Infogram.com.
An estimated 270 million adults used dating apps worldwide, double the number from five years ago.
By 2024, the global dating app market size is expected to exceed $8.4 billion.
Even lockdowns and social distancing laws couldn’t stop the search for love.
In March 2020, Tinder recorded its highest number of swipes on a single day – three billion – according to Fortune.com.
The isolation of lockdowns encouraged single people to re-evaluate their lives and stop putting their careers first, explained Mandy Mee, a British dating expert and owner of the MME Agency.
‘We’ve received a number of applications from singletons between the ages of 30 to 42 who have realised how much their careers have been a distraction and taken most of their time,’ said Mee, whose staff pair would-be couples in much the same way a traditional matchmaker might.
‘People get to a certain age and become more aware of the need to start a family. Men don’t want to do school runs in their late 40s or 50s and women are mindful of their biological clock.’
With matchmakers everywhere from Spain and the US to Ghana and Nigeria, Mee's agency caters to people looking for committed relationships rather than random hook-ups.
It may be less cut-throat than Tinder, but it can also prove daunting to newcomers to online dating.
As Mee explained: ‘Traditional dating has transitioned over the years. The consensus is that traditional dating involves gender roles where men are leaders, providers and protectors, and women are nurturers. We have to understand times have changed. More women are career driven, independent and self-sufficient. Some may not want to take on the role as housewives due to their determination to succeed in their career.’
While dating is different in each country and among each tribe in Africa, there is one thing that most of African dating culture have in common: the end goal is marriage.
With apps and social media taking over dating in the Western world, how has dating changed Africa? Mee believes dating in the African community has modernised in recent years.
‘In the old days matchmaking was quite prevalent and arranged marriage was the norm. Parents would introduce their children to prospects within their social class. Now, it’s so easy to meet people with the likes of social media and dating apps…The few things I think remain in African culture are the procedures involved with meeting the parents and the cultural values that are upheld such as bride price, dowry and traditional weddings.’
Africa as a continent also has a long way to go in fully accepting the LGBTQ community, who form a not-unsubstantial percentage of Mee’s clients.
Only 22 countries have legalised same-sex relationships.
Countries such as Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana imprison members of the LGBTQ community for up to a five-years.
These laws make it impossible for a large number of Africans to be open about their sexuality.
‘Africans are becoming more open with their sexuality and relationship preferences,’ said Mee.
‘From homosexuality, gender fluidity and non-binary to ethical non-monogamy, polyamory and polyandry relationships are on the rise in public.’