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7 Common Misconceptions About Africa

Have you ever questioned what you or others know about Africa?  Chances are, you buy into at least one stereotype of this hauntingly beautiful but misunderstood continent.

1. We all live in huts

Johannesburg_Sunrise,_City_of_Gold by dylan harbour 2008

This is a variation of the question that gets asked more often than you think. People who have never visited our decidedly un-mud-hutted cities frequently ask this.  Fueled by a visual diet of the rolling plains of the Savannah, it can become hard to believe that this massive continent is home to some of the world’s fastest growing cities. Granted, in rural districts mud huts are a common form of housing, but rapid economic growth has led to migration towards thronging urban cities. Yes, that means cities, with brick houses, electricity, internet and running water.

 2. ‘African’ is a language all on ts own

512px-Languages_of_Africa_map.svg

“Do you speak American?” is usually the good-humored retort to the question of whether or not I “speak African.”. Sure, there are plenty of languages that spill over national boundaries, but African is just not one of the approximately 2,000 languages spoken. Colonisation of the continent has led to the adoption of English, French, German and Portuguese as well.

3. Everyone owns a pet antelope/lion/ Savannah-dwelling animal

The carefully cultivated perception of Africa as a safari haven has irreparable implications on common sense. Your average Mulenga will answer, “ Yes, I have a pet lion, I ride it to the office everyday, except when I don’t get parking – then I take the gazelle…”  Sure, you may find a stray chicken and some cattle wandering around in villages on the outskirts of the cities, but our city centers are big game free. Any animal that you would not be inclined to pet is found in a controlled game area. If you do happen to find yourself face to face with a lion though, here’s what you should do.

4. Africa is lacking in advanced technology

MTN_Mobile_south_africa_shop

According to CNN, Africa “has become the world’s second most connected region by mobile subscriptions.” The continent has seen sky rocketing rates in the number of mobile phone owners, as there are more than 754 million connections in Africa. And Tunisia has 10.8 million more phone subscriptions than people. It is true that internet access is somewhat limited to urban and industrial aggregations, but as of 2015, a total of 297 million people have access. That number is growing thanks to initiatives such as Facebook’s to increase access to 5 billion more people.

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Renewable energy is also a focus for a lot of Africa countries. Hydroelectric power and solar panels are used as alternative solutions to energy problems. Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, and South Africa have aimed to obtain 20%, 10%, 75%, and 13% of their electricity by 2020 through renewable sources.

5. Everyone’s nationality is African

passports-of-Africa

Africa is a continent. There are 54 countries spread across this vast land mass. There can be significant cultural differences between countries that result in a multitude of different beliefs, practices and lifestyles. A well known example is South Africa, dubbed the “ rainbow nation.” It is a melting pot of different ethnicities that shows just how diverse one country can be, to say nothing of the whole continent.

6. You must be darker-skinned to be African

This is usually announced with the air of one gifted with extraordinary powers of perception. This stereotype is just not true. There is a shocking array of diversity interspersed all over the continent. Every skin pigment known to man is present. Immigrants from other continents arrived generations ago and their descendants have settled in Africa ever since.

7. Africa is always at war and plagued by poverty

ETHNIC_ZAMBIA_EDITED

Contrary to popular belief, not all African countries have descended into political and economic turmoil. Zambia, for example, is a shining example of a country that has maintained peace and has seen a peaceful handover of power from each of the country’s six presidents since its independence in 1964. It has 70+ different ethnic groups and has never had any civil war or serious tumult.

Corruption is not rampant all over the continent either. Botswana is number 31 on the Corruption Perception Index, indicating that corruption is minimal. Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana are economic powerhouses that have registered increasing growth in recent years as well as a rising middle class.

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