Africa! The second largest continent on the planet. More than 1 billion people call it home. Oh, and let’s not forget it is the cradle of mankind. Despite it’s obvious cultural and historical significance to all of humanity, Africa is greatly misunderstood and misjudged. It is commonplace to think of Africa as “the dark continent” but upon a closer look it’s brilliance may yet surprise many. Here are 8 myths and misconceptions about Africa.
1. AFRICA IS A COUNTRY
In 2001, G.W Bush infamously stated, “Africa is a nation that suffers from terrible disease.” While it is a long time since the turn of the century, this ignorant statement served to misinform a lot of people for years.
Africa is comprised of 54 independent countries. That is to say, of the almost 200 countries in the world a quarter of them are in Africa.
2. THE DARK CONTINENT
A commonplace misconception about Africa is that it is not innovative or adoptive of modern day technology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Africa has an 80% mobile penetration rate and an internet penetration rate of 53%. Worth noting is that these figures are only going to go up in the coming years. As for innovation, the East African country of Kenya prides itself on one of the world’s most well laid out mobile banking platforms in Mpesa. Mpesa serves to make money transfer as seamless as possible and has opened up rural areas and economically empowered locals. This is a just a tip of the iceberg and a case study that proves Africa’s innovative ability.
3. AFRICA IS A POOR COUNTRY
It is an unfortunate fact that many Africans struggle with devastating poverty. However, it is an unfair verdict to generalize all of Africa as poor. In fact, what may be called poverty can also be diagnosed as a severe case of poor wealth distribution. In 2017, Africa had 25 billionaires with Aliko Dangote of Nigeria leading the way. It is typical in Africa for most of the wealth to be in the hands of the minority while the majority are left to wallow in poverty.
Also, countries like South Africa can be considered really wealthy. The World Bank’s list of nominal GDPs placed South Africa at number 33 globally beating developed countries like New Zealand and Singapore.
Further still, Africa is blessed with rich natural resources such as oil and minerals such as industrial diamond producing 46% of the world’s diamond.
4. AFRICA IS A DISEASE-RIDDEN CONTINENT
Diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS are almost synonymous with Africa. While these diseases among others have led to millions of deaths over the years, little is said about the progress Africa has made to combat these and other pandemics. Immunisation has almost completely eradicated measles and polio and malaria is easily treatable.
A blow to Africa’s health services is the bad reputation of public hospitals in many countries. Public hospitals can sometimes be understaffed and lack cutting-edge equipment to combat diseases. On the other hand, most private hospitals in Africa offer world-class medical services that can rival those in developed countries.
5. AFRICA IS A DANGEROUS AND VIOLENT PLACE
Africa’s civil conflicts are well known. Rwanda’s genocide and the civil wars in the Central African Republic and Somalia are examples of such conflicts. However, for the most part, Africa is a safe place to visit and even live. Most countries in Africa now have stable governments and one would probably not encounter any more than common crimes that would happen anywhere else in the world. In other words, Africa is not an active war zone.
6. ALL AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS ARE CORRUPT.
Corruption is a scourge in Africa and is probably single-handedly responsible for a lot of bad things in the continent. While some bad things about Africa cannot be ignored, neither can the good ones. There are many selfless Africans in positions to serve others that do exactly that and no one better embodied that than the late Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela and Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf are Nobel Peace Prize laureates for their selfless acts throughout their lives. Countries like Botswana and Rwanda are commended for their low levels of corruption even ranking better than some first-world countries in that regard.
7. WILD ANIMALS ROAM THE STREETS OF AFRICA
This is an almost laughable misconception. Africa is world famous for its exotic wildlife and some of it is quite dangerous. The Big Five, for example, are a major tourist attraction but are also some of Africa’s deadliest wild animals and are even responsible for human deaths. That being the case, it is worth noting that most of the wildlife is enclosed in wildlife conservancies and parks and pose little threat to people. In fact, wildlife in Africa is an attraction and not a threat.
8. IT IS ALWAYS HOT IN AFRICA
Well, with the Sahara desert occupying almost a third of the continent it is easy to see why one would mistakenly assume Africa is one big hot desert. The truth is that Africa’s climate is much more diverse than that. Countries like Morocco and South Africa experience snowing so much so that Morocco snows enough to support a ski resort at Oukaimeden near Marrakech. Also, temperatures drop to below freezing point in the deserts at night. That being said, Africa’s warm weather is ideal for vacations, especially on its beautiful beaches.