The map of Africa (credit: Google images).
My Africa is nothing like your Africa…
I haven’t been caught up in a ‘fit of braggadocio’..no, rather I’m increasingly made aware of the fact that we may be positioned at different angles peering at the same continent, albeit through rose-tinted prisms. I often have face-palm moments when I encounter a flurry of myopic assumptions about my continent.
So, if I may, let me indulge you a little in this snapshot of rarely seen views of My Africa.
Unbeknownst to a huge chunk of the developed world; Africa is not all mud huts, dusty paths, garbage mounds and pitch black darkness; it may look like a superficial veneer but we have skyscrapers, roads, lights, electricity, harbours and airports in Africa.
When I think of My Africa, it’s mostly nostalgic thoughts; of home, savoury meals, the warm communal feel of camaraderie among family and friends. I’m thinking hospitality, opportunity, resilience, hope and progress. I’m thinking unmatched beauty and nature.
When the world thinks of Africa; they think poverty, disease, famine, war, half-naked children running around. Yet that, dear world.. is not the sum total of who
or what Africa
is. It could be what the western media continues
to shove down the throats of it’s populace; an incomplete analysis, factual errors for the most part and colossal stereotyping of all things to do with Africa.
Wedding party in Mogadishu, Somalia.
1) Africa is not a country:
When you mention Africa it would be good to do so with details; maps and spreadsheets may do justice. As second largest in the world, our continent..is massive. It would be wrong to just gloss over it. There are regions, climates and a topography as varied and diverse as the next place. The North is so different from the South; the East is not the same as the West. There are individual boundaries; Africa is 54 countries strong.
When there is an “occurrence” in one part of Africa; this may be hugely detrimental to the rest of the continent. As an example, with the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; visitors to and from various countries in the continent were stigmatized despite their distance from the region where the outbreak occurred. In some European schools, teachers were caught with slip-ups such as “South Africa has Ebola,” or they passed around tin collections to raise funds for “Ebola victims in Uganda.” The hardest hit countries were the above three countries
in the West African region, and not spread out through the whole continent. Africa is not a country but a continent, for the mere fact that different cultures, tribes and countries have sprung up and never fully united as one nation under a single leader.
Africa is not a country (Credit: quickmeme)
2) Africa is rising:
To talk about the continent in a blasé way or to peddle mistruths imagining that you’re on some distant planet especially in this cyber-age with technology at a zenith
; may get you a tweet, several retweets, screenshots and before long have your ignorance go ‘egg-in-your-face’ viral. A few months back when a waif-like angel-haired ingénue penned a buttery sour-sweet memoir about her nightmarish gap year in Zambia
, replete with bottle feeding orphans coca-cola and being caught up in the ‘Congo war,’ she didn’t know she’d be called out on her bluff. Most African countries have adopted mobile technologies, with a young and innovative population of enthusiastic social media users. Africa’s e-commerce is literally exploding as internet connectivity on the continent improves. Three of the world’s fastest growing economies are found in Africa.
Our educational systems in Africa are pretty sound, with many going through years of study, and ending up having an overload of information not only about our history, geography or pythagoras theorems;
but that of most of the world. What’s shocking is that Africa is hardly studied in other continents, as the world prioritizes western history and ideals. If there’s one thing that well-read and well-traveled Africans of the 21st century abhor; it is being exoticized, clamped fast as ‘mysterious savages’ described by Joseph Conrad when he wrote, “The Heart of Darkness.
” We’ve moved on, progressed in ways you cannot even begin to imagine.
3) Africa has a rich history as well as a cultural tradition: It is said that man’s first origins were discovered in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. There are museums all over the continent, numerous archeological sites and a bulging list of world heritage sites; that include the Okavango Delta in Botswana, Fort Jesus in Mombasa, Kenya to the Royal Hill of Ambohimanga in Madagascar. Any history buff will have a good time exploring these sites in Africa. There is as well, a rich oral tradition and poetry in most of Africa’s countries ensuring that our history is passed on from one generation to the next. Africans know how to celebrate life; with music, dance and fanfare. The first clip below showcases a wedding exit dance in Zambia, while the second clip is a send off dance to celebrate the life of a clan elder among the Tiriki in Kenya.
4) Africa has amazing wildlife which live in their natural habitat: While the popular children’s program showcasing Tarzan as being brought up by apes was completely fictional; there is the common misconception among some westerners that in Africa, we live with wild animals, ‘a feral co-existence,’ having lions, monkeys, giraffes, snakes and so forth as pets. Some communities such as the Maasai and Dorobo of Kenya or the San of Namibia have traditionally been known to live in close proximity with the most dangerous of animals; but it’s hardly in a domesticated set-up. Africans don’t have a secret code language to enable us ‘animal-speak.’ Wild animals are kept at a distance, even for the most bravest of morans as shown in the clip below.
Elephants at Masai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya.
5) Africa has over 2000 languages spoken which means that most Africans are polyglots: Circa two centuries back ( yes that recently), our continent was carved up and occupied piece by piece by European countries. One legacy we have from those times is the language of the colonizer. You will encounter Africans who can read, write and speak fluent English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch and Arabic. In addition to that, we are fluent in the national language of our individual countries for example Swahili, and more to that there tribal languages with their accompanying dialects. We can communicate, and now you know how we are proficient English/French/German or (insert language) speakers.
6) Africa is making strides with regards to women’s rights: Most citizens in Africa believe their governments are progressing in the area of women’s rights. Since the late 90s, efforts have been made to counter discriminatory cultural practices such as wife-inheritance and female genital mutilation (FGM), with positive results as the prevalence of these practices have greatly decreased in most countries. Likewise, within this period, there has been an increase in women’s political participation. Women are more engaged in a variety of institutions ranging from the local government, to legislatures to the executive. Africa is a leader in women’s parliamentary representation globally. Rwandese women hold 64 percent of the country’s legislative seats. More than 40 percent of parliamentary seats in Senegal, Seychelles and South Africa are held by women. In Mozambique, Angola, Tanzania and Uganda over 35% of seats are occupied by women. In a continent where customs often carry as much weight as constitutional laws, especially in remote areas, many women believe they should have the same rights as men rather than being subject to traditional law. Africa has had 7 female presidents so far.
That’s what my Africa looks like…how about yours?