May 26, 2016 By Ehizogie Ighobor
I am an African — a mix of Sierra Leone and Nigeria. I was born in Sierra Leone, and I lived there for 10 years before moving to the United States. My mom was born there too, but my dad was born in Nigeria. When Africa is the topic of conversation, some people talk about the common misconceptions of Africa that the Western media often portray. I am now impatient with the media as they are constantly deceiving those who don’t have adequate knowledge about the continent. Now, I want to set the records straight and this is a perfect opportunity for me to do so.
Below are some common myths and misconceptions about Africa
1.) AFRICA IS A COUNTRY
I have personally not heard this one but after conducting a research on the topic, I realize that most people view this as the number one misconception about Africa. First of all, Africa is not a gigantic country. It is a CONTINENT! As a matter of fact, it is the second largest continent in the world, after Asia. It is almost three times the size of Europe. The population is about ONE BILLION. It comprises roughly 54 different countries and one “non self-governing territory” – The Western Sahara.
2.) AFRICANS SPEAK AFRICAN – “AFRICAN IS THEIR LANGUAGE”
This is completely false! English and French are the most common languages in Africa. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t other languages being spoken. In fact, there are several more languages. Each tribe or ethnic group has its own language. Within one country alone, you may find several languages. For example, there are roughly 521 spoken languages in Nigeria. Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Ibibio are just a few of them.
3.) EVERYONE IN AFRICA IS POOR
One common misconception about Africa is that everyone lives in poverty.
While it is true that a high percentage of Africans live in extreme poverty (less than $2 per day), that is not the case throughout the continent or among all Africans. Africa is in fact rich in many other areas such as minerals and other natural resources. Forty-six percent of the world’s diamonds come from African countries. Botswana, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone are top exporters. Africa has more than 50 percent of the world’s fertile and unused land and currently uses just 2 percent of its water resources.
4.) AFRICA IS “DISEASE-RIDDEN”
Many African countries don’t have advanced health resources; therefore it is likely that diseases will spread. However, there have been several innovations to prevent the spread of diseases in Africa. For example, the mosquito net, which prevents mosquitoes from having any contacts with humans, has led to the decrease of malaria in Africa.
5.) Finally, I’d like to address the misconception that Africa is a very unsafe place to visit. This is completely FALSE! Though there are certain parts that may not be attractive to foreigners to visit, those parts do not reflect the beauty of the continent as a whole. The Western media nowadays tend to focus on the negatives. People around the world hear about the wars, diseases, and poverty, but Africa is way more than that. Africa has some of the most beautiful beaches, Safaris and natural environments in the world.
It is very important for people who do not have enough knowledge about Africa to be educated about the beautiful continent. Yes, some places may be unsafe or not attractive to foreigners, but there lots more that everyone believes are really beautiful, even by world’s standards. As Africans, it’s our job to fix our economies and rebuild our societies.
Zogie Ighobor is an SS2 student who lives in the United States