Debunking current Myths about Africa: 10 of the Biggest Stereotypes

1) Africa is one country and it isn’t that big at all – Africa, is in fact a huge continent (the second largest in the world after Asia) comprising 54 recognized countries and an estimated 1500-2000 different languages which is a testimony to its diversity.

2) There are no white people in Africa - zero, nada. WRONG! Africa has a long history of harbouring people from a diverse range of backgrounds which was further fueled by Western colonisation.  A 2011 census figure suggests that 8.9% of the total population of South Africa is white. 

3) If you go to Africa you WILL get AIDS as EVERYONE has it.  FALSE! Not everyone is HIV infected and the Aids pandemic has declined by almost a third since the mid-1990s. In sub-Saharan Africa, the worst affected region, new infections in 2008 were approximately 25 % lower than at the epidemic's peak in the region in 1995. Also contrary to common belief, HIV is not that easy to contract. Touching a HIV positive person will NOT infect you!

4) Africa is plagued by poverty and it is such a depressing place - Yes, 47% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.25 a day which is terrible. However, this number is falling and things are improving. Furthermore, whilst some Western economies are in crisis, Africa’s economy continues to grow; 6 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world are African. In 2013 the majority of the global discoveries in the oil and gas sector were made in Africa. There is also an abundance of mineral reserves with Africa accounting for more than 46% of the world’s diamonds. 

5) It is always hot in Africa – you WILL get sunburnt – Despite the infamous Band Aid song claiming “there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas time”, Africa is a huge continent with a diverse range of landscapes, containing rainforests, deserts and snowy mountains with different seasons.  Also who can forget Mount Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa and its snow-capped peaks?

6) Africa is a dangerous war-torn place - Don’t go there! FALSE. Though there are indeed countries in Africa with brutal civil wars, not all countries have descended into political turmoil. Some African countries are more politically stable and peaceful than those in the West with Ghana leading Africa’s peace ranking. Destinations such as Tanzania, Ghana, Mozambique and Senegal regularly frequent top travel destination guides. 

7) Everyone in Africa lives in the middle of nowhere in mud houses. There seems to be a continual portrayal by Western media that everyone lives in a rickety mud hut. Though some people in rural areas do live in huts there are also many heavily industrialised areas such as Lagos in Nigeria. Furthermore as of 2008, 39% of the African population lived in urban areas. 

8) Africa is teeming with wild animals walking everywhere. Yes there are breath taking savannas in Africa but there are also huge historic cities with ancient monuments and sandy beaches. Furthermore, for the most part, Africa’s wildlife is confined to national parks and reserves so seeing an elephant walking down the road is a rarity.

9) Africa is technologically void. Wrong again! Mobile phones are almost as common in Africa as they are in the West with 9 out of 10 people in possession of a phone.  Mobile data in Africa is also expected to grow 20 times by 2019.

10) Africa is rife with corrupt politicians – WRONG! Yes stories of corrupt African politicians have graced the front pages of our newspapers. However, President Sirleaf of Liberia was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and their rights. 

Written by guest blogger and KCK Intern Alice Walker