Myths about Africa that you need to stop believing
Africa is a country. We know this because Western — particularly American — artists are always landing in Africa. Just recently, musician Taylor Swift filmed a safari-themed music video on location and it was vaguely identified as “Africa”.
Even non-famous Western people are always going off to volunteer in a nameless place called Africa. Forget the tens of countries and a whole equator, who has the time to keep track of it all?
Even we as South Africans are not immune from this “Africa”. We think of Africa as separate and not us. Anything above the Limpopo River suddenly becomes this phantom Africa; this catch-all noun.
Here we debunk some falsehoods about the continent of Africa.
- Zimbabwe is not one of the top-two poorest countries in the world
This is a biggie. According to Africa Check [link: https://africacheck.org/reports/no-zimbabwe-is-not-the-worlds-second-poorest-country/] Zimbabwe is not even in the top ten of the poorest countries in the world. There’s no disputing the crisis, or the knocks the economy has continued to take in the past fifteen years. Does this ranking indicate a turn? We can’t say.
- Africans drink. A lot.
Times published a piece saying Africa is a drunk continent. Africa Check went to work to see if it’s true. Their research proved that though some of the countries centralised in that piece (Kenya and South Africa) have problematic alcohol consumption habits, they are not reflective of the continent at large.
Africa Check cities a 2004 WHO report that says 57.3% people in the African region said they were lifetime abstainers from alcohol. They’ve never touched a drop, while only 18.9% and 17.7% people in Europe and the US respectively said the same.
- You will get eaten by Great White sharks in South Africa
The Great White Shark likes cool water, which means you’re more likely to encounter it in the Atlantic (think Western Cape) and not the Indian Ocean (KwaZulu).
In 2013 the BBC reported that the Western Cape waters had seen five shark attacks. However, according to this report, there were only two attacks.
- Nigerians drink the most champagne in the world, second only to France
If you go by the more posh and polished Nollywood films, Nigerian people love luxury and extravagant consumption. Big cars, big parties and “big men”. With this fictional framework it would be easy to believe that Nigeria is the second largest consumer of champagne in the world — second only to France.
It’s not it’s not. Nigeria does, though, have the highest champagne imports on the continent.
- African is a country
In case you are still wondering: Africa is not a country. There are 55 countries in Africa.
- Africans are basically all the same
The worst part of believing that Africa “is a country”, or that all of Africans are one way, is that it disregards all that we are. It reduces all that we have done; the knowledge and dreams our ancestry holds.
It says the Timbuktu manuscripts existing isn’t that special; it says Zulu armies defeating British soldiers at Isandlwana wasn’t that big a deal; that girls building things in their bedrooms from Nairobi to Gaborone at this very moment isn’t much to write home about.
African heritage is layered. We should work to build unity on our terms, in ways that recognise all of us, different as we are. We should rebel against erasure and being lumped together as one monolithic, uninteresting piece of clay.
However, in our self-pride and lifting ourselves up as individual parts of the African puzzle we should not forget each other and how great we can be once united and working towards a common goal.
What myths about Africa would you like to put to rest?