Africa is not a country

By Wang Ntui Belle
GLOBAL news tends to focus on the negative, so people around the world only hear of the wars, disease and poverty that the continent has experienced.
The news rarely covers the emerging middle class, or the beautiful locations in Africa countries.
From the days of colonisation to the struggle for independence and post-independence Africa, the motherland has always suffered from misconceptions and myths which do not depict the true nature of Africa.
Africa, like any other continent, has problems that have stemmed from its environment, its people, and its culture. Global news tends to focus on the negative, so many people around the world only hear of the wars, disease and poverty that the continent has experienced. The news rarely covers anything about the emerging middle class in Africa countries, or the beautiful locations on the continent. It is worth noting that the life of most Africans is the same for people in other continents with access to technology, power supply and filled with innovators making changes in the world. We are going to debunk today 10 myths about travelling in Africa.

Africa is a Country
Being an expansive continent with 54 independent countries and diverse climatic conditions and landscapes; from mountains to beaches, grasslands to river deltas, Africa has dense settlements in some areas, and sparse in others. Cities like Cairo, Johannesburg, and Nairobi, all of which are sprawling, busy cities and home to millions of people. These cities have brick-and-mortar buildings, top notch public transport systems, and every other conceivable modern amenity.
Amazing as this may sound to seasoned travellers, this is a remarkably common misconception, in part because Africa is often spoken of as a single place or village. “Africa is in fact the second largest continent on the planet after Asia,” says Rumit Mehta, Kenyan-born CEO and founder of Immersion Journeys. It is worth noting that these 54 independent countries constituting the African continent all have a constitution, government and are not all ruled by a chief.

We All Speak One Language
Ever heard of South Africa being referred to as the ‘Rainbow Nation’? Well, several countries in Africa have been home to European settlements. The Dutch came to South Africa, the French came to Côte d’Ivoire and other West African countries, the Germans came to Namibia, and the list goes on. Besides the Europeans, African nations also have several people of Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian origin. Therefore it is not uncommon to see people of different colour speaking different languages and dialects as you travel across Africa.
You will realize that as you travel in the North of Africa you will meet a lot of light skinned people speaking French and Arabic; in the west and centre most people speak French, English, or a range of Bantu and semi-bantu languages. East Africans speak Swahili and English, they are dark skin with others looking like Indians due to influence from Asian settlers. While in the South it is common to meet white people, coloured and black people speaking Portuguese, English and South African dialects.

You Will Get Sick
The recent Ebola crises made the world scared to go anywhere near the continent, not realising that the continent is so enormous that many African countries were as far away from the infected ones as New York and Beijing. According to Valerie Bowden a tourist traveling in Africa: “I stayed healthy my entire trip by getting a few vaccines before I left, remembering to take my malaria pills in infested areas, and popping a couple antibiotics for the occasional minor infection. Getting sick did not happen to me and I did not come across many stories of illness.”
It is also worthy to note that African cities do have state of the art medical facilities to manage any medical situation. Diani Beach Hospital in Kenya is known for their exceptional medical staff while the Life Healthcare Hospital Group in South Africa and renowned Arab Contractors Medical Centre in Egypt have been listed amongst the best.

Africa Lacks Innovation
Common misconceptions of Africa include the idea that it is behind the rest of the world, lacking in innovative technology. The truth is that people in some African countries lack access to education and resources, but they make the most of what they have. They are undoubtedly resourceful and very innovative.
Thérèse Izay from Congo, Kinshasa, invented humanlike robots to regulate traffic in Kinshasa. In December of 2013, Nigeria’s first unmanned aerial vehicle, commonly referred to as a drone, was created at the Nigerian Air Force School of Engineers. It can fly nonstop at 3,000 feet for nearly four hours. This is a significant accomplishment because it was Nigeria’s first indigenous drone flight.
It is true that some African countries have access to fewer resources and therefore neglect opportunities to keep pace with other areas around the world. This fact, however, does not mean that all Africans avoid technology and are lacking behind the world.

Africa is Unsafe
Negative associations and common misconceptions about Africa lead many people to falsely believe that all of Africa is unsafe to visit. Though there are parts of Africa that may not be recommended for some nationals to travel to, that is not reflective of the continent as a whole.
Global news tends to focus on the negative, so many people around the world only hear of the wars, disease and poverty that the continent has experienced. The news rarely covers anything about the emerging middle class in African countries, or the beautiful locations on the continent. There are pristine beaches, magnificent landscapes, opportunities for trekking, plenty of history, and festivals to be discovered in most African countries like Morocco, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Nigeria just to name a few.
Most African cities are host to international festivals which attract people all over the world, one of the greatest was the FIFA World Cup which was hosted in South Africa in 2010, which has been cited as one of the best.

Africa is Full of Crime
Headlines about carjackings in Johannesburg, robberies in Nairobi and piracy off the coast of Somalia are what many people think of when Africa is mentioned. Most African countries now are more stable than Central and South America. A great tip is to use common sense and have confidence in an experienced tour operator to put together a customised itinerary when visiting some African countries as with any other location in the world.
The perception is made worse by Western government travel warnings with irresponsible and overly cautious advice. The fact that there was a bomb explosion in Nairobi does not mean people in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, are facing the same effect. These are two cities with about seven-hour difference in time zone.

Always Hot in Africa
Yes, the Sahara Desert is in Africa and it makes up about one-third of Africa’s landmass. This fact leads many people to think that the majority of Africa is sweltering hot and a vast open land of emptiness. The truth, however, is that deserts are not necessarily hot all the time and much of Africa is not a desert.
There are ski resorts in Morocco and quite a few other African countries. Africa’s high elevations experience snowfall, even those locations close to the equator. Locations in South Africa experience below-freezing temperatures throughout the winter. Africa is large; therefore it is difficult to make any generalisations about the continent as a whole.
There are, of course, changes in seasons and many different countries with different elevations. Asking for an average temperature in Africa would be like asking for the average temperature for North America and half of South America, combined.

Africans Are Corrupt
There is a shared misconception that every aspect of African politics is fuelled by corruption and deceit. It is true that the continent has experienced its share of corrupt leadership, but it is also true that Africa has experienced some noteworthy leadership.
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, was an anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who earned The Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Leymah Gbowee from Liberia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia were awarded the honour for their work in spearheading the women’s peace movement that led to the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War. Nigeria, Zambia and Ghana in recent years have witnessed a democratic transition of power.

Africa Has No Future
As a result of Africa’s horrific past and fight for independence, many people hold that there is no future for the continent. This is false because Africa has developed the education and technology sectors while Africa’s young entrepreneurs are relentless when it comes to making continued progress. They are dedicated to persistent positive change, and the people of Africa will undoubtedly continue to develop. Due to inadequate resources, most African youths have carved a hustle for themselves as can be seen in the entertainment industry. Most of these youths have given back to their community and are empowering others.

Africans Are Lazy
This has been a misconception about Africa and Africans. The western world thinks Africans are lazy and beggars. This is totally false as Africa boasts of more than 10,000 entrepreneurs with exceptional business ideas and projects which they take on daily; an example is the number of subscribers to the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneur Programme which empowers at least 1,000 African entrepreneurs yearly for their bright ideas.
Throwing a glance at the Forbes rich list we can easily spot Africans like Aliko Dangote of Nigeria, Nicky Oppenheimer of South Africa, Ahmed Ezz of Egypt, Oba Otudeko just to name a few: these persons have above 100 million dollars and are all an inspiration to African youths who follow their footsteps. – The African Exponent

November 2016
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