One of the most common misconceptions is that Africa is one large country. Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries, with each country different from the other in terms of political, social and economic structures. For instance, in political spheres, some African countries have heads of states who are kings. The monarchies of Africa include Morocco, Lesotho, and Swaziland. Some African governments are headed by a Prime Minister while others by a President. The 54 countries are all diverse and unique in their own way, and it is a miscue to think of them as one large country.
Africans Speak African If you have travelled overseas from the continent, there is a likelihood that you have met someone who has asked you to teach them to speak ‘African.’ Not once have I faced this misconception, and the first time this happened to me, I thought I had misunderstood the request and asked if my new friend meant Swahili, as that is the language spoken in my country. ‘African’ as a language does not exist. The continent is a stronghold for diversity, and with this comes thousands of different languages spoken within it. It is estimated that there are over 2,000 languages spoken in Africa, with some countries like Nigeria having over 200 languages spoken by different ethnic groups. However, it is important to note that there are some languages that are spoken across many countries; for instance, Swahili in East Africa, Zulu in Southern Africa, among others, but this does not translate to ‘African’ language. Man and Wild Animals Live Together Another common misconception is that Africa is a huge forest that man and wild animals coexist in together. This misconception denotes that we keep wild animals like lions or leopards, as well as other wild animals as pets, and that it is common to see lions roaming in city streets. It is true that Africa is home to many wild animals, but it is not factual that they roam in the streets. A common story is told of a visiting tourist that shook his head in dismay upon landing at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. To the tourist’s dismay, he realized he had landed in an airport in a city that looked much better than the rural town he came from. According to the middle-aged tourist, all the content he had consumed about Africa, safari drives, and the wild in Africa made him believe he would see wild animals roaming the airport immediately upon landing. All Africans are Dark Skinned A common stereotype is that all Africans are dark skinned. This is not true. We do have different skin pigments and different shades of black for the different tribes and different regions around the continent. It is also important to note that there are also immigrants from other continents who have come to Africa many generations ago, and their descendants have settled on the continent ever since. A good example is South Africa, which is also called the Rainbow Nation because of the diversity it is known for when it comes to matters of skin color. All Africans Live in Huts There is a common misconception that all African people live in grass-thatched huts made of mud and dung. It is true that mud huts are one of the most common forms of housing in rural areas on the continent, but it would not be fair for us not to mention the rapidly growing urban centers throughout the continent. Many African nations are going through economic growth, which is leading enormous growth in cities with brick and stone houses, clean tap water, internet connectivity, and electricity, as well as other basic necessities that are accessible to residents in some of the world’s best cities. The skyline of most African cities is nothing short of beautifully architecturally designed skyscrapers that have become a source of pride for their home countries. All African Countries are Poor and Depend on Aid An economic misconception is that all African countries are poor and survive on aid. The continent is rich with natural resources, and each country has its own economic activity that their governments pursue. Indeed, it is true that a huge amount of aid is sent to different countries around the continent, but it is also important to note that not all countries depend on aid to improve the lives of their citizens. On the contrary, some of the best governed and most developed African countries receive little or no foreign aid at all. Africans Share a Homogenous Culture Not once have I been asked if I can jump and dance like a Maasai or run a marathon, and I am often met by surprised looks when I say I cannot do any of that. It is a common misbelief that Africans share a single culture because they are Africans. This is simply not true. In fact, Africa is so rich in diverse culture that no country throughout the continent is governed by the same culture. Undeniably, there are common cultures like Ubuntu; however, each ethnic group possess their own unique set of cultural beliefs that they adhere to. This can be showcased through dress code, piercings, skin marking, and through food, as well as other tribal traditions. All African Countries are Poor and Depend on Aid An economic misconception is that all African countries are poor and survive on aid. The continent is rich with natural resources, and each country has its own economic activity that their governments pursue. Indeed, it is true that a huge amount of aid is sent to different countries around the continent, but it is also important to note that not all countries depend on aid to improve the lives of their citizens. On the contrary, some of the best governed and most developed African countries receive little or no foreign aid at all.
Africa is a Desert Africa is not a vast stretch of desert as many tend to believe. Even though it is home to the Sahara Desert, it only covers a third of the continent. Other parts of the continent are made up of rain forests, fertile lands used for farming, and bodies of water. The contrasting landscapes are all beautiful in their own ways.