The world continues to expand and develop in various magnificent ways. Computers now function like human brains, a cancer-detecting pill exists, and it’s now possible to instantly communicate with people from different parts of the world due to video conferencing. There’s no denying that humanity has evolved in remarkable ways, but there is still a great deal of inequality and misunderstandings that exist in society, especially on a global level.
One vastly misunderstood place covers 6 percent of the Earth’s surface and more than 1.1 billion of the world’s population calls it home: Africa. There are many myths about Africa that people throughout the world believe to be true. The truth is that these myths are rooted in misinformation, lack of knowledge and stereotypes. A danger to the advancement of society, stereotypes lead to the widespread belief of myths.
We all first view the world through a single lens, and our own life experiences and beliefs impact our actions and behaviors unconsciously. This is referred to as implicit or unconscious bias. Everyone makes these generalizations, and they help and protect us in this complex world. But stereotypes are different. They are oversimplified and based merely on group membership and can be built upon any characteristic, such as age, a physical trait, gender, race or nationality.
Our beliefs about groups of people stem from socialization, including our parents, peers, national culture, subcultures and even the media. If this is true, stereotypes act as a way to justify placements in society. This concept is known as legitimizing myths – and it acts as a justification for social practices that influence groups and allocate social value within the social system.
In short, generalizations can be helpful but stereotypes are dangerous. Based on oversimplified, fixed assumptions about groups of people, stereotypes are often justified within social systems, causing myths that come with widespread belief. Among things to know about Africa is the fact that the continent has been the target of an unfathomable amount of stereotyping, which has led to the widespread belief of much false information.
Africa is a rich and diverse place. It encompasses more than 1,500 languages and 16 percent of the world’s population. To better understand the breadth of this diversity, let’s dissect seven myths about 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 vast, open land of emptiness. The truth, however, is that deserts aren’t necessarily hot all the time and much of Africa is not a desert.
The northern part of Africa where the Sahara is located is called Northern Africa, and everything south of that is known as Sub-Saharan Africa.
Here are a few facts about Africa’s climate:
Africa is a continent made up of 54 independent countries, and it’s the world’s oldest populated area. Misconceptions of Africa often include the belief that it’s its own country, or made up of only a few countries. The continent of Africa is vast, and it’s the second-largest continent in the world. Of the nearly 200 independent countries on Earth, a quarter of them are in Africa, where the population is more than 1 billion.
Besides Ethiopia and Liberia, Africa was colonized by non-African countries. Many different countries, including Germany and France, claimed to rule parts of Africa in what became known as “The Scramble for Africa.”
Over time, however, African countries began taking back their independence. After World War II, most African countries used the borders established by the non-African colonies to form the borderlines for their independent countries.
The people of Africa’s countries speak a great variety of languages, Arabic being the most popular with about 170 million speakers. Besides Arabic, the people of Africa speak English, Swahili, French, Portuguese, Spanish and many more languages. About 25 percent of the languages spoken in African countries aren’t recognized anywhere else in the world, which is a testament to its diversity and fullness.
Every African country is different, and each has its own cultures and subcultures. People around the world tend to think of Africa as a whole, which is likely why myths of Africa as a single country exist.
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 innovative.
Consider the following African inventions as examples:
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.
In fact, mobile data usage in Africa is expected to grow 20 times by 2019 – a statistic that is double the projected growth on a global level. Mobile technology has transformed many African countries because it is more readily available than computers. Consider the following
Seventy percent of the population of Africa is under age 30, which is proof that the oldest continent is home to many young people. The continent is also increasingly urban, with more than 50 cities with populations greater than a million people. Thirty-nine percent of Africans live in urban areas. The young age demographic, coupled with the urbanization of Africa, is a recipe for further innovation and more positive change.
Common misconceptions of Africa include the ideas that everyone lives in poverty and there are no growing industries or opportunities. While it’s true that in Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that more than 218 million people live in extreme poverty, many people simply do not see past the statistics to gain a deeper understanding about the root of the problems. Furthermore, many people fail to understand that not every African country is poor, and that Africa is, in fact, quite rich in many growing areas.
When it comes to oil and gas potential, especially, Africa is not poor. In 2013, the majority of the global discoveries in the oil and gas sector were made in Africa, and there are hundreds of companies surveying the area. Nine-tenths of Africa’s annual production volume of gas is exported from Nigeria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt.
While it still remains largely underexplored, Africa’s potential for oil is positioned to grow significantly over the next two decades. The global market can change quickly, but there is evidence to support Africa’s position as an oil and gas leader in the future.
Mineral reserves in Africa are also abundant. The continent exported 6.5 percent of the world’s total mineral exports by mining 20 percent of the world’s land in 2011. Consider the following African mineral and natural resource exports as an example of the magnitude of the continent’s impact
There are many other minerals and natural resources found in abundance in Africa, such as copper, coal, uranium, aluminum, iron, and steel.
While some of the poorest countries in the world are located in Africa, it’s worth noting that not every country in Africa is poor. Looking at the gross national product, there are a few wealthy counties in the continent, such as the following:
Besides the myth that all of Africa is poverty stricken, there is also the false belief that the whole of the continent is plagued with disease.
Many, but not all, African countries lack proper health resources. Global attention has focused on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Sub-Saharan Africa and more recently on the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak.
The Ebola disease has gained national attention and has come with vast misinformation, which has led to hysteria and myths. Statistics prove that as of April 2015, the disease is affecting three African countries:
Ebola previously affected other countries, African and other, but as of April 2015 there have been no reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There has been a great deal of fear and misunderstanding surrounding the Ebola outbreak, which has undoubtedly led to globally shared misconceptions about the people of Africa. The disease is excruciating and quickly fatal, a fact that has led to the hysteria surrounding it.
Here are a few truths about Ebola in Africa to put things in perspective:
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 foreigners to travel, 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 Africa countries or the beautiful locations on the continent.
Of course, if you were to visit Africa you would likely avoid certain locations, but there are plenty of perfectly safe locations to visit. The following places in Africa are popular for tourism:
It’s always recommended to take customary precautions when visiting a country that is foreign to you, such as enrolling in a smart traveler program, determining where your embassy is before traveling and getting your immunizations.
There’s a shared misconception that every aspect of African politics is fueled by corruption and deceit. It’s true that the continent has experienced its share of corrupt leadership, but it’s 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.
Three women, two of them African, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Leymah Gbowee from Liberia and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia were awarded the honor for their work in spearheading the women’s peace movement that led to the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War.
Africa’s young entrepreneurs are relentless when it comes to making continued progress. They’re dedicated to persistent positive change, and the people of Africa will undoubtedly continue to develop.
Africa is a continent with much to offer the rest of the world, and its entrepreneurial youth are determined to make an impact on society – on both local and global levels. Six of the 10 fastest-growing economies are located in Africa, a fact that serves as a testament to its ambition and potential for further development.
There are also many small, microfinance projects in the works, which help those suffering in poverty learn skills needed to earn a better living. The middle class is ambitious and working toward bridging economic gaps. In fact, 23 of African’s countries are now middle-income level.
Is Africa developing? Yes, it is without a doubt developing. It is happening faster in countries such as Rwanda or Cote D’Ivoire, and happening slower in other countries, such as Somalia. African countries are also maintaining relationships with non-African countries, specifically China. Such relationships are helping many African countries execute large infrastructure projects such as roads and dams.
As African countries continue to develop and work with other countries around the world, it’s vital to understand cultural differences. Here are a few tips to consider:
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