Why Are We Blind To Africa?

Why are we blind to Africa? INSTAGRAM: @NasDailyGROUP: Nas Daily Global

Posted by Nas Daily on Thursday, November 29, 2018

Our very first trip to Africa was almost four years ago and we landed in Kenya. And then we went to Nairobi, discovered Ethiopia, explored Morocco, Rwanda and uncovered Madagascar. This vastly misunderstood piece of land spans 6% of the Earth’s surface and is where 1.1 billion people call home. Prior to visiting Africa, we heard plenty of stereotypes and myths about Africa. The saddening part is that most of these myths and stereotypes are rooted in false representations, media exaggerations and biased information. 

The widespread propagation of these stereotypes hinder many people from visiting Africa, simply out of fear. We figured that people subconsciously buy into these myths and are being influenced by inaccurate messages about Africa. On the other hand, we were very intrigued by Africa’s diversity and rich multicultural heritage. Housing 16% of the world’s population and encompassing over 1,500 languages, we knew that Africa beckons to be explored for a multitude of reasons.

During our travels to various parts of Africa, we were mind-blown by some of the breathtaking sights, the hospitality of the locals and the progress Africa has made. Pristine beaches, clean roads and general safety was not a far-flung dream — in fact, it was the reality. The Seychelles left us in awe, Rwanda’s wildlife scene was refreshing and the advent of technology in Nigeria left us very optimistic. 

We wanted to break down the stereotypes and myths for you so that you can envision Africa not under rose-tinted glasses, but through a more accurate lens.

Myth #1: Everyone in Africa lives in extreme poverty

Poverty, Africa

The extreme poverty rate is defined as people who are living on less than USD$1.90 per day. Here’s the truth: some of the poorest countries in the world are located in Africa, but it’s also worth noting that not every country in Africa is poor. In fact, the continent is rich with natural resources. We found out that 46% of the world’s diamonds come from Africa — Tanzania, Botswana and Sierra Leone are some of the top diamond exporters. Gold is also the most mined resource in Africa, accounting for 21% of the world’s total. 

The disparity lies in the fact that more than 218 million people live in poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa but that cannot be generalised to say that everyone in Africa is poor. Although we saw child beggars in Madagascar, it wasn’t necessarily a norm in every country. Certain countries are struggling more than others possibly due to improper governance and failure to distribute wealth equally.

Myth #2: Africa’s main attractions are just animal safaris

90% of the wildlife we saw in Madagascar, cannot be found anywhere else in the world. We spent a night under the stars at the Sahara Desert during our trip to Morocco. We witnessed the endangered mountain gorilla species in Rwanda. In fact during our various trips to Africa, we didn’t partake in a safari tour because we wanted to experience Africa the non-conventional way. 

This may come as a surprise, but it does snow in Africa too. There are ski resorts in Morocco where you can whizz down the slopes. If you’re game for some hiking and trekking opportunities, you can go on a half-day or multi-day trek up South Africa’s Drakensberg Mountains or Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains. Mountain enthusiasts can challenge themselves to attempt Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and Morocco’s Atlas Mountains. If you prefer engaging in high-octane adventure, you can go bungee-jumping, white-water rafting, sand-boarding, snorkelling and scuba-diving. We would have done them if we had more time to squeeze — definitely another reason to head back to this magical land.

Myth #3: Technology is lacking in Africa

Technology, Africa

Africa is becoming increasingly urban with 39% of Africans living in urban areas. We also found out that 70% percent of Africa’s population is under age 30, which is proof that the world’s oldest continent is home to many young people and becoming increasingly innovative. During our trip, we saw people using their smartphones to transfer money, we saw apps like Mushika-shika used for ride-hailing and we saw a 20-year-old kid from Soweto who built a robot entirely from trash.  

The digital divide is apparent in Africa because access is limited, especially in the rural areas. Illiteracy rates, outdated government policies and the lack of access to electricity are all deep-seated issues that have impeded Africa’s technological developments. But Africa continues to progress. Mobile phones now are as common in Nigeria as they are in the United States — 9 out of 10 people own one — and that’s a huge leap forward in the field of technological innovation.

Myth #4: It is not safe to visit

It’s not uncommon for tourists to have preconceived notions about Africa’s safety, we heard all about it too. But there was something alluring about Africa that compelled us to visit. Even though there are parts of Africa that may not be the safest for foreigners to travel to, it is not reflective of the continent as a whole. With every country, there are risks of crimes, pickpockets and scams but it boils down to being vigilant and alert at all times and that’s what we did most of our trip.

In fact, the following countries are really popular for tourism: Morocco, South Africa, Tanzania and Ghana. We went to Morocco and fell in love with the food, the people and the breathtaking landscapes. In our opinion, this country was one of the most beautiful countries we visited and it was a privilege. Our trip to Cape Town allowed us to see the vibrancy of Africa — it’s really a rainbow nation. The beaches of Zanzibar in Tanzania just made us entirely forget that we were in Africa. We conclude that Africa is safe to visit, as long as you steer clear of certain cities and remain cautious.

Myth #5: All governments and political figures are corrupt

Politics, Africa

During our trip to Ethiopia, we witnessed a new, democratic government rising to power. A symbolic shift like that illustrates how corruption in Africa is gradually declining while equality is increasing. 50% of the new government ministers are women and it’s not just that, even the president of Ethiopia is a woman — the country’s first. Now, the decade long war in Ethiopia is over, democracy is thriving and the economy is growing by 10% every year.

Another example is the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. He was an anti-apartheid politician and his exemplary leadership and sacrifices earned him The Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The political landscape of Africa is constantly changing and progressing for the better. Even though the continent has had its fair share of corrupt governance, Africa has also experienced noteworthy leadership.

Myth #6: Africa is a country

This is the biggest myth of all. Africa is a continent made up of 54 independent countries and is the world’s oldest populated area. The continent is the second largest in the world and 25% of the independent countries in the world are situated in Africa. Each country has a different social, political and economic structure — some rely on monarchies while others are run by prime ministers.

The people of Africa also speak a plethora of languages (over 2,000 to be exact) — Arabic being the most common. Besides Arabic, the locals also speak Afrikaans, Portuguese, Spanish, French and many other dialects. Some 25% of languages spoken in Africa aren’t spoken in any part of the world and we found that so fascinating.

Africa Stereotypes

At the end of the day, every destination deserves a chance and by giving Africa a miss, you’re missing out on an entire continent full of dynamic culture, history, amazing sights and hospitable people. If you let stereotypes affect you and the decisions you make, you might not be able to experience the true beauty of this vast land. Some of the opportunities in Africa cannot be found in the rest of the world and this is why everyone should visit and captivate others by sharing their personal journey to The Motherland.

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