6 Misconceptions People Still Have About Africa

As an African student studying abroad in the U.S., I have come across many opinions and negative thoughts about the continent. My friends and I have been asked many questions that stem from the lack of general knowledge about the continent. You’ve probably heard of places like Egypt, Morocco, and South Africa. They are great vacation spots based on popular opinion!
I’m sure you’ve also heard about places like Sudan and Rwanda … but unlike the other places, you don’t think vacation when you hear about these places. Your mind probably travels automatically to disease, war, and hunger.
With HC Drexel as my platform, I would like to point out some misconceptions people have about the continent (yes, continent; there are 54 countries in Africa!)

1. “How do you speak such good English?” 


One effect of colonization on the continent was the impartation of languages like French, English, and Portuguese on the people as well as religion and education. A lot of the people speak these western languages, and you might even find some people who speak multiple western languages. 

2. “How did you get to America?”

Technological advances have been made all over the world, and most countries have at least one airport, which caters to international flights. Just as you would take a flight from France to America, it is that simple to catch a flight from Kotoka Airport in Ghana or Windhoek International Airport in Namibia. 

3. “Do you live in trees?”

NO. Infrastructural developments have been made all over the world, with malls and skyscrapers being normal sights in most African cities. In some rural places, people live in huts, but I have yet to see anyone living in a tree.

4. “Do you speak African?”

African is not a language. In most cases the person could mean Afrikaan, but even this is a rather ignorant question. That language is only spoken in Southern Africa, not the whole continent. It would be safer to ask, “Which African languages do you speak?”

5. “I have a friend named [insert a cultural name here]. Do you know him?”

In most cases, more than one person has the same name. Asking such a question is like being asked, “I have a friend named Joe. Do you know him?” Just because it’s an African name does not mean I would know the person. The continent is home to 54 countries and over 200 million people.

6. “How do people in Kenya have Snapchat?”

This one stemmed out of the Nairobi live story that Snapchat posted a few months ago. This question is important because it shows the general misinformation of the populace by the media and addresses multiple stereotypes about the continent, including but not limited to the following:
A. That people in Africa have no access to phones. Africans have embraced technology widely on the continent. A majority of the population has access to some form offor modern technology. They are just as crazy about getting the newest iPhone as you are!
B. That apps would not be used in Africa or that Africans are not technologically savvy.Phone companies have realized that Africa is just as big a market for their products as the rest of the world is. To show that the world is a global market, the same phones and technology presented to the rest of the world are available to people in Africa. They, too, know the pain of their IG pictures not receiving X number of likes.
College is meant to be a learning experience—it’s time we shape our minds and find ourselves. It would be excellent for us to learn more about Africa and other places in the world than what the media provides for us.  You can learn about Africa and its cultures through study abroad or co-op abroad opportunities or planning a trip with your friends (believe it or not, there are more than a handful of nice vacation spots in Africa!).