Article by Mojolaoluwa Alabi (UWC AC ’15-’17)
“Do you live in a tree?”
“Do you wear leaves as clothes back home?”
“You have a cellphone?!”
“Do you speak African?”
I have been asked these questions one time too many. I have been exposed to the ignorance of people about my continent one time too many. It is time for people to see Africa for what it really is.
The first and most important thing to note about Africa as a continent is that Africa IS a continent, not a county, not a region, but a continent made up of 54 beautiful countries, with their distinct languages, cultures and heritages. “African” is not a language, there are over a thousand languages flowing from the tongues of hundreds of ethnic groups.
All Africans do not look the same. We do not all have dark brown skin, flat noses, brown eyes and dark woolly hair. All African women are not heavily endowed. We all vary in our skin tones that range from rich umber to a fawn complexion.
Africans are depicted as being extremely primitive, swinging from trees, scantily clad in leaves, bones and beads dangling from their faces and spears in had as they charge to the forest to hunt for food. It is shocking to me that in this 21st Century, some people I’ve met are still very puzzled that I am dressed in “regular” clothes and I know how to use a phone and computer. Now of course in many rural areas people do not fit the Western World’s description of “technologically advanced”, but Africa is developing rapidly with many of its countries including Angola, Nigeria, Malawi and Lesotho becoming more prosperous and significant on the world stage.
The media has certainly not aided the stereotypes surrounding Africa, with many news channels showing images of starving malnourished children, young men and little boys carrying AK-47s and shooting at each other, violent protests and chaotic riots. This created a sense of unrest among the youth of Africa who have taken to social media to reveal the positive aspects of Africa using the hashtag “#TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou”, communicating that despite the problems we face, there is beauty, happiness and peace on the continent.
Not all residents of the African continent are wallowing in abject poverty. Statistics have shown that many African countries have experience more than a 5% growth in income per person.1
There is an unending list of African entrepreneurs who have become extremely successful through hard work and dedication, one of the hallmarks of our culture such as Aliko Dangote, one of the 100 richest people in the world.
African countries have been faced with several problems: bribery, corruption, poverty, lack of security and famine. According to Walter Cronkite “In seeking truth, you have to get both sides of a story.” So in order to see Africa for what it really is, we must also see the good in it: The beauty of watching the sun set on Mount Kilimanjaro, the glorious sound of water rushing down the Victoria Falls, the majestic stance of the Egyptian Pyramids, the laughter, dancing and singing of the little children finding joy despite the trying times, the brilliance of our young entrepreneurs, the wisdom of our elders, the determination of our people to make our continent a better place. The Dark Continent is indeed one of Light.
1 J.O’S. “Growth and other good things”. The Economist. Published 1. May 2013, http://www.economist.com/blogs/baobab/2013/05/development-africa