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Central African Republic. August 2012. Batalimo. Pk6 - Aka (Biaka) people/ pygmies or 'citizens' as they would rather be known. Wattle and daub house with cooking fire outside.

Common myths and stereotypes about Africa and Africans

By Evelyn Masaba

Africa is a beautiful continent full of warm, receptive people from the many different, easily accessible countries. And most countries, unlike what you see in the media, are very safe — apart from the very few turbulent regions.
Yet, unless you have been to or were raised in Africa, you will not realise how wonderful the continent is. To most people, Africa is still a dark continent swirling with mystery and rumours about what they see in the media. Of the many things the West thinks of our continent; here are a few of them.

Mud-and-wattle huts
When the first foreign explorers landed on the continent, they saw a wild thick place with animals roaming all over the place. And when they found homesteads, all they could see were mud huts. They wrote about that and to some people in the West, Africans still live in such houses. It might seem like a ridiculous thought to us, but to most people who do not study as much about Africa’s individual countries, it is hard to understand that over the years the continent has gone through massive infrastructural development, especially in the housing sector.

HIV/Aids all over the place
It always seems like a silly joke on social media when someone planning to visit an African country talks about their fear to “catch AIDS” whilst here, but to some people, it is an actual fear. They think Africa is a continent riddled with sick people spreading HIV/Aids like whooping cough. In other words, the moment you breath the same air or touch them, you catch HIV. In reality, HIV/Aids is all over the world, not just in Africa. So, whether you travel to Europe or the Americas, one out of 10 people you interact with could be suffering from HIV/Aids.

Africans are always hungry and poor
When you watch the many sad adverts with malnourished African children whose faces have tears and mucus; you can easily jump to the conclusion that there is nothing in Africa but sadness and poverty. That we never have food to eat, our children are always dirty and constantly crying because life is unbearable. The fact is, the whole world has poverty, and, even though there are sad children in certain parts of Africa, the continent also has healthy, beautiful babies who know nothing about poverty.

No civilisation whatsoever
If history is correct, Africa is the cradle of civilisation. Thousands of years back before Alexander the Great landed on the continent before they discovered Zinjanthropus, communities were thriving. We had leaderships built on a system that had been passed down for years, and these very systems are still in existence today. There are prominent kingdoms and chiefdoms that were not cut down during the colonial era such as the Buganda kingdom in Uganda.

Just a country off the ocean
This is one of the most common misconceptions held by people who have never bothered to find out that Africa comprises 54 countries. These individual countries have their own governments and governing systems that are quite different from their neighbours. Some countries adopted systems akin to those of their former colonial masters while others stuck to their traditional systems. You need a visa to visit each country and if there are good political terms between the said African country and your home country, then you can find a consulate that represents it in your capital city, evidence that there is no country called Africa.

Guns, spears and so many rebels
Most African countries have been at peace for decades and will be peaceful for decades more to come. But there is a perception that comes from a well-scripted Hollywood description of African countries that there are always power hungry dictators running their countries into the ground and living lavishly while their people starve and litter the country with so many guns. Yes, in some countries you will find a little bit of anarchy, but not on the entire continent.

Speaking African
There is no language called African. African countries have many different tribes and ethnic groups who speak different languages. Most of these languages might sound alike, but that is just because of the same ethnic background. An example would be the Bantu ethnic group that comprises different tribes scattered all over Africa. They have a similar dialect when you hear them speak.
Each tribe has its own culture and norms that they have followed for generations even after colonialism disrupted most of them.

Typical African accent
Hollywood might lead you to believe that when Africans speak English, we all sound like the King of Wakanda, but the fact is that we sound so different. This comes from the fact that not all countries in Africa have English as an official language or teach English in their schools. But if you try to speak our languages, you might find it easier to understand us.

About The Author

The writer is the public relations manager at Jumia Travel in Uganda. Travel.jumia.com is Africa’s No.1 hotel booking website, allowing you to get the best prices for more than 25,000 hotels in Africa and more than 200,000 hotels around the world.
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