The concept that Africa is one nation and a monocultural society is a Western ideology based on prejudice. Africa is a continent of nations in the same way as Europe and Asia. No one would begin to suggest that Lithuania is the same as the UK, or that India is the same as Japan, simply because they belong to the same landmasses. However, for some reason, racial stereotyping by Western nations has made Africa, a fallacy for white, rich people.
In the 1980s, the Live Aid concerts were well meaning and yet they created an image of the typical African human being as deserving sympathy, being pitied and being inferior to others. Even the lyrics within the ‘Feed the World’ song are seen as racist with millennial hindsight. It’s time to change the Western world’s view of the nations of Africa. Read on to find out how it can be done.
The easiest way to change minds and to show people the real nations of Africa is to encourage people to visit. Sure, you can visit a safari park in Kenya, but this is to see elephants, giraffes and cheetahs in a manmade reserve in some swanky five star Masai Mara accommodation. Instead, people need to see the real Africa. People could choose to volunteer abroad and help to build a school in Botswana, drill a well in Ethiopia or do some conservation work in Lesotho. Africa is a vast continent. The people in South Africa are different from the people living in Algeria. Life are multicultural even within singular nations. By visiting Africa and traveling around in the same way that backpackers do across Asia, eyes will be opened and perceptions will change.
There are plenty of multinational corporations with offices based in the major cities of Africa from Nairobi to Cairo and from Cape Town to Johannesburg. People who work for these countries in the Western world should take secondments to these offices so they can experience a different working environment. This is always a great way to really immerse yourself within a culture, meet new people, try new cuisine and really become part of a community. People who live and work in a place always settle more than those just passing through.
At schools when children are learning about countries in geography, lessons still cover ‘Africa’. This illogical concept means that the entire continent is taken as one entity. The tribes, the people, the food, and the nuances of culture and geography aren’t explored because of laziness. No one would ever dream of studying South America as a whole. Instead, people research the Andes in Chile, the Inca Trail of Peru or the carnival culture of Brazil. The same should be for Africa. We need to educate children from a young age about slavery, the diaspora and the distinct cultures within the continent of Africa today.
Changing minds and perceptions about Africa is going to be tough. However, by thinking long term, and educating the youth of today, it can be done.