And Yes! Africa is not a Country!

Posted in Life and Culture on February 12th, 2014 By Yvonne Mtengwa

So enthralled I was to bump into a piece on CNN’s website entitled “Africa is not a country’: Students’ photo campaign breaks down stereotypes.” The first thing I thought was “Wow! Finally a people have taken it upon themselves to visually dispel the myths regarding all which Africa isn’t!” A group of students from Ithaca College launched a social media initiative coined “The Real Africa: Fight the Stereotype,” wherein members of the college’s African Students Association took remarkable images of themselves wrapped in various flags of countries belonging to our beloved continent Africa.

What got me thinking though was how I moved back to Zimbabwe almost 7 years ago now, after a 7 year stint in the U.S, and students today were still confronted by the same questions I endured on my university campus, in the neighbourhood Bestbuy or Target, or over a coffee break during another day at the office. “Say something to me in African”…”So like what kinda cars do y’all drive over there?”…”So you guys know about Gap and Baby Phat?”….Ummm….yeah ok!

See my thing on this issue has always been and still stands at; in the age of Google and a vast array of media outlets, in a country that deals with management of diversity and cultural issues on a large scale (possibly more so than any other in the world), could it really still be a fact that there are a certain people that carry no curiosity whatsoever about countries outside of their own? Could it simply be a case of a nation seemingly having access to any and everything such that they become devoid of the need to find out more about an environment that differs from theirs? You see in Africa, most students want to pursue a higher education in western societies because well, it’s different, the west has systems that work, opportunities are endless when pitted against those on home ground  – really the reasons are numerous for anyone considering to migrate to Europe or the Americas. What gets me though is how then it is possible for anyone to not find it questionable to ask such questions.

“Africans do not all look alike”

“Africa is not a land filled with diseases” – (yes Justine Sacco…this mentality that had you tweet “‘Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just Kidding. I’m White!’… IS WHAT GOT YOU FIRED!)

“I don’t speak ‘AFRICAN’ because ‘AFRICAN’ is not a language”

“Africa is not defined by poverty”

“Africa existed before colonialism”

…are some quotes as presented by the photo campaign. So simple yet so profound, with such truths embedded in them one can only wish that audiences far and wide would really process what is being articulated here.

If only more people knew how hospitable a people Africans as a whole are. How we greet with smiles notwithstanding the day to day challenges we find ourselves navigating through. If only the world’s citizens knew that part of the privileges they enjoy are being milked from our land by powers who claim investment and development as opposed to the real truth that is exploitation. If only more people took the time to find out more about the various ethnic groups that call Africa home, that our people “do not need to be saved ” because they carry the propensity to save themselves;  that we “speak really good English for Africans” because we went to school just like everyone else. If only more people knew that Africa is not a country, but a land of vast wealth in its people and natural resources…a land of unimaginable beauty on more than just a few fronts.


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