4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa

March 16, 2015
Quitting My Job for Something Sweeter - 4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa

Life threatening diseases, civil war, child soldiers, corruption and poverty—this is Africa, right?

And honestly why wouldn’t you think that? The media has generalised life in Africa to such an extent that sometimes from the outside, the positives are difficult to see. The media’s portrayal is, for the most part, negative and one-sided. This generalisation gives a completely distorted view of a continent made up of various cultures, personalities and ways of life.

My advice would be to keep an open mind, try new things and do some research before you come. And please read beyond these headlines:

4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa

1. Africa is unsafe for women

I have female friends who have backpacked through much of Africa safely and they have loved every second of it. As in any foreign country it is important to keep your wits about you and to learn as much about the culture and what you should expect before you get there. To travel here you need to be strong and independent and be able to hold your ground. If you don’t people will try to take advantage of you and your lack of knowledge, as they will in many countries. The trick is to fake it ‘til you make it; I’m three years in and it’s still working for me!

2. African countries are full of disease

Yes, I live in Africa and no, I don’t have Ebola. The Ebola epidemic—although no longer in the media—is very serious and still a daily struggle for many people living in specific countries in West Africa. It has affected tens of thousands of people and their families as a result. However, there are over 1 billion people in Africa and 44 countries that are currently Ebola-free.

The media’s direct link between Ebola and Africa has seriously affected the tourism industry throughout the whole continent. Tanzania is on the East Coast of Africa—far from the Ebola zone, and safari companies, hotels and resorts are reporting a large drop in employment and income usually associated with tourism. Sadly, a disease affecting a small percentage of the continent has brought economic difficulty to all.

3. There are no peaceful countries in Africa

Arusha, Tanzania, where I live, is known as a peaceful city. It is a place where albinos who are often shunned by their families and the community in other parts of the country, can find solace. A little research into different African countries can tell you so much about their differences and ways of life. Unfortunately, too often they are all forced together. The Western world in general is uncomfortable with Africa as a whole.

It is a shame that the world cannot witness what I see everyday—the faces of smiling, happy children who have nothing, and yet are some of the happiest people you will meet. The daily greetings you receive in the street regardless of the colour of your skin, how old you are or what you do. Strangers want to know how you are. The brightly coloured clothes and beautiful material that always seems much cleaner when washed by hand than by machine. A world that hasn’t yet been touched by an influx of unnecessary technology and the subsequent selfishness.

4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa.

4. All Africans are disadvantaged

There are ambitious, successful and prosperous Tanzanians who want to help transform their country and help those living in poverty. Not everyone in Africa is poor, corrupt and desperate, and not everyone wants your help. They instead would like to help you help others. There is an understanding that change cannot be made by a single person and that it takes a community to make such a change.


 4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa

Have you traveled to Tanzania? How was your trip? Email us at [email protected] for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa photo credits: Unsplash.

About Jesse Whitman

Jesse Whitman is a native of West Virginia. Her humor essays have been featured in Blitz Weekly, Funny Times, and Curve Magazine. She is working on her next volume of Prude and Prejudice.

One thought on “4 Harmful Misconceptions about Africa

  1. frank lynn
    March 16, 2015

    Dear Anna–as usual, so in sightful and so well written.I am very proud to have you as a grandaughter.

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