“Just because something isn't a lie does not mean that it isn't deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.”
― Criss Jami
The last couple of years has seen our relationship with the media change… We’ve gone from trusting everything we hear on the news, to realising how often we are told stories from one narrative only, rather than being presented with all the facts so we can freely make our own conclusions.
When it comes to Africa, this has been the narrative for … an eternity. From the days where Africans were dehumanised to somehow justify the slave trade, to present day. Dominant stereotypes of what the media calls ‘the Dark continent’ conjures images of the starving child, disease, little education, a distant land with no rule of law. Going to Africa is only for the brave or charitable, as there is little on the continent to appreciate or if there is, it certainly isn’t worth the trip.
While Africa isn’t perfect, no continent is. And the media’s treatment of Africa is a dire shame because all its potential and it’s beauty remains hidden from the world.
So today join me as we break down the some of the lies the media spreads about Africa, to unravel the full story behind their tales.
Africa has little to offer
Africa is often seen as a poor continent always looking for handouts. In pictures and newsreels all we see are shantytowns, emaciated children, older people, dry red earth and barren landscapes. Even the terminology used is patronising, such as ‘debt forgiveness’.
These stories overlook a number of things. It overlooks the fact that Africa did not come into debt alone or deliberately, in fact this debt was caused by mainly Western banks who lent monies for dubious projects and on unrealistic terms to newly independent African countries, knowing fully that repayment was not going to be easy.
They also overlook the reality of Africa’s potential to become a powerhouse. Rich in oil and natural resources, Africa is the world’s fastest-growing region for foreign direct investment. And it punches above it’s weight in resources. It has approximately a third of the earth’s remaining mineral resources and the largest reserves of precious metals with over forty percent of the gold reserves, over sixty percent of the cobalt, and ninety percent of the platinum reserves. North Africa has vast oil and natural gas deposits, the Sahara holds the most strategic nuclear ore… heck, coltan mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been used for our dearly loved iPhones!
Africa also has the potential to be a substantial manufacturing and consumer economy. Almost sixty percent of Africa's population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world's youngest continent. Africa also has one the fastest growing middle class both in terms of population and spending power.
It is completely corrupt
We’ve all seen and heard the stories of yet another corruption scandal. We have gasped at the dramatic tales of Idi Amin, shaken our heads as stories of the 2020 demonstrations in Nigeria hit the press and sighed at Zimbabwe’s struggle to regain footing since Mugabe’s ‘less than triumphant’ exit. However what do we know about corruption on a global scale? It can be found everywhere; from dodgy conversations with Ukraine to influence the U.S. elections to David Cameron’s secrets text to Rishi Sunak to help out his good ol’ mate Greensill.
Th difference between the African stories and the Western examples is while we have a wider lens on what’s happening in the West, the lens on Africa seems permanently skewed on the negative. Positive stories on Africa just aren’t as sexy to the press. Rwanda’s economic boom which has seen it bloom to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world hardly makes our news podcasts. Ethiopia’s determination to make its way out of poverty doesn’t create as much of a buzz as stories of it’s past demise. In 2020 despite the pandemic six of the top 10 fast growing economies were African... Now that doesn’t just happen to be a coincidence, but I bet you didn’t hear much about that, or maybe you heard China mentioned … am I right?
It is completely unsafe
Now I’m not saying that it’ okay to get up at midnight to take a stroll all by your lonesome in a middle of a bustling city in say Kenya, to 'see where the night takes you'.. because that would be bad advice. But frankly, that would be bad advice for almost every city in the world.
What makes Africa so complicated is its infrastructure and expansion. Cities are constantly expanding as populations grow and more migrate to the city. As new building blocks, bridges, roads and railways spring up the landscape changes. Many areas are also without postcodes. This plus the limited satellite imagery across Africa means you can’t rely on google maps to show you around, making it more complicated to know where you going. Transport also works differently; some locations have a taxi system rather than bus routes and often do not depart/arrive at set times.
This means when travelling to an African city, invest some time in researching your destination to know how to get around, where to stay etc, or better yet, go with someone who knows it well and can show you around, like one of our buddies for example. Also practising the same safety measures needed for any new travel destination, such as being aware of your surroundings, keeping an eye on your items, taking advice from a stranger on the street with a pinch of salt, etc are a useful rule of thumb.
The future is bright, find out for yourself!
Africa is a perfectly imperfect continent - like every other continent on the planet. It has its sad tales and its woes, but it also has miraculous, delightful ones. It is the second most populous continent with a rich diverse culture – imagine having over 1,200 different languages! It is home to the oldest university in the world. The Pharaonic civilization of ancient Egypt is one of the world’s oldest and longest-lasting civilizations. The world’s largest, tallest and fastest animals all come from Africa (points if you can guess what they are!)
Africa represents one of the last great adventures. Only in Africa do the great herds still roam free. It is a vast continent, an immense landscape of incredible contrasts, from beaches to mountains, deserts to wetlands, and mountains to endless open savannah.
And the opportunities for growth are palpable; with tech hubs sprouting across the continent and investment flowing in spite of the pandemic from the Netherlands China, France, the UK and United States. The pandemic has been tough on the continent but like any other it’s slowing picking itself up again.
So if you’ve been skeptical about Africa, here’s your chance to open yourself up to the possibilities. To find out the truth of Africa, take what you heard in the media with a pinch of salt, do some extra digging yourself and don’t be afraid to challenge your preferred media to do and be better.
And remember, your African adventures await.
About this blog.
This blog was written by Sandy, founder of NuTravel Africa. We’re launching soon! Sign up to be notified when that happens and also to learn exciting new things about Africa and for some great Malawi travel advice.