When I tell my overseas colleagues that I focus on the African continent as a travel writer and blogger, almost all respond with some form of incredulous hyperbole or unfounded advice.
And, I just can’t resist noting some of the typical hyperbole here…
“Are you crazy?”
“Don’t travel in Africa!! Its toooooo dangerous..!!”
“You’re a blogger and there is no Wi-Fi access there!!”
“You are going to devoured by an African Lion or something..!!”
and the best one: “So, you’re African! How come you’re white?”
These are some of the all too common reactions and advice that you probably also hear from well-meaning, but ill-informed friends and acquaintances when planning a safari holiday, a honeymoon or a business trip to Africa.
So, to correct some of these misconceptions, here are my top 5 myths about Africa that definitely need to be debunked:
Myth#1: All Africans Are Black
Reality#1: Have you heard of a country called South Africa? Ever wondered why it’s known as the ‘Rainbow Nation”?
American academics, of course, know better. Pier M. Larson at the Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, Maryland captures the essence of African skin colour very aptly in this statement: “Africans come in a wide variety of skin colours and physical types that many Africans find significant among themselves… Africans range from an almost dark blue-black skin colour to a very light skin colour that would ‘pass’ in the United States as socially white.”
In fact, many Africans are not indigenous to Africa. Most became African as a result of immigration and forced relocation due to slavery and migrant labour during colonial times. So the notion that all Africans are black is absolutely false.
Myth#2: Africa is full of Wild Criminals and Wilder Animals.
Reality#2: Well, the latter is true, but as to the former, research at the Institute for Economics and Peace (based on parameters like criminal activities, terrorism, internal and external conflicts, etc.) found that countries like Ghana, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Botswana, Namibia, and a lot more, are topping the list of safety as compared to the US.
Moreover, Africa has the largest number of Protected Areas in the world with a combined 1,697,120 km2 (larger than the Antarctica at 1,550,000), so logically it has a lot of wild animals. When you get travel offers, make sure that you get to experience the abundant wildlife that Africa has to offer.
Myth#3: Don’t go there. You will get sick.
Reality#3: Sure, diseases do strike some African countries every year and lives are lost during these times. But this is largely due to a lack of childhood immunization programs and basic health care, which drive infant mortality stats up. According to the Gates Foundation Report, there have been huge strides in overcoming fatal diseases. And sure, some African state hospitals are less than satisfactory but private healthcare in Africa is really good. And besides, you should always travel through Africa with adequate medical evacuation insurance in place.
Myth#4: No Internet access and no Wi-Fi in Africa.
Reality#4: Most hotels and restaurants in Africa offer free Wi-Fi these days, so there’s no reason not to stay in touch. Internet access in Africa may be limited by a lower penetration rate when compared to the rest of the world, but according to Wikipedia, South Africa has figures similar to those of Europe and North America: it is followed by some smaller, tourist-dependent economies such as Seychelles and Mauritius, and a few North African countries, notably Morocco and Egypt. The leading Sub Saharan countries in telecommunication and internet development are South Africa and Kenya.
And lastly, the best one which will make you laugh:
Myth#5: Africa is a Country!!
Reality#5: Did you know that the African continent has 64 countries? Actually, it has 54 sovereign states and 10 non-sovereign territories. With this number of nations, along with over 2,000 languages (Nigeria alone has over 500 languages) and thousands of cultures, Africa is certainly not a single country! In fact, Africa is bigger than China, India, the USA and most of Europe—combined! Look at the usual flat map of the world and it appears that Greenland is nearly as big as Africa. But it’s not even close. Africa is 14 times larger!
Also, the continent of Africa has the largest desert, the Sahara along with the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mt. Kilimanjaro. Moreover, the African island, Madagascar is home to an abundance of plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Approximately 90% of all plant and animal species found in Madagascar are endemic. This has led some ecologists to refer to Madagascar as the “eighth continent”, and the island has been classified by Conservation International as a biodiversity hotspot.
I really hope that you will keep these myths in mind and debunk them. In this way, you’ll be able to correct others who come up with these age-old myths about Africa as a travel destination.
Enjoy your travels through Africa, and remember:
Travel. Enjoy. Respect. #IY2017.