10 Common Myths and Misconceptions about Africa


If you are an Africa and you meet someone from another continent, they tend to have many common misconceptions about Africa. They think Africa is one giant country living in the Stone Age. Even the well respected former president of the United States, George W. Bush, made a false remark about Africa in 2001. According to him,

“Africa is a nation that suffers from a terrible disease.”

This is a common notion in the west. In this article, we hope to debunk some of the misconceptions about Africa.

Africa is a Country

Many westerners think of Africa as one big country. However, in the same way, Asia and Europe is a continent, Africa is a continent. There are 54 countries with thousands of cultures spread over Africa. Each country stands out with its language, tribe, currency, music, identity, and many other distinguishing factors. There are over 3000 unique ethnic groups and more than 2000 languages spoken across Africa.

Man and Animals Live Together

Many westerners also think Africa is mostly underdeveloped. As a result, they coexist with animals like lions, snake, and tigers as a pet. Many think tigers and snake roam around the streets of Africa. This is far from the truth. Like many other continents, there are varieties of wild animals in Africa. However, they have their habitat in the heart of the jungle.

Lion and Man together
Image by Sarah

Some people, however, might keep a wild pet like dogs, and some could be extreme and keep tigers and snake as a pet. This, however, is common to any part of the world as well.

All Africans are Poor

Poverty is a normal phenomenon in many countries, not only Africa. As long as there is an unequal distribution of wealth, some will be poor while others will be rich. With this in mind, Africa is not a poor country that depends on Western Aid for survival. There are abundant natural resources scattered all over the continent.

There are African counties that export their resources even to the Western world. Yes, some Africans could be poor, but not all Africans are poor.

Africa is Underdeveloped

The picture many Westerners have of Africa is a place with a group of a hut surrounded by thick bush. They believe that Africa is a group of people that rely on water from the stream as a means of survival. This is far from the truth. Like any country, there are rural areas and urban areas. While the rural areas might fit this description, it is only a little part of most African countries. The majority of African countries are developed, even though it might not be up to the standard of the first world countries.

slum of south africa
A Photo of Slum from South Africa, Image by vleyva


There are internet facilities, treated water, modern houses, electricity, and vehicles. Some African counties are even working on developing Smart cities.

There are Many Diseases in Africa

Vaccinations are given to babies’ right from their tender age, which helps curb many diseases. There are drugs and preventive measures to control malaria and other common illnesses. Over the years, the healthcare sector has developed; hence the spread of disease is not a problem.

Nigeria, a very popular Africa country, had the influx of Ebola some years back. The disease was contained in less than a week with very few casualties. Should Africa be as backward as many people paint it, I am sure all Nigerians will have been killed by Ebola today.

Africa is a Desert

Without a doubt, Africa houses the third largest desert in the world. And yes, the Sahara desert covers a vast expanse of land, about 9.2 million km2. However, the whole of Africa is not a desert. There are rain forests, fertile areas, and vast water bodies that form the continent. There is a wide array of beautiful landscapes and vegetation that encompasses the country.

It is Always Hot in Africa

Even though the hottest desert is located in Africa, it is not always hot. Africa, unlike other Western countries, has two distinct seasons – the Wet and Dry season. There are countries in Africa (South Africa, Morocco, Lesotho, etc.) that experience snow. Even in the hot Sahara desert, temperatures at night do fall beyond the freezing point.

All Africans are Black

This is not true; all Africans are not dark-skinned. Africa is a country with hundreds of races and tribes, each having various shades of the black color. While the majority of Africans are black, there are countries with white-skinned people as well. South Africa, for instance, has a mix of skin color as the whites settled in the country a long time ago. This made South Africa a distinct Africa country with whites.

black and white africans
Image by Wikimedia


Danger and Violence is the Order of the Day

While many Westerns get the wrong notion that Africa is a dangerous country, this is not true. There are violence, killing, kidnapping, and terrorism in many Western countries as well. The case of Africa does not make it unique. Besides, even though Africa has its fair share of the problem, there are many good things about the countries of Africa that do not get publicized.

There are countries in Africa with an extremely stable government. Some Africa counties are extremely tolerable citizens that welcome foreigners with open hands. Like any other country in the world, there are hostile regions and safe places. The fact that Africa also has hostile and dangerous parts does not mean that it is the norm.

Africans Speak African

There is a huge chance you have met someone that asks you, as an African, to teach them how to speak Africa. This is a common misconception many people have about Africa. Since they believe Africa is a single country, they feel it is bound by a single language. Again, this is far from the truth.

Africa is a conglomerate of many nations. Each country has hundreds of languages being spoken across its borders. Each country is made up of many tribes and ethnic groups, with each having a distinct language. Nigeria, for instance, has 520 unique languages. This means Africa as a whole will have around 2000 languages. There is no general “African” language. There are, however, languages in Africa.


As evident from the above, Africa is like any other country with beautiful people, diverse cultures, exciting language, and a fascinating lifestyle. If you have not been to Africa, I bet you will discover that many things you thought you know about the continent are wrong.

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