When most Western citizens hear the word “Africa,” many imaginations, perspectives and misconceptions spring up. Americans are known to harbor some of the worst misconceptions about Africa compared to their Western counterparts.
There are thousands of misconceptions about Africa. However, we are going to explore the 25 most common misconceptions and the countries that are greatly associated with them.
The following are the seven main countries where most misconceptions originate. They are also the countries from where the sources of facts that counter most of the 25 misconceptions are established.
Northern Africa: Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya
These are among the most civilized countries in North Africa.
- Egypt: A country in the Eastern-most part of North Africa. It has both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea coastlines. It is famous for its River Nile, the Pyramids, and Pharaohs.
- Morocco: A north-western-most African country and the only one in Africa that shares both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines.
- Tunisia: Contains the northernmost part of the African continent. This country and it’s capital, Tunis, are and have been very popular tourist attractions for a long time now.
- Libya: Plagued by recent events that put it in the world spotlight, Libya has much more to offer than just conflict. It’s a country rich in history and culture.
Misconception 1: “Entire North Africa natively speaks Arabic.”
There is a general misconception that the entire people of North Africa speak Arabic. Morocco and Algeria are typical examples of this misconception.
Fact: One-third of Moroccans and one-quarter of Algerians do not speak Arabic as their first language. They speak Amazigh (native Berber language) as their first language. In addition, French is one of the most dominant languages in Morocco. Far more people in Morocco are fluent in French than Arabic.
Misconception 2: “Christianity in Africa was brought by European Missionaries.”
This is one of the most common misconceptions about Christianity in Africa.
Fact: Africa played a central role to the formation of Christianity. It is well-written in the Bible. Both Moses and Jesus grew up in Africa. The people who identify with modern day Israel lived in Africa for more than 900 years. Africans had established Christianity long before continental Europe. Carthage (Tunisia), Tripolitania (Libya), and Alexandria (Egypt) were centers of Christianity long before Rome became one.
Simon (who helped Jesus carry his cross came from Libya) and Mark (the founder of the Church of Alexandria/Coptic Church/Eastern Orthodox Church, and the author of the Gospel of Mark) also came from Africa.
Misconception 3: “Africa is home to only black people.”
Most people regard Africa as one Black Country. In this regard, they do not consider North African countries such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Egypt as part of Africa. This misconception is fueled by the skin color, race, and development in Egypt and Morocco compared to most of the Sub-Saharan region.
Fact: Africa is not only in fact a continent but the second largest continent on earth in which entire North America and Western Europe can fit into and leave some space for Australia. There are more than 52 countries in Africa. The combined land area of the larger Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo is bigger than the combined land area of the entire Western Europe.
Misconception 4: “Africa is dangerous and violent.”
Fact: With all the news sensualization about Somali pirates, child soldiers, coups, revolutions, and wars. It’s no surprise that most people (Westerners especially), fear stepping foot into Africa. Truth is, the events that make the news don’t reflect all of Africa, whose nations have middle classes just like other European or North American countries.
It’s true, as with any other place, Africa has it’s DONT’s. But it’s about common sense at the end of the day.
Misconception 5: “The entirety of Africa is a huge, densely forested, jungle.”
Fact: Nope. Africa has the world’s largest hot desert – the Sahara Desert. The Sahara Desert occupies most of North Africa. Africa also has two other deserts apart from Sahara – the Kalahari Desert and the Namib Desert. The Kalahari Desert occupies most of Botswana and the Namib Desert occupies the western coastal parts of Angola, Namibia, and South Africa.
Misconception 6: “Egypt is not part of Africa.”
Due to the proximity of Egypt to the Middle East, more importantly as Israel’s neighbor, most Westerners cannot conceive the notion that Egypt is in Africa while Israel is in Asia. Furthermore, since most of Egyptians are not black but rather of Arabic origin, this helps to serve the misconception that Egypt is an Arab country. Unfortunately, a good number of countries in North Africa have added the word “Arab (Republic)” to their official title, adding to the confusion.
Fact: Being ‘Arabic’ does not mean ‘not being African.’ Arab is a sub-race rather than a region. Africa is a region (Continent) rather than a race. In fact, Egypt is one of Africa’s oldest civilizations.
Misconception 7: “Egypt has always been occupied by Arabs.”
Fact: Arabs started arriving in Egypt towards the beginning of the 7th century AD. Prior to that, the Nilotic people of Africa occupied Egypt.
Misconception 8: “Egyptian Arabs built the pyramids.”
Fact: Nilotic African groups, mainly the Nubians, built the Pyramids. These people (mainly black) are currently located in Sudan. In fact, there are a lot of pyramids in Sudan.
Misconception 9: “Pharaohs were Arabs.”
Fact: Again, Pharaohs existed long before Arabs came to Egypt. They were of Nilotic origin.
Misconception 10: “All people of Morocco are native Arabs.”
Fact: Berbers are the original natives of Morocco. Most people of Morocco have a mix of Berber-Arabic ancestry.