Advertising
Advertising

7 Common Misconceptions About Africa

7 Common Misconceptions About Africa

Have you ever questioned what you know about Africa?  Chances are, you buy into at least one stereotype of this hauntingly beautiful but misunderstood continent.

1. We all live in huts

Johannesburg_Sunrise,_City_of_Gold by dylan harbour 2008

    This is a variation of the question that gets asked more often than you think. People who have never visited our decidedly un-mud-hutted cities frequently ask this.  Fueled by a visual diet of the rolling plains of the Savannah, it can become hard to believe that this massive continent is home to some of the world’s fastest growing cities. Granted, in rural districts mud huts are a common form of housing, but rapid economic growth has led to migration towards thronging urban cities. Yes, that means cities, with brick houses, electricity, internet and running water.

    Advertising

     2. ‘African’ is a language all on ts own

    512px-Languages_of_Africa_map.svg

      “Do you speak American?” is usually the good-humored retort to the question of whether or not I “speak African.”. Sure, there are plenty of languages that spill over national boundaries, but African is just not one of the approximately 2,000 languages spoken. Colonisation of the continent has led to the adoption of English, French, German and Portuguese as well.

      3. Everyone owns a pet antelope/lion/insert Savannah-dwelling animal

      The carefully cultivated perception of Africa as a safari haven has irreparable implications on common sense. Your average Mulenga will answer, “ Yes, I have a pet lion, I ride it to the office everyday, except when I don’t get parking – then I take the gazelle…”  Sure, you may find a stray chicken and some cattle wandering around in villages on the outskirts of the cities, but our city centers are big game free. Any animal that you would not be inclined to pet is found in a controlled game area. If you do happen to find yourself face to face with a lion though, here’s what you should do.

      Advertising

      4. Africa is lacking in advanced technology


      MTN_Mobile_south_africa_shop

        According to CNN, Africa “has become the world’s second most connected region by mobile subscriptions.” The continent has seen sky rocketing rates in the number of mobile phone owners, as there are more than 754 million connections in Africa. And Tunisia has 10.8 million more phone subscriptions than people. It is true that internet access is somewhat limited to urban and industrial aggregations, but as of 2015, a total of 297 million people have access. That number is growing thanks to initiatives such as Facebook’s to increase access to 5 billion more people.

        Renewable energy is also a focus for a lot of Africa countries. Hydroelectric power and solar panels are used as alternative solutions to energy problems. Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, and South Africa have aimed to obtain 20%, 10%, 75%, and 13% of their electricity by 2020 through renewable sources.

        5. Everyone’s nationality is African

        Advertising

        passports-of-Africa

          Africa is a continent. There are 54 countries spread across this vast land mass. There can be significant cultural differences between countries that result in a multitude of different beliefs, practices and lifestyles. A well known example is South Africa, dubbed the “ rainbow nation.” It is a melting pot of different ethnicities that shows just how diverse one country can be, to say nothing of the whole continent.

          6. You must be darker-skinned to be African

          This is usually announced with the air of one gifted with extraordinary powers of perception. This stereotype is just not true. There is a shocking array of diversity interspersed all over the continent. Every skin pigment known to man is present. Immigrants from other continents arrived generations ago and their descendants have settled in Africa ever since.

          7. Africa is always at war and plagued by poverty

          Advertising

          ETHNIC_ZAMBIA_EDITED

            Contrary to popular belief, not all African countries have descended into political and economic turmoil. Zambia, for example, is a shining example of a country that has maintained peace and has seen a peaceful handover of power from each of the country’s six presidents since its independence in 1964. It has 70+ different ethnic groups and has never had any civil war or serious tumult.

            Corruption is not rampant all over the continent either. Botswana is number 31 on the Corruption Perception Index, indicating that corruption is minimal. Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana are economic powerhouses that have registered increasing growth in recent years as well as a rising middle class.

            Featured photo credit: Dylan Harbour via commons.wikimedia.org

            More by this author

            7 Common Misconceptions About Africa Only People With Social Anxiety Would Understand This 10 Non-cliche Places To Travel In Your 20s

            Trending in Communication

            1 What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships 2 How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence 3 This 4-Year Old Girl’s Explanation On the Problem with New Year’s Resolutions Is Everything You Need 4 What You Really Need to Feel Secure in a Relationship 5 7 Signs You’re Ready to Change Your Life (And What to Do Next)

            Read Next

            Advertising
            Advertising
            Advertising

            Last Updated on January 15, 2019

            What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

            What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

            When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

            Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

            It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

            While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

            Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

            What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

            How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

            It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

            Advertising

            People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

            “A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

            In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

            Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

            As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

            When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

            It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

            Advertising

            What are Interpersonal Skills?

            Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

            In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

            From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

            For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

            Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

            How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

            There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

            There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

            Advertising

            Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

            I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

            Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

            “That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

            Don’t overlook introspection.

            While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

            Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

            Advertising

            When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

            Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

            “Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

            The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

            The Bottom Line

            You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

            Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

            Read Next