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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.

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     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.

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      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

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        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

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          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

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            Last Updated on August 6, 2020

            6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

            6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

            We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

            “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

            Are we speaking the same language?

            My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

            When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

            Am I being lazy?

            When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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            Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

            Early in the relationship:

            “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

            When the relationship is established:

            “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

            It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

            Have I actually got anything to say?

            When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

            A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

            When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

            Am I painting an accurate picture?

            One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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            How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

            Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

            What words am I using?

            It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

            Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

            Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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            Is the map really the territory?

            Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

            A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

            I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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