By Fisayo Olayinka-Bello
Can you differentiate between being ignorant and being racist?
I used to think I was racist.
Let me explain. I grew a huge disdain for white people and I called myself a racist after I learnt about our history of slavery, and saw the way my black brothers and sisters are being treated in America, the United Kingdom, even on the African continent.
Some months down the line, after unlearning and relearning new information about racism, I asked myself “what is the difference between myself and the white people that persecute black people”?
With this reflection, I have decided to be more open-minded and consciously stop thinking ill of white people.
Since then, I learnt to discover more about people before I place them in a stereotype, and that is what this article is about today.
In hindsight, after bringing up the topic of racism in a discussion, I learnt something new.
I learnt I was not a racist after all, I was just being “ignorant”. It was during this conversation that I learnt a new meaning of racism.
Racism = prejudice + power
My then disdain for white people did not determine the outcome of their lives, neither did it influence their course of living. However, if a white person hates a black person, he / she has the power and the systematic support to cause harm as a result of that hate.
And that right there is racism.
Changing the African Narrative
Now, as a travel blogger, one thing that fueled my passion when I chose to focus on travel blogging at the beginning was the desire to change the African Narrative.
This stemmed from the stereotype non-Africans had of Africa: it was the fact that Africa was seen as a country when in fact we have 54 countries on the continent.
It was the fact that people think the African continent is a zoo, when in fact we have over 50 urban agglomerations in Africa.
Just like racism, any form of hate starts with ignorance. Ignorance is reduced with knowledge.
Walk with me, as myself and other creators in Africa guide you through 7 things you need to know about the African continent.
The 7 things to know about Africa…
#1: Africa is BEAUTIFUL!
The continent is blessed with amazing tourist destinations and beautiful beaches. In Lagos (a state in Nigeria) alone, we have over 20 beautiful beach resorts.
I visited Diani last year in Kenya, and I was mind blown by the beautiful resort architecture and the clear blue sea at the beaches. It felt like heaven on earth!
Other countries known for amazing beach destinations in Africa are: Tanzania, Mauritius, Seychelles, Cabo Verde, Comoros, South Africa, Madagascar, Mozambique and more.
I asked a friend, Uche, also a lifestyle photographer, to tell me something she would like non-Africans to know about the African continent. She said, “Africans don’t live in huts. We live in houses and make them as comfortable as we can afford.”
Unlike the popular opinion, not all Africans live in huts (a primitive dwelling). This is more common in villages, which in most cases is about 20% of each country’s land mass.
And no, Africa is not a zoo.
As I mentioned in a recent YouTube video, most people might have gotten that notion because of movies like Lion King. However, you should know that the movie was inspired by the Masai Mara game reserve in Kenya and the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Yes, these are national parks where you expect to see wild animals, this does not mean everywhere on the continent is a National Park.
We have well developed cities and amazing tourist destinations.
#2: Africa has 54 countries
I sincerely get upset when I hear people say “I am going to Africa”.
Okay that is great, but what country in Africa though?
No, you can not say East Africa, or West Africa because those are not countries either. You are only describing the regions.
If you decide on West Africa, you are communicating to me that you would be travelling to 16 countries. However, if you only plan to visit one country in West Africa, you should state it.
To educate yourself, kindly search Google for the specific African country you plan to visit.
#3: Africa has billionaires too
Following the notion of people saying “I am going to Africa”, more often than not, the sentence ends with “for a charity cause”.
It would delight you to know that Africa has over 20 billionaires with the net worth of some independent countries in Asia, South America and more.
The 2020 CNBC list of richest people in Africa says the richest man in Africa has a net worth of $10.1 billion; he is a Nigerian named Aliko Dangote.
During my research, I discovered that a country in South America named Guyana has a net worth of $5 billion. This is one country amongst other countries with lower net worths.
Now, the purpose of stating this is to unveil the stereotypes that Africans are poor or Africa cannot survive without external help.
Let me tell you how rich we are by stating our natural resources:
- Algeria, Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and Mozambique are all rich in oil and gas.
- Angola, Botswana, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo are all rich in diamonds.
- Benin, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania, are all rich in gold.
- Gambia is rich in titanium.
And these are less than 1% of our natural resources.
The question is do we have people in need? Yes we do. So does America, China, India, England and more. I would not stand for the stereotype that Africa is the only continent that needs help.
What other creators had to say:
Nnenna Fakoya-Smith (Ajala Nene), a tourism promoter and a postcard collector, said the following when asked to mention one thing she would like the world to know about the African continent: “Africa is not a dumping ground. It is a place of many creative minds. Africans are innovative people who create things that revolutionize the world.”
This is what Akosua Shirley, a Ghanian travel content creator had to say: “Hi world, my children playing is not the picture for your gratitude caption nor are they the poster kids for poverty. It’s children playing in play clothes. I doubt your kids play in their Sunday best. Plus I have been to your ‘country side’, same! Same! Let’s respect ourselves.”
I also asked a budget traveller named Nike Oresanya the same question. This is what she said: “Africa is not poor. Africa is rich. She is rich in nature (home to the longest river in the world), culture (home to thousands of diverse tribes and languages), mineral resources ( including diamond, gold, coal, petroleum, uranium to mention a few), wildlife and amazing landscapes. The beauty and diversity of Africa is unmatched.”
You read it. *winks*
#4: Creativity lives in Africa
It is no news that Afrobeats originated in Nigeria, specifically through Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Now, this genre of music has been exported globally. Beyonce even used this genre in her 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift. Now music is not my forte, so I would not dwell on this much.
Our arts and cultures are an inspiration to many. Our movie industry in Nigeria (Nollywood) is said to be the second largest movie industry globally.
I asked a South African travel creator, Thobi Rose, to share one thing she wants the world to know about Africa. She said “I would love people to know that Africans are at the top of the creativity of the world – from our music, to our art, fashion and food!!! We are the trailblazers that people never knew existed until we were put on the map.”
“We all are not cyber criminals. This news on the media about immigrants from Africa being cyber criminals and stealing everyone off their wealth needs to be unlearned. We have Africans doing great things all over the world.” This was a statement made by ThatTokeLady, a Nigerian travel blogger.
You should know that there is crime everywhere in the world and is it not unique to a country or continent.
A study carried out by the Centre of Strategic & International Studies shows that the majority of cyber crimes originate from China, Russia and the USA. So why the African stereotype?
#5: Africa is a happy continent
This is a point I derived from TheAyomideTravels (a Nigerian travel blogger). He says, “Africa is one of the continents filled with happy people. We have a way of welcoming foreigners and tourists into our community, making everyone feel welcome and loved.
With so much joy we open up our world to everyone who wants to be part of it. As against what the media portrays, everywhere you find Africans both home and abroad there is this positive energy that we bring to life.”
I cannot agree more with this statement. I have been to 17 states in different African countries, and I can tell you I felt welcomed and safe in all of them.
The generosity is unmatched.
Travelling within the African continent opened my eyes to the joy of being.
I observe people to understand why they act the way they do every time I travel. My conclusion is that most of it stems from environment and upbringing.
When you see us happy and joyful, know that it is because it is who we are by nature and culture.
#6: We speak English
Our continent is rich in diversity of cultures, it is estimated that there are about 1500-2000 African languages. AjalaOnABudget, a travel blogger, says this is what she wants the world to know about the African continent; “Language may not necessarily be a barrier when you come visiting.
More than a dozen African countries are English speaking. African countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius (and a lot more) have English as their official language.
French is also widely spoken in many countries like Seychelles, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire and more. In many French-speaking African countries, English is a second language for the locals. Don’t let a perceived language barrier stop you! Come & visit our continent.”
#7: Africa breeds innovators
The popular Netflix movie by Chiwetel Ejiofor, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, is the true life story of William Kamkwamba. He’s a 32 year-old Malawian inventor and author. As a young boy, he saw a problem in his village and sought a solution that would later bring him global recognition.
I started my blog with my phone and laptop to provide information to readers. My hope was that my content would inspire them to do great things. I later focused on promoting destinations in Africa after I discovered two things:
- A large percentage of Africans are not aware of the destinations to visit within their continent which then reduces the rate at which they explore the continent.
- The African continent is being painted in a negative light and an African needs to change that.
This led me to start TheFisayo.com (my blog) and TravCP– where we connect tourists to tour operators and destinations within the African continent on the platform we developed.
Uche Okwechime, a lifestyle photographer, wants the world to know this: “Africans are not technology-illiterates. We are quite tech-savvy. We may not have access to the latest technologies in the world or necessarily be able to afford every new device but we definitely keep abreast with the latest developments.”
Lastly, Funmi Oyatogun, an experienced designer and geographer says, “there is no place to find information about all of Africa. Africa is diverse so if you’re looking for where to go, look for information about that specific city or country lest you learn about Malawian big city norms and carry them into tiny Cape Verdean villages.”
Final thoughts on things to know about Africa
In all, if you do not learn anything else about the African continent, learn this – Africa is not a country, it is a continent with 54 BEAUTIFUL COUNTRIES, each with different stories, history and culture. Seek to learn about each country from the stories of locals in a city, or better still, visit the country to experience it before you develop a stereotype about a culture or continent.
I hope this brings light to your understanding of the African continent.
*Signature pose – two fingers in the air: PEACE*
Your favorite African storyteller,
About the author
Fisayo Olayinka-Bello AKA TheFisayo is an award-winning travel blogger, focused on promoting Tourism in Africa.
Want to learn more about racism in the travel industry? Check out our last three guest posts on the topic below:
- How To Be A Good Ally to BLM by Pelumi from Black Kintsugi
- The Peculiarities of Traveling While Black – And How Travel Media Can Help by Jessica from @theUfuoma
- Where Are You REALLY From? And Other Racial Microaggressions Black Travellers Wish You’d Stop Saying by Efia from Effy Talks Life
And check back for next week’s article!