Friday, February 19, 2016

Myths About Africa Debunked

There have been so many stories from Africa over the years (and not all good!), that often people tend to get the wrong idea about the continent. To those who have never visited, every story they hear about the place is used to piece together their perception of Africa.

From the light hearted Disney film The Lion King, to something as real and serious as South Africa’s apartheid, these stories make people begin to see a picture in their heads of the continent: herds of wild animals, corrupt governments and extreme poverty to name a few. Although some of these stories are true, there is so much more to Africa that meets the eye. We are here to debunk some of the myths that the media has perpetuated and attempt to show you the real Africa!

So here we go...

Myth 1: Africa is a country

You would think that one this goes without saying, but unfortunately this shocking myth is more common than you would like to think! Africa is definitely not a single country, it is a whole continent made up of 54 countries - each with their own history, languages and cultures. In fact, Africa is so big that the USA, China and India could all fit in there with room to spare!
Myth 2: Africa is just a desert that is hot and sunny all of the time.

Africa is a huge place, with many different climates and landscapes. In the North, in countries such as Egypt, Libya and Morocco the land is mostly covered by the Sahara Desert, making the climate very hot and dry. However in West and Central Africa, in countries such as Ivory Coast and Ghana, the landscape is dominated by jungles - creating a very humid atmosphere. In the East, in countries such as Kenya and Tanzania, the climate is surprisingly moderate but the landscape is so varied. The 2 biggest mountains in Africa are here, Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya, and also the world’s second biggest lake, Lake Victoria. Even during hot weather, you can look up to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro and see snow! In the Southern coastal areas, such as in South Africa and Namibia, they experience Mediterranean temperatures due to being near to the sea, with similar seasons to Europe - hot summers and wet winters.

Myth 3: Everyone in Africa lives in poverty

While it is true that 40% of people in sub-Saharan Africa are living in poverty, huge parts of Africa are home to very wealthy people and cities with big building developments. Lagos, Nigeria is the largest city in Africa and one of the fastest growing cities in the world. South Africa is home to tourist hotspots such as Cape Town. Egypt boats fantastic monuments in cities such as Cairo and beach resorts in Sharm El Sheik. So you see, Africa isn’t all just mud huts! People seem to be surprised to find that African cities have concrete roads and as many buildings as London does. In the more rural areas of East Africa, thousands of tourists flock each year to go on safari, mensing that there are a number of luxury resorts available for those who want to experience the beauty of nature without having to camp in it! In terms of business opportunities, Africa is seen as the place to invest today - with a number of promising startups and a lot of land to spare for farming and production, the long term economic outlook for Africa can only be good.

Myth 4: Africa is full of wild animals

It is definitely not true that you when you walk down a street anywhere in Africa you are at risk of being chased by a lion or elephant. That is the equivalent of thinking that everyone in the USA lives in fear of grizzly bears! In fact most of Africa’s famous wildlife, including the big 5 of lions, elephants, cape buffalo, leopards and rhinoceros, are almost exclusively found in East and South Africa - living and hunting on the great plains or savannahs. These places are usually fenced off by the locals to stop wild animals coming into civilian areas.

Myth 5: Africa is full of diseases

The media has been the main culprit of spreading this myth, being full of news about the Ebola crisis, AIDs, malaria and many more. The high numbers of deaths in Africa from diseases unfortunately come from the high number of people living in poverty who do not have access to the proper healthcare and medication that they need to treat them. While diseases such as these do take millions of lives every year, if you are a tourist who has taken the correct vaccines against the common viruses then you should be absolutely fine. It is not as easy to catch a disease as the media would like you to think, so as long as you do not come into direct contact with anyone infected then you will come away unharmed. The most harm you are likely to come to if you holiday in Africa is getting a sunburn!

Myth 6: Africa has no access to technology

Africa is actually leading the world in some areas of technology! Due to the fact that modern technology came late to the continent, Africans are always coming up with ingenious ways to use the technology they do have to improve their lives. For instance, mobile banking in Nigeria is very common, and Africa looks to be the first place on earth to use solar power more than any other source of power. In 2013 it was reported that 80% of African people had access to a mobile phone. In fact many rural villagers use mobile phones to stay in contact with the outside world, for instance you can see Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania using mobile phones to trade information about cattle prices.


Whilst all of these myths have been proved wrong, there are still a large number of people living in rural Africa who are struggling and need your support. As their city dwelling counterparts benefit from growing economies and technological innovations, many villagers are barely getting by and living on just $1 a day in villages such as the one pictured below.

Ripples is working very hard to give village women a hand up out of extreme poverty by kickstarting small enterprises in their communities. Through microfinance and their own hard work, village women can become empowered and start generating income for themselves without having to rely on their husbands or fathers. Women’s Enterprise projects we have run in the past include Cocoa butter production, Shea butter production, fisheries and Moringa farms. Ripples gives these women a rare chance to establish businesses and provides them with training and assistance to ensure that they can continue the business themselves without the support of Ripples one day.

By continuing to empower groups of women in villages across Africa, we are spreading a ripple effect of sustainable growth and economic growth throughout communities and inspiring them to make change happen for themselves. We want to see a world where no-one is classed as living in extreme poverty: where mothers have enough money to feed and afford health care her children, where all children have access to a quality education, and where young girls have equal opportunities to succeed in their dreams.

But we cannot achieve this without your help. We need your donations in order to continue delivering great projects such as these and proving the myths mentioned above wrong.

We also welcome anyone who wants to join us and see the real Africa for themselves to register as a volunteer for our projects on ground in Cameroon, Nigeria and Ghana. Are you planning a Gap Year? Looking to intern at an international NGO? We want to hear from you!

Together we can make change happen.
Alysha Bennett Web Developer

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