Stop Saying “Africa”

Lumping all 54 countries into one erases the unique cultures there

Jeffrey Kass
Momentum

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A view of the Lagos Lagoon at night, Victoria Island in Lagos, Nigeria
Image: Lagos Lagoon in Nigeria — Shutterstock/Alucardion

“We’re going to Africa for vacation,” an acquaintance of mine told me while getting coffee last week.

I wanted to respond sarcastically with, “The whole continent?”

Or:

“Wow. That’s a big place. Are you going to Rwanda, one of the cleanest countries in the world? Are you going to Tanzania, to hike Kilimanjaro? Are you going to Morocco to steep yourself in Arab culture? Or Egypt to visit the pyramids and museums of ancient civilizations? Or Madagascar or Cameroon, to see one of the most biodiverse selections of plant and animal species on the continent?”

Instead, I just stuck with, “Which part?”

You see, we have this bizarre tendency to talk about “Africa” as a monolith. To refer to the continent as if it is one giant country with one giant culture. We have but one idea of who Africans are.

Remember when vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin referred to Africa as a country? Or when U.S. President George W. Bush said that “Africa is a nation that suffers from terrible disease.”?

Even Britain’s Boris Johnson referred to Africa as “that country.”

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Jeffrey Kass
Momentum

A Medium Top Writer on Racism, Diversity, Education, History and Parenting | Speaker | Award-Winning Author | Latest Book: Black Batwoman V. White Jesus | Dad