Africa Is Not A Country

As I am sure most of you are aware, Africa is not a country.  So I don't understand why people insist on referring to it like all the countries here are one and the same.  Each country here has its own political system and individual history.  You cannot judge one country's stability, safety, whatever by what is going on in a completely different area.  It's like deciding to not travel to Texas because there's a protest in D.C.

This is not a new belief and sadly, it is not something that is going away despite the growing global ability to access a plethora of information via this lovely new fandangled thingy called the world wide web.  I actually had people tell me that they wouldn't go to the World Cup in South Africa last year because of violence the Togo football team experienced in Angola.  Ok, people, admittedly, Angola is not the most stable of governments and this event should raise concern.  For. That. Country.  However, just because a World Cup team was attacked. In. Another. Country. doesn't make South Africa unsafe.  South Africa has its issues but judge them based on those, not another country's problems.

And while we're calling people out, let's discuss the media and how it likes to shape people's opinions in general but specifically about African countries.  There was a tongue in cheek article that touched on this issue a few years back, but I feel like a few too many journalists read this and thought, "awesome, a how-to guide will make my writing about this country that most people have never ever heard of so much more interesting!"  Since there are very few non-partisan news agencies out there, I personally prefer to get my news from Al Jazeera as they have less of an agenda than most western agencies to skew public views on Africa, in my opinion.  When there is a news story about a country here, the spin is focused to gain the most viewer/readership; therefore what you end up hearing and seeing are many more stories of death and destruction and much less on those countries thriving peacefully and accomplishing great things, because who wants a feel-good story when you can hear about blood and gore?

So in saying this, all I'm trying to get at is that you as an individual should take control of your knowledge.  Be aware of what's going on outside your bubble and in the greater global community.  Yes, there is corruption; yes, there is crime, however that happens all over the world.  I could be robbed living in Dallas so it's ridiculous to think that my life is any worse living in Kenya or Tanzania than Texas.  Terrible things happen everywhere. And no, there is no threat of genocide; I live in Nairobi; not Darfur or Abyei.  And I would like to point out that there are human rights atrocities that have taken place in every country of the world so there's no escaping those either.

Sidenote: If you are thinking of traveling to *any* country, not just one in Africa, be smart.  For my American friends, go to the US travel warning website and see what they have to say.  (For all of my non-American readers, I am sure that your country has something similar, but I also am biased in thinking that you are probably a little more aware of traveling abroad to more exotic locale than the majority of Americans.)  However, do keep in mind that these warnings are issued to be overly cautious so in case something does happen the government cannot be held responsible for not warning their citizens.  I'm not saying don't listen to them, I'm just saying it should be only one factor of your decision.  While you're there, take a minute to register your trip as well so you can get updates and be contactable by the US consulate or embassy if necessary.  Also, talk to  people who you know that have lived/traveled in the region; they are likely to be the ones that will be most brutally honest with you.  


  1. My first year at college I learned every country in Africa and their capitols. It wasn't easy, and don't ask me if I remember them because I don't. I often have an argument with my father about the UK. He insists they don't have what we (US) have. I have been there several times, he has never been there. I get frustrated trying to explain to him that they are not stuck in the 1800's.

  2. I have often found myself saying that Africa is a continent not a country. It seems that people make that mistake all the time, and I don't understand why it has been shrunken in peoples minds to be one unity when it isn't. As you so rightly point out it is very much like saying you won't visit one part of the US because of a protest in DC. Or you won't visit Europe this year because of the recent terror attacks in Norway.

    Side note to Kimberely J, I am an American living in the UK (and part time in Nairobi) and actually the UK has alot more than the US in many regards. In many ways they are ahead technologically, and have been for many years. A fact which surprised me when I moved here 13 years ago. Now I am surprised more by how far behind the US is when I go home to visit. Odd how peoples perspectives are so inaccurate based on nothing more than assumption.

  3. FYI: If you want updated info, the US State Department also gives travel warnings. Check out: