When I meet new people who aren’t familiar with the African continent I do get questions like ‘ I have a friend from Zimbabwe, do you know him?, ‘ Do you know the language that sounds like …’ Can you dance this kind of dance…? And many more.
Most of the time, I do my best to explain that Africa is not a country but a continent with 54 countries, 2000 languages, and over 1.2 billion people. As this is a recurring theme of questions I get any time I travel abroad, I sometimes wonder why this is so. Perhaps is it because there isn’t enough content about the continent? Are people lazy to read? Do these people really want to know? Do they even care to know? Truth is, most of the time these are genuine questions they have.
So I ask, why is Africa so diverse but yet people still see Africans as one?
In reality, Africa is about the most diverse continent on earth. The culture in the North is so different from the culture in the South, East, and West. The food, the dance, the music language, etc. For instance, West Africa is well known for the nature of their food - Most West African’s prefer spicy food while most Africans in the East may not opt for that at a dining session. Music genres such as afrobeat, dancehall, Zouk, Reggae are quite popular in the West of Africa. The Fashion style in the East is also different, you will find women with a lot of piercings on their bodies as well as colorful beaded necklaces.
Not only are the differences based on the region of Africa you are from but also the countries within the same regions have huge differences too. Within West African, there are over 200 different languages spoken. In Ghana alone, there are about 80 different languages.
So, if we are so different then what then unites us?
Firstly, I do think our history unites us. Africa is known to be the most exploited continent, talk about the slave trade. African’s know the price our forefathers paid to keep the continent and are always striving to make it a better place.
Secondly, we all have an emotional connection - I know not every African has the same skin color but somehow African’s are able to tell whether one has the ‘gene’ or not. And when there’s another person from African descent in the room you know you have a brother or sister right there!
Thirdly, our warm nature - African’s are extremely friendly and somehow define happiness differently. I have read several articles about travelers commending African’s for their warmth and hospitality anytime they visit the continent. I have heard quotes like ‘ You don’t need to be rich to be happy’ just because some travelers who often visited deprived communities spoke fondly of the happiness seen amongst the people they encountered.
Finally the food! Yes, Africans don’t joke with their food, notably, Africans from the West have an ongoing debate themed The ‘Jollof rice war’ which is the best icebreaker to start any conversation with a Nigerian, Ghanaian, Ivorian, Senegalese, Togolese, etc.
Let’s start the conversation, leave your comments below.
Blog credits: Stephanie Hiewobea-Nyarko, Canada