Common myths about Africa debunked

  • vintage Africa map
Published on 2017-12-15 at 08:52
Africa is the second largest continent in the world with over a billion inhabitants, and is made up of 54 sovereign countries. It is home to the longest river in the world, the Nile River. Africa is incredibly diverse in all sense of the word – in its topography, landscapes, geography, culture, and cuisine. Yet, it is often referred to as one entity, even by visitors and expats who have moved to African countries, which lead to plenty of common misconceptions about the continent. is here to set the record straight.

Misconception: Africa is one entity

Africa map

The most popular mistake is to think of Africa as one entity, with a homogeneous population and culture. The common phrase “I'm going to Africa” is similar to saying “I'm going to Oceania”. Implying that Africa is just one big country is wrong on so many levels – it takes away the identity and dignity of all the people from the diverse distinct 54 countries that make up Africa, merges all the unique cultures into one, and creates the perception that when one crisis occurs in one African country, the whole continent is plagued by the same crisis.

Misconception: Africa is poor

cape town
InnaFelker /

While there are some countries in Africa that suffer greatly from famine and poverty, not all of Africa is poor. Many of the world's fastest emerging economies today come from African countries, and the middle class is growing. There is also a huge entrepreneurial movement happening in many cities. Many African countries are also rich in natural resources such as oil, diamonds, and minerals.

Misconception: Africa is underdeveloped

Felix Lipov /

A common belief is that the whole continent of Africa is underdeveloped. In reality, there are many cities in many African countries that are completely modernized, with innovative infrastructures and technological advances. The first human heart transplant in the world was performed in Cape Town, South Africa, back in 1967. In fact, there are many cities such as Cape Town that are incredibly modern and becoming more and more popular among expats, due to its business opportunities, lifestyle, and beautiful landscapes.

Misconception: Africa is only for safaris

beach in Africa

While safaris are a big attraction for many, not every country in the African continent is full of wildlife and game. Moreover, animals don't randomly wander out into the cities, and are usually only found in large game reserves, particular in countries such as South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania. In some countries such as Ghana, there is no opportunity to go on a safari as there are no wild animals to be found. There are however, beautiful fishermen villages to discover.

Misconception: Africa is arid and hot

Lesotho ski

Certain parts of the continent can be arid and hot, but there is a wide range of climates and weather patterns across Africa. While the countries in the Sahara region do experience extreme heat and dryness particularly during the summer months due to the desert (as does Namibia in Southern Africa), rainfall, snow, and cold temperatures are experienced as well. In East Africa there are seasons that bring heavy rainfall, and in certain parts of South Africa the temperatures are humid and cold, dropping to below five degrees Celsius in the winter. Lesotho is known for its high altitude adventure opportunities, including skiing and snowboarding.