Do you find yourself doubting what you’ve heard about Africa in the past? Here are the common misconceptions about Africa that will help you sort out the facts from the myths.
As an African, a Ugandan to be exact, I sometimes don’t know what to do or how to behave when I hear about the misconceptions people have about Africa!
Some misconceptions about Africa are just too funny not to laugh but others are just way too dumb that I always take a gasp of air and just sigh about the fact that some people think such ugly and weird things about this beautiful continent!
Well, I guess I have to blame the media for that for only displaying the ugly part of the continent like there is nothing going right in this little (rather huge) corner of the world.
However, even when my judgy hat is on, I still try to understand why some people may have such myths about Africa. I mean I had some misconceptions about Europe and America as a kid but that’s a story for another day!
So to help you get a better understanding of this second largest continent beyond what you might have heard, here are some of the common misconceptions about Africa coupled with what actually happens so that you separate Africa myths from facts.
Related post: 15 Things to know before traveling to Africa
Common misconceptions about Africa
1. You will die if you travel to Africa
You’re not gonna die! Are you kidding me??? Ok, back to me being understanding- of course, you’re not gonna die. This is not a battlefield that you should be worried about dying.
I can’t remember the number of times I’ve heard this misconception, probably because I lost count. Whether it is a parent warning her child not to travel to Africa because he might die or relatives and friends advising against it – I swear the fear is real!
But c’mon, you can die from literally anywhere in the world and Africa is not a battlefield that you’re going to be shot to death the minute you step foot in the continent.
If this is one of the misconceptions of Africa that was stopping you from coming to Africa, book your flight already and come enjoy the beauty that lies in Africa because this is just a myth.
Pro tip* Just because you won’t die in Africa doesn’t mean that you should ignore all the travel safety tips, use common sense and judgment when traveling to make sure that you’re safe at all times.
2. Everyone sleeps in huts and grass-thatched houses
I have to say that if I didn’t live in Africa, I’d probably think that all Africans sleep in huts – (just probably) instead of the normally constructed houses because this is all that is shown on TVs and documentaries.
But this is absolutely not true. Even though there are a few people who still sleep in huts especially in the very rural communities of Africa, most people in Africa sleep in properly constructed houses that the west is accustomed to. Yes, some people even stay in fully furnished apartments.
3. Everyone in Africa is poor
I agree, Africa is regarded as a poor continent in general (which is true) but this doesn’t mean that everyone is. There are all kinds of classes in Africa; the very poor, the poor, the middle class, the rich, and the filthy rich.
However, in this regard, the economic gap between the rich and the poor is quite huge compared to the situation in other parts of the world.
You’ll find street kids begging but on the same road, you’ll find someone driving one of the most expensive cars in the world. You’ll definitely run into a number of people that are struggling financially but don’t assume that everyone is.
4. There is no electricity in Africa
One of the common myths about Africa is that there is no electricity on the continent. I want to assure you that there is electricity in Africa and you shouldn’t be worried about staying in the dark for your entire stay.
Nevertheless, a few parts of Africa still have no electricity but a number of African governments are trying to make electricity widely spread across all their respective countries.
However, most of the major tourist spots in Africa have electricity or at least solar power to keep the lights on. But although there is electricity, power cuts are still common in Africa where the electricity goes off for a couple of minutes or hours which later comes back on.
So as a means of preparing yourself for the power outages, carry a flashlight like this one to use during those dark times. This is rare though in hotels and hostels as they always have either a backup solar or generator- so even if the power goes off, you’re likely not to even notice it.
But all in all, the idea that there is no electricity is simply one of the myths of Africa that shouldn’t be taken seriously. I mean I would not be able to run this blog if we didn’t have electricity.
Related post: The complete packing list for Africa
5. Africa is dangerous and unsafe to travel to
One of the commonest questions I’ve heard being asked by travelers is whether Africa is safe. Though we can’t judge it as a continent, there are some countries in Africa that are safer than others for example these countries are considered the safest in Africa.
But just like traveling to any other country on the planet, you have to observe all the basic travel safety measures as an individual not to run into trouble.
Even though Africa is safe, you have to know what to do and what not to do. For example, do not walk alone late in the night in deserted places, be mindful of your expensive travel items instead of flashing them around – you can take an anti-theft backpack like this one to keep your travel items safe.
If you observe those and follow common sense, you’ll realize that Africa is actually a safe continent to travel to.
Related post: Big mistakes to avoid while traveling in Africa
6. Africa is a country
This is one of the funniest misconceptions about Africa and kind of annoying if you ask me. No, Africa is NOT a country – it is a continent made up of over 50 countries, 54 to be exact.
And actually, all these countries have their own cultures, traditions, languages, accents, etc and all this diversity makes Africa what it is- a place of beauty and diversity.
Well, to put this in perspective, Africa is the second-largest continent in the world – so how would it be possible for it to be just one country!!
7. All Africans speak the same unified language
Another common myth about Africa is that there is one common language called “Afrikaans” that is widely spoken across Africa. But let me make this clear.
There is a language called “Afrikaans” in Africa but it’s not spoken by all Africans but rather only spoken in South Africa and other southern African countries but to a lesser extent.
I’ve personally got this very question a number of times while traveling whether I speak Afrikaans but being from the Eastern part of Africa, I don’t even know the first word in Afrikaans better yet to say hi. Ahh, that reminds me, let me google it now so that I learn it. “Hi” in Afrikaans is “Hallo” – not hard at all though!
Africa is blessed to have over 2000 spoken languages across all the African countries which constitutes a third of the world’s total languages even if its population is just less than a seventh of the total world population.
And since most countries in Africa have different tribes, that explains all the different languages. This goes to show how diverse the continent is meaning that on average, every country has over 37 languages spoken. Impressive, right?
8. We pet wild animals
Oh, wouldn’t it be so cool to have a pet lion or even a baby elephant instead of a dog or a cat!! However cool (or dangerous- depending on how you look at it) that might sound, it’s a total myth.
Actually, in reality, it’s illegal and punishable by law for a private citizen to have any kind of wild animal in his home except with the necessary permits (which I think no one can easily obtain).
Wild animals can only be found in Africa’s national parks and zoos but not in people’s homes.
But think about it for a second! How funny is this misconception though! Just imagine petting a lion smh!
Related post: Best tips for having a perfect safari in Africa
9. You’ll find wild animals roaming in the city
Ok, if you thought petting wild animals was a killer, wait for this one! That you’ll be driving in the city and an antelope might cross the road LOL.
Yeah, I know this will happen in places near National parks and game reserves which are usually remote but certainly not in a city centre.
However, you’re likely to come across some domestic animals crossing the roads or just roaming in the cities like dogs, cats, goats etc. but definitely not wild animals.
10. Africa is just wild (animals and bushes)
I agree, Africa is blessed with one of the most beautiful wildlife in the world but there is more to that than just bushes and animals.
For most people that don’t know anything about Africa, they always think that Africa is some sort of jungle with only bushes, forests, and animals. (I know for a fact because a few friends told me that this is what they thought Africa was like before they traveled there). I guess I can give them a pass because before I traveled to Europe, I thought it was all buildings with no grass or trees at all – don’t judge me, I was a kid!
Nonetheless, it’s true that there are a number of untouched jungles in Africa but its not true that the entire continent is like this.
Africa has a number of big cities – ones you’d love to hate and some cute small towns. So it’s simply not all bushes and there is more to see in Africa than just the animals.
Related post: Things to know before Backpacking Africa
11. Africa is not up to date when it comes to technology
Another misconception about Africa is that it is still backward when it comes to technology. I agree not all the African countries may have the most advanced technology to send someone to Mars and back on earth – but hey that’s almost all countries in the world.
Yes, we have banks, planes, advanced mechanical tools, we always look forward to the next iPhone release (I still don’t have an iPhone 11 yet but my small iPhone still works well), we are always looking to learn more about technology and our enthusiasm has taken the continent far. So YES, Africa is not backward with technology.
12. Traveling to Africa is cheap
Let me make this clear, living in Africa is completely different from traveling in Africa. The cost of living in Africa might be a bit low but visiting the famous places of Africa is not.
Yes, you can travel to Africa on a budget but it’s likely not to be the same as visiting some of the cheapest countries in Asia. Safaris which are why most people travel to Africa are quite pricey and hotels/ lodges inside or near national parks also don’t come cheap.
And depending on where you’re flying into Africa from, flight fares also tend to be expensive. Also, the best National parks in Africa are far from each other which means that you’ll also spend quite a lot moving from one park to the other.
So if thought traveling to Africa is cheap, you might want to think twice and actually start saving up to enjoy the beauty on the continent.
There you have it, folks, those were the misconceptions about Africa that are simply not true. And by now, I hope that you know the truth instead of being wrapped up with the Africa myths.
Have you have heard of any other myths or misconceptions about Africa that you either believed or laughed about? Share them in the comment section and let’s teach others together or even giggle about it.
Ready to travel to Africa? Don’t leave these items behind
It would be a mistake to travel to Africa without travel insurance. Anything can happen on the dusty roads of Africa or in the chaotic cities.
So make sure that you and you’re items’ safety is guaranteed by buying travel insurance.
Most travelers love World Nomads travel insurance as it’s easy to get a quote and the claiming process is not a rat race.
The other advantage is that it works in over 130 countries including those in Africa.
Universal travel adapter
Instead of taking different adapters for each African country which is very impractical and expensive, you’re better of taking this universal travel adapter.
Portable Power bank
Before going to Africa, make sure that you have a power bank like this so that you stay connected even on the go when your battery phone dies.
Micro fiber travel Towel
I recommend taking this microfiber travel towel since it is lightweight, dries quickly and it is very absorbent. It’s much better than carrying the heavy cotton ones.
Africa Lonely planet Guide book
Get a general insight on Africa from experts by getting yourself a copy of this Lonely Planet guide book.
Personal water filter
Collapsible water bottle
In that same manner, carry yourself a water bottle so that you can refill it every time it runs dry. This travel water bottle is collapsible and lightweight which means that it won’t take up a lot of space in your backpack. Taking a water bottle will also reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles which is great for the environment.
You can check out the complete Africa packing list to know all the essentials to take.
Need more Africa tips? Check out these posts to plan your trip better
- Things to know before traveling to Africa
- Africa bucket list
- Safari tips for Africa
- Famous landmarks in Africa
- Best safari destinations in Africa
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