Beyond the Myths: Africa and Its Diversity

Beyond the Myths: Africa and Its Diversity

Take a look at memes on social media or listen to conversations of people around you and, if the subject of Africa comes up, you’re likely to hear plenty of misconceptions and wrong information! Even well-meaning and educated people believe myths about the African continent despite its diverse cultures, traditions, lifestyles, and peoples. 

Common myths about Africa and African people:

  1. Myth: “Africa is a country.”
    Contrary to the mistaken belief by some that Africa is one country, it is actually a continent consisting of 54 independent countries—each with its own flag, distinct culture or blend of cultures. The African continent is approximately 30,221,000 sq km (11,679,000 sq miles) and over 2000 languages are spoken by people in its distinct countries.
  2. Myth: “Africa has no history of its own.
    Because it is so vast with different countries and cultures, there are rich histories in Africa. Physical structures from kingdoms as old as the 11th century BCE still stand; this is in addition to the famous monuments built in Ancient Egypt. By the 12th century BCE, universities and Quranic schools were thriving in Timbuktu and Mali.
  3. Myth: “Africa is dangerous, violent, and everyone is starving.”
    Generalizing statements are just not true for such a vast part of the world (or anywhere). While there are countries and certain areas that see more civil war or conflict than others, there are many other countries and communities which are peaceful and stable.

    In much the same way, while poverty threatens many people who live on the African continent, this is not accurate for all. Some countries (South Africa is one example) are relatively wealthy overall and have a higher GDP than a few European countries. While there is a strong middle class in many African countries, there are far too many who struggle to survive on a daily basis.

This is where Fair Trade comes in!

Social and economic opportunities are created as fair trade organizations, prioritize alleviating poverty in sustainable and equitable ways over making a profit at any cost to workers and the environment. Artisans and producers in developing countries, including several African countries, are guaranteed safe working conditions and a seat at the table to ensure fair compensation for their labor.

Here’s a bit about two African fair trade artisan groups whose products can be found at Global Gifts stores:

Global Mamas
Based in Ghana, Global Mamas artisans weave, sew, and batik textiles, make homemade essential oil soaps, and more. Some of these artisans live in the bustling capital city Accra and others live in smaller towns, like Ajumako, which is also where the University of Education,Winneba trains teachers.

Imani Workshops
Women and men make jewelry, accessories, bags, and more for Imani Workshops which is located in Eldoret, Kenya. Eldoret is one of the fastest-growing cities in Western Kenya. Imani Workshops provides an opportunity for people who are HIV+ or have AIDS to not only gain valuable skills and to economically support themselves, they also can access health care from Imani’s partner facility AMPATH.  

*Click here to see a wonderful photo essay illustrating the diversity of cultures of African people.





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