by Emmanuel Agyemang

What you know—or don’t know—about
Africa might surprise you.

“So did you live close to the trees and animals in Africa?” My colleague probed eagerly, with such an innocent yet curious smile. Her question about where I am from was not condescending nor did it seem to have any malicious intentions behind it.

In my time in America, I have learned to cultivate patience and be open-minded about a lot of issues. After all, I once had my own misconceptions about America before I ventured into this land. I had my own fantasy of what America was supposed to be and it came as a shock to my younger self that those fantasies were mere misconceptions. Therefore, I have learned to empathize with others in this regard as well, yet it would not be prudent on my account to allow people to wallow in ignorance.

Africa is a continent, divided into 54 countries. Each country is sovereign and distinct from each other, just as the United States differs from Argentina or Bolivia. Though certain parts of the continent have some core similarities, generally they are vastly different in culture, religion, food, etc. There are more than 3,000 tribes all over the continent of Africa, with many separate dialects and languages. Even within countries, dialects differ among different tribes. Generally, countries in Africa speak either French or English depending on which European power colonized them. Ghana, for example, speaks English as it was colonized by Britain. Ivory Coast speaks French in addition to their native dialects, for they were colonized by France.

Following colonization, most African countries made strides toward development. Though the strides were interrupted by civil wars, coups, and Western interference in African political affairs, Africa is not stuck in the dark ages. As with all places, there are those living in poverty, yet Africa is not unique in this regard. In Michigan, for example, there was a shortage of drinking water from 2016 to at least 2019 (Mje, 2020). In 2019, there were about 58,273 people who experienced homelessness in Chicago (Town of Douglas, 2022). Hunger and poverty are not African issues, they are world issues. And while there are still strides to be made to achieve optimal levels of economic independence in Africa, it is still a beautiful place. It defies misconceptions that it is a war-torn, poverty-stricken continent. 

Believe it or not, Africa is a continent, not a country. Believe it or not, a vast population of Africans have never experienced hunger or poverty or war. 

About Emmanuel Agyemang

Emmanuel Agyemang is an international student from Ghana
and a recent graduate of Bradley University with a degree in Political
Science. He has an interest in pursuing law in the near future.

Art by Qaasaani Little

Qaasaani Little is a freshman at Richwoods High School. Little is a member of Student Leadership Team and Student Council. She has loved art for as long as she can remember, including painting and drawing. Little’s artwork is for sale. She also loves animals, after school activities, and is inspired by her mom for always pushing her to do my best.