All too often, the African continent is painted as an exotic, tribal land with underdeveloped customs and languages. The ignorance that perpetuates such misconceptions overshadows the beautiful truth about Africa. To familiarize yourself with the continent, check out the five facts below:

 

1. Because Earth is spherical and most maps are two-dimensional, cartographers are challenged to accurately fit the entire planet. Africa, for instance, is bigger than most maps would lead you to believe. On most maps – or, the Mercator projection – North America appears to be larger than Africa when, in reality, it is the other way around.  Africa makes up 22 percent of the planet’s total land area and is the second largest continent, after Asia.

 

2. In case the first fact didn’t make this clear, Africa is a continent. It is often referred to and treated as a country, whereas the continent is actually composed of 54 different countries. Moreover, prior to colonization, “10,000 different states and autonomous groups with distinct languages and customs” thrived on the land.

 

African gentlemen posing with technology.

Africa is striving in the phone market as well as mobile banking making the continent an appealing investment.

3. Many would be quick to assume that Africa is an entirely poor and disconnected region without meaningful industry. However, many African economies are rapidly growing, especially in the technology sector. Large companies are making investments in Africa for mobile banking and phone markets. This is leading many to claim that Africa will be “the next China” in the technology industry.

 

4. Most people envision Africa as an arid desert region or, sometimes, as a lush expanse of tropical rain forests. Both of these visions are incorrect. The Sahara desert only covers one-third of Africa, and rain forests are mainly clustered around the Zaire River basin and the coast of Guinea. Additionally, Africa is composed of cities and rural regions and has a significant amount of different cultures, as suggested by the 2,000 languages spoken on the continent.

 

Africans in loin cloths standing on one leg with a bow on a barren land.

Gessye Ginelle Safou-Mat’s documentary “The Africa We Know” tackles many misconceptions of the continent and its culture. (sapeople.com)

5. Lastly, some media portrayals paint Africa as a suffering and dark place defined by the concepts of war, famine, and poverty. Gessye Ginelle Safou-Mat, a graduate from the Republic of Congo, directed and released a documentary, “The Africa We Know,” to dispel all misconceptions. She says, “Africa also has a positive story to tell that is not fiction!” Stories of African happiness and prosperity are often hidden by the media, but Safou-Mat fights this silencing with her documentary.

 

Did anything on this list surprise you? What ideas or thoughts does Africa evoke for you? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness.