Africa isn’t a country, it’s a continent with 54 countries

It was my first semester as a transfer student at San Diego State and I was delighted to be sitting in my international theory class when suddenly, the unthinkable happened. 

One of my classmates dubbed Africa as one of the “smallest countries” in the world. 

As exasperated as I was at this absurdity, this was not the first time someone suggested Africa is a country. 

Before relocating to the U.S. as an international student, I had high expectations for Americans.  Unfortunately, the idea that Africa is a country is a widespread phenomenon among many Americans. 

I find this to be quite odd considering all of the resources and educational tools Americans have at their disposal. It makes errors like these maddening and absolutely unacceptable.

Contrary to what many people think, Africa is a continent with 54 countries where people speak different languages and represent a variety of different cultures.

 Also, contrary to what many people think, though many countries in the continent are  experiencing civil wars and insurgencies, the idea that African countries are poor and stricken by poverty isn’t completely accurate. 

I encourage Americans to take the initiative to visit the continent and see for themselves.

The media certainly does not help by portraying African countries as countries with nothing more than starving children. 

These pictures are misleading, and they help strengthen the narrative that Africans are completely poor and in dire need of help from the western world. 

I grew up in Liberia, and although it is a country recovering from civil war, we do have low crime rates as compared to the U.S. 

Poverty unarguably exists in Africa. But it also does in all other parts of the world, including America, though not as severe.

Traveling to African countries also allows one to gain exposure to different cultures and different ways of life. 

This experience rejects the idea that Africa is a hybrid of palm-roofed houses filled with poor black starving children.

Again, this is not to say that  some countries within Africa are not impoverished, but rather, that aspect isn’t all we should see when we think about Africa. 

Foreign exposure also helps one realize there is a world outside of the U.S., one where people have a reasonable quality of life and healthy standards of living.

Moreover, it furthers the idea that even though Kenya and South Africa receive extensive international exposure because of their Safari Parks, they are not the only safe African countries. 

Similarly, referring to Africa as a country is condescending because it reduces the diversity and geographical representations of the various states within Africa

It subjects the multiple countries that have remarkably different cultural identities and unique characteristics to just one body of people.

Even though many African countries are still recovering from colonial rule, there are vibrant lives in every African city. 

Every state is industrialized and has safe cities, businesses, good roads, good hospitals, universities and entrepreneurs.

 In fact, some of the wealthiest and most educated immigrants in America are from African countries. 

All in all, African and African-American students at SDSU can play an active role in debunking the myth of the African country by encouraging their peers to educate themselves and be more  open minded.

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