Coming to Cabo Verde made me realize how many stereotypes are perpetuated about Africans. As I told many of my friends about my destination for the summer they immediately thought I would be living in a hut or rural village, as if countries in Africa didn’t have modern-day housing or cities with apartments. My biggest realization of the biased view of Africa was when I showed people back at home pictures of the Ambassador’s residence which we visited for his Fourth of July party. My friends sent me messages immediately praising the country because they were in shock that an African country had a contemporary, luxurious home. Though his house is definitely not the norm here in Cabo Verde, the fact that they thought this country was incapable of having any elegant homes just because it is in Africa still perplexes me.
One small step towards changing our perception of the continent would be to start respecting its diversity and grandeur. It feels as though Americans forgotten that it is a continent filled with over 1.2 billion people, 1000-3000 languages, hundreds of different cultures, ethnicities, and covers 20% of the world land surface. Another strategy would be to change the images we consume of Africa. Though we cannot alter what we see on television, social media or movies, we can choose to inform ourselves about different countries in Africa and their culture and lifestyles. I’ve talked to different people from Ghana, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe and they’ve made me realize how diverse humans are. It’s easier to think of Africa as a continent when you meet people from different countries. Though they don’t speak for everybody in the respective countries they do give insight into how their ideology is influenced by their culture.
What I see when I look at Cabo Verde isn’t a poor country in Africa in dire need of foreign aid. I see a recently independent country in the early stages of development; I see an emerging country with a burgeoning economy that is ready to face the world in the 21st century. Though there are numerous issues the country faces, such as a predisposition to droughts, various issues related to global warming and little arable land, they aren’t problems you wouldn’t find in any other countries. We cannot talk about Cape Verde’s problems without talking about the amazing amount of success the country has had over the past few decades. They developed a vibrant democracy, reliable clean energy production, and plenty of tourist attractions.
So the next time you think of Africa, try not to feed into the societal portrayal of Africa as one giant impoverished, suffering country. Even more important when you hear someone refer to or even imply Africa is a country remind that person that Africa is the a whole continent that contains 54 recognized countries.