I had the great fortune of being able to leave my country, Nigeria to go and study abroad. A lot of people just didn't have that option. I had been abroad before but on that trip, I was away for only two weeks and I did not really interact with the locals on a meaningful level. Anyway, here I was in a different country, meeting new people and learning new things.
First thing that struck me was the overwhelming ignorance about my part of the world. I was called African instead of Nigerian. I had never really been referred to like that before moving away. Apparently, quite a few people did not really have a clue about the geography of Africa.
Case in point, I was approached by a teacher, a highly educated Chinese lady. In a timid voice, she told me that she wanted me to help her with some clarification. I let her know that I was pleased to be of help. Her next question shocked and amused me. She said, "Is Africa a country?". I looked at her and could see that she was uncomfortable. It wasn't easy for her to do this. As such, I smiled to ease her apprehension and told her, "No, Africa is a continent. Just like Asia. We have 54 countries in Africa". Her relief was palpable. She was like, "Ahhhhhh... That clears things up. I always wondered about the different types of Africans in my class. The Botswana and Nigerians. Sort of figured that they were tribes in the country of Africa". I laughed and let her know that Botswana and Nigeria are two countries in Africa. She definitely left the conversation with more knowledge than she had when she started it.
One thing they all seemed to agree on regarding the "country" is, Africa is a poor, war-torn and wretched place. They were surprised to realise that their preconceived notions of this "country" were exactly that, preconceived notions founded on an endless barrage of negative media. The Africans they met who were wise and patient enough to befriend and teach them about the continent actually succeeded in changing some perspectives. Once, I asked a dear friend of mine why they had no idea about the geography of Africa. He told me that in school, they never bothered to elaborate about the continent. It just was not brought up in any meaningful way.
Anyway, while I studied in that particular country, I came across different reactions from locals as they gained insights about their African contemporaries. For instance, they were amazed that most Nigerians who came to study in their country chose their country because they considered it to be cheap as opposed to the United Kingdom or the United States. They were amazed that cities like Lagos, Nairobi and Accra existed. Also, it came as a bit of a surprise that quite a few of the Nigerian students academically outperformed a lot of their non-African peers. After all, Africans are meant to be largely "unintelligent". Anyway, it was a great experience for all involved and it was a chance to show people a different perspective about Africa.
In conclusion, Africans of all extractions, shapes and sizes should always regard themselves as ambassadors of their families and countries. In other words, conduct yourselves in a manner which portrays you and yours in a favourable light. Spread the good news about Africa and let all and sundry know that Africa is not a country but a wonderful continent with wonderful people.
Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.
Aug 24, 2018