Couple of months ago, Nigerian award winning novelist Chimamanda Adichie faced a similar ordeal. She was asked by a French journalist whether “there are libraries in Nigeria”. Adichie responded, “I think it reflects very poorly on French people that you have to ask me that question.”
The journalist tried to explain herself, arguing, “We speak very little about Nigeria in France, certainly not enough, and when we do it’s about Boko Haram and the problems of violence and security. I would like to take advantage of your presence for us to talk about other things and things that we don’t know about your country.”
It is clear that despite access to information via the internet, alongside the growing opportunity to travel to the continent, there is still widespread misinformation about Africa. The misconceptions are then made apparent through the questions people around the world ask Africans. Below is a short list of the ridiculous ones and why.
9. When did you move here?
This one is less ridiculous but worth mentioning nonetheless. There are a growing number of Africans born outside of the continent and many hold onto their African identity even if they were born elsewhere. It is worth being mindful about the assumption that all Africans are born in Africa.
8. Why are you here?
This question can be insensitive if not asked with the proper context. Africans, like everyone else, have a right to immigrate and travel the world. An African may want to share the reasons for their travel, or may not. Either is okay.
7. Do you have a pet monkey?
Like the lion question, many contemporary Africans hardly encounter monkeys, let alone have them as pets. Many monkeys live in the mountains and rainforests in Africa, and Africans too encounter them only in reserves and zoos.
6. You don’t look African. Are you mixed with anything?
Because of the media’s representation of Africans as “dark skin with kinky hair”, many around the world believe that there is only one way to look African. Scientists have however officially declared Africa as the most genetically diverse region in the world. Hence, there is no way all Africans can look alike.
5. “What is Africa like?”
Africa is the second largest continent by land mass and population. The continent is home to 54 countries. It is impossible for one person to speak on Africa objectively. When an African speaks on Africa then, it may be in the spirit of Pan-Africanism.
4. Wow, you speak English so well. Where did you learn it?
English is the official language in more than a dozen African countries. These countries were former British colonies and English is taught in school, and spoken at school, work, and home.
3. Do you speak African?
With over 2,000 languages, no one person, however linguistically astute they are, can speak African. In Nigeria alone, there are over 500 languages spoken.
2. Do you have a lion as a pet?
Although the big cats only exist in Asia and Africa, they do not roam the continent like they once did. In fact, many Africans have and will never see a lion in their life. The kings of the jungles are also endangered as poachers, cities, and the environment impede on their habitats in Africa.
1. Do you have libraries/ internet/ phones/ roads/ cars/ post/ shops/ schools/ money in Africa?
Africa has everything other continents around the world have, and definitely many of the above. A look through our platform makes this evident. Although access to resources and tools may not be available to all everywhere, many people enjoy the benefits of contemporary life.
Four African countries also have satellites in space, and Africa may be leading the world in some areas, including adoption and use of new technologies such as drones.
Do you think we missed any questions? Let us know the most ridiculous question you have been asked as an African abroad.