Correcting misconceptions about ‘Africa’

Last week the US news channel Fox News came under heavy criticism for their headline relating to the Pope’s visit to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic which described the entire African continent as “war-torn” (view here: And much of that criticism was from groups such as Kenyans on Twitter who generated the hashtag #someonetellFoxNews and quickly reacted to correct the headline’s insinuation that all of Africa is ‘war-torn’. In fact, BBC World Have Your Say did a whole show getting feedback on the headline ( – 28 Nov post).

war torn africa

There are a few reflections that come out of this for me; firstly that there definitely is still a misconception that what is happening in one part of Africa is the case in all parts of Africa. Ebola was another classic example of that. Secondly, that social media has definitely taken off in parts of Africa and people are using it to be aware of world events and are also not afraid to use it to call people and organisations to account. And thirdly, that news shows only have so many characters in which to fit a headline and grab attention and sometimes they miss the mark. Sure, you could argue that Fox was aiming to do just that – grab attention – and that anyone who listened to the story in detail or read anything on the net would soon understand the full story – no harm done. But that’s not the point…..

We all have misconceptions and incomplete understandings of the world we live in. No one has been everywhere, seen everything and read everything and no one has a complete knowledge of anything. But while some misconceptions or incorrect statements are relatively harmless and sometimes quite amusing, others really do cause harm and are worth speaking up to correct.  And just as there are many ways in which and reasons why misconceptions and misunderstandings are created, there are also a number of ways emerging to try and correct some of the ones about Africa, some with equal combinations of sarcasm and passion! I mentioned Kenyans on Twitter earlier and a couple more are below.

I was both amused and encouraged by which appears to have emerged with the sole purpose of raising awareness of the fact that Africa is a continent, not a country and that it is a very diverse continent at that.

I also love this map (, which provides a different perspective on just how big the continent of Africa is. China, India, the United States, Japan and the majority of European countries fit into the landmass of Africa. In other words – it’s a pretty big place….which should also tell us how diverse it probably is, given that simply moving from one suburb to the next in most cities can bring significant contrasts.


And as I looked at @KOT and the africaisacontinent website I was also reflecting that when we start to use sarcasm to correct misconceptions, we can very quickly become ‘holier than thou’, losing all humility, and possibly losing the ability to really share with people and encourage them to find out for themselves.

So part of what we want to do through our work at is to help provide a new perspective, or a broader and different understanding of this amazing, diverse place called ‘Africa’ which we call home, and which so many only know through the selective reporting of mainstream media. Why not come and visit us and find out for yourself!

Joanna Lee