In recent years, an increasing number of students at my institution are either immigrants or children of immigrants from several different countries in Africa. Some of them have discussed with me their concerns about what they perceive as an extreme lack of knowledge displayed not only by their fellow students but by staff and faculty about the continent of Africa and the 54 countries within that continent. It also appears to these students that none of these individuals are particularly interested in improving their knowledge.
In large part, we can blame the educational system and the media which, intentionally or unintentionally, perpetuates the racism of the Colonial Era in which Africa was depicted, if depicted at all, as a place of exotic animals and backward, “uncivilized” humans. Far too many people in the United States view Africa as a country (not a continent) dominated by poverty rather than as the second-largest landmass in the world filled with dynamism and an entrepreneurial spirit. Too many in the United States do not care about Africa and do not see why they should care.
In my classes, I attempt to change this perception, but it is difficult when it begins in elementary school with students’ first exposure to world maps. Below are several world maps. Study the maps and choose the one that seems to be the most useful and accurate.
You probably chose the one with which you are most familiar. Now watch this video.
The Boston, MA school system has realized that the world maps they were using in the classrooms are a problem. They will now use the Peters Projection.
Given the indoctrination that diminishes the relative size of the African continent, True Size is both entertaining and educational in showing the true size of countries and continents when compared to each other. Note how tiny Greenland truly is in relation to the African continent.
Africa is a continent of 54 countries that differ dramatically from each other in terms of size, population, ecology, and economy.
While there are remote areas with little access to modern technologies, these are quickly becoming part of the past. Even remote areas are gaining access to cell phones and the internet. Many of the cities are every bit as modern as those in the U.S.
Let’s focus on a few countries. We will begin with Nigeria, the most-populous country in Africa where over 500 languages, in addition to English, are spoken. In Nigeria, it is common to be multi-lingual.
Nigeria is larger than Texas. Lagos, the world’s 10th largest city with a population of 21 million, is on the coast. It is a dynamic center of trade, technology, and entertainment. Nollywood produces more than 2000 films per year.
Our next country, Ghana, is a near-neighbor of Nigeria on the west coast of the African Continent.
Accra has a population of 2.3 million in a country of 26 million. Ghana is about the size of Oregon.
Ghana will be at the forefront of making energy from ocean waves. Young architects are infusing Ghanaian traditions into modern buildings.
Our next stop is Uganda, a Central-East African country.
Kampala is a city of 2 million in a country of 38 million. Uganda is similar in size to Wyoming.
Uganda, “The Pearl of Africa”, has long been known for its dramatic and beautiful scenery. The mountain forests provide sanctuary for gorillas which can be viewed on special treks.
One of the countries to the east of Uganda is Kenya, which is slightly smaller than Texas and has a population of over 46 million.
Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, has a population of around 3.5 million.
Nairobi is the major tech center of East Africa.
‘ “The future will be built in Africa,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in Nigeria, before travelling to Kenya.’
The last stop on our tour will be the country of South Africa.
South Africa has a population of 54 million in an area about twice the size of Texas. Johannesburg, with a population of about 4.5 million, is the largest city in South Africa.
However, for the current U.S. population, it may be best known as the home of Trevor Noah, host of The Daily Show.
There are still another 49 countries for you to explore on the Continent of Africa. The odds are high that you or your children will work for someone who is from Africa, is an immigrant from Africa, or is the offspring of an immigrant.
If you click on this site, you can see how well you do identifying the 54 countries of Africa. You can retry multiple times.
According to The Next Africa by Jake Bright and Aubrey Hruby, African immigrants and their children are the most-highly-educated group in the United States.
In 2015, Harold Ekeh, son of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.
In 2016, Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna, daughter of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.
In 2017, Jude Okonkwo, son of Nigerian immigrants, was accepted at all 8 Ivy League schools.
In conclusion, please watch the following video and understand that it is important to become educated about the Continent of Africa and its 54 countries so that one does not appear ignorant to those individuals who are from any of those countries.