No, Africa is not a country — it's a continent. And, contrary to what many people think, it is not a homogeneous region inhabited by a single people.
This might seem like an obvious question. But it is not. And Google searches prove it: per month, more than 5,000 people search the internet for the answer to this question.
So, for starters: no, Africa is not a country — it's a continent with more than 50 countries. It is the third largest continent in the world and one of the most populous .
But that question leads us to two others: how much do we know about Africa? What is our interest in this continent?
It is likely that when many people think of Africa, they think of a single image: a territory marked by wars, poverty, dictatorships and hunger.
It's not for less. Responsibility for this “ unique history ” can be attributed (almost exclusively) to colonialism. It is the material and immaterial result of four centuries of violent attempts at economic, epistemological and cultural domination.
And, in fact, in the four corners of Brazil (and Europe and the United States as well) there is a tendency to talk about Africa as if all the people who live there had the same culture and the same traditions.
But he is far from homogeneous. Africa is one of the most diverse regions in the world, both culturally, religiously and ethnically, as well as climatically and geographically.
And the worst thing about this story is that it disregards the good prospects of the African continent: economic growth, emerging democracies, technologies, fashion, culture, cinema, literature, innovations and this list is endless.
Thinking about all of this, the idea of this article is to bring some general perspectives on the African continent ( which are those stories they didn't tell us, you know? ), with the expectation that, from this, you will be inspired to know more and more . Let's go? :)
Africa is not a country — it's a continent
Africa is not a country but a continent comprising 54 countries and 7 independent territories.
African countries are divided into two main regions: North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, they are distributed in 5 areas:
Currently, the population of Africa already exceeds one billion people - which makes it reach the mark of the second most populous continent.
But, due to climatic and geographical conditions, the distribution of the population is not equal throughout the territory.
Furthermore, there are thousands of African languages, in addition to the languages brought by the colonizers - such as French, Portuguese and English.
The regions of Africa
One way to get to know a little more about the African continent is from the general characteristics of each of its regions.
I know this chat is a bit of a geography lesson. But it is, at the same time, a way to better position oneself in the face of so many countries and their respective particularities.
That's why it's so important to understand this big picture. It is worth it.
Northern Africa (or North Africa) is the region comprising Algeria, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Libya and Tunisia. The predominant language is Arabic and Islam as a religion.
It is an area that is located near the Mediterranean Sea and is home to the second largest desert in the world, the Sahara Desert (which is approximately 9 million km² in extension).
It is a region with a large concentration of mineral exploration for export, with little development of agriculture. Only in the Nile River Valley is that agriculture develops, due to the fertility of the soil.
The Southern (or Southern) Africa region is in the southern part of the continent. Thus, it comprises the countries of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
From its geographic location, the area is bathed to the east by the Indian Ocean and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean.
In addition, it is a region of plateaus, tropical, desert and Mediterranean climate and vegetation of savannahs and forests.
As its name suggests, Central Africa is at the center of the African continent. In this area are countries such as the Republic of Congo, Angola, Cameroon and Chad.
Unlike other regions, Central Africa is not a grouping that takes into account historical, political or economic similarities between countries.
It is simply a question of grouping countries that are in the center of the continent. In other words, it is an exclusively geographic criterion.
Speaking of geography, the area is bathed to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and borders mountainous regions to the east. The climate is predominantly tropical, with high temperatures and high humidity and savannah vegetation.
East Africa refers to the area east of Africa — between the Congo River Basin and the Indian Ocean.
Some countries that integrate this area are: Kenya, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Madagascar, Tanzania, Uganda and Mozambique.
It is a region with mountain formations, volcanoes and large lakes. The climate is predominantly tropical and the vegetation is equatorial, savannas and steppes.
The area's economy is based on agriculture, especially with the cultivation of coffee and cotton.
West Africa is located between the Sahara Desert and the Gulf of Guinea. It is a region that comprises countries such as Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, São Tomé and Príncipe and Togo.
The population is concentrated especially in the southern region, since the Sahara desert does not have attractive conditions to inhabit. The outstanding activity is also agriculture, especially with the cultivation of bananas, cocoa and sugar cane.
Which countries in Africa speak Portuguese?
In addition to Brazil and Portugal, nine other countries speak Portuguese – which is the fifth most spoken language in the world.
Of these other nine countries that speak Portuguese, six are on the African continent. Are they:
- Cape Green
- Guinea Bissau
- Equatorial Guinea
- Sao Tome and Principe
Good Perspectives on Africa—The Other Side of the Story We're Told
In contrast to that stereotyped image of violence and poverty, people are surprised to learn that:
- Rwanda is an example of gender equality in the political environment
- Nigeria is home to the second largest film industry in the world
- Ethiopia's economy grows faster than China's economy
This list is not finite, see? And it mainly shows us one thing: yes, there is poverty and violence on the African continent. But this is not the only story that African peoples tell.
After all, all histories and cultures comprise overlapping histories. But if we hear only one side of the story, we risk making a critical mistake.
On this subject, I will leave the idea of a video by the Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi, who talks especially about this risk — as she explains in her book “ The danger of a unique story ”:
Gender equality in Rwanda
In 1994, Rwanda suffered a genocide. In total, 800,000 people - mostly men - died in just 100 days.
After that, the country underwent major changes in its social structure. Women, who represented 70% of the population, began to occupy positions that previously belonged only to men and actively participated in the reconstruction of the country.
“ The genocide turned out to be the main factor in this change. Most of those killed were Tutsi men and moderate Hutus. The Hutu men who participated in the genocide either fled the country or were arrested, and the women who survived had to take on roles that were traditionally male, ” explained Camila Soares Lippi, professor of International Relations at UNIFAP.
Since then, the country has collected a series of gender equality indexes, which place Ruana alongside developed countries such as Finland, Norway and Sweden.
Thus, according to the latest survey by the World Economic Forum , Rwanda is the sixth country in the world with greater equality between men and women.
(Just to give you an idea, in this index, the United States occupies the 51st position and Brazil the 95th).
This report considers levels of gender equality from four perspectives: health, education, economics and politics.
Furthermore, 67% of political positions in the Rwandan Parliament are held by women. This makes the country have the highest participation of women in the legislature in the world.
Furthermore, the country's legislation had to adapt to the new reality. One of the first steps in this direction was allowing women to inherit land from their husbands.
In 2023, the country also approved a new Constitution. The new text establishes equality between men and women in education, land ownership and the economy, in addition to establishing that at least 30% of political positions are filled by women.
Nollywood: Nigeria's film industry
Nollywood, Nigeria's film industry, is the second largest in the world. With more than 1,500 titles per year, they are second only to Indian Bollywood in number of productions.
An important point is that it is a self-sufficient cinema. That is, it does not need government subsidies to sustain itself.
In general, the success of Nigerian cinema is the result of a mixture of factors: in addition to popular genres (such as the Yoruba traveling theater tradition), films comprise urban stories of romance, wealth and witchcraft.
But Nollywood goes beyond being a film production company in quantity. They also managed to fall in love with the Nigerian population, who often watch national films — unlike what happens in the industry in Brazil.
Some productions have achieved international success, such as Lionheart (2018), which remained for a few months as the best rated film by Netflix.
In addition, the film industry is the second largest generator of jobs in the country, second only to the oil industry.
Other relevant titles are:
- The Amazin Grace (which reached over 25,000 viewers);
- The Road Never Traveled (2015);
- Fifty (2015);
- On Lara's Beat (2018);
- Nicole's Wedding (2016);
- Sin City (2019);
- For a better life (2020).
Ethiopia's economy that can be compared to China
Ethiopia's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$222.3 billion in 2018 — below the indicators for South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. However, the country has the fastest growing economy throughout the 2000s.
And these parameters are not limited to the African continent. Ethiopia has experienced one of the fastest expansions in the world — at an annual average of over 7.5% over the past two decades.
For this reason, it received the nickname “China of Africa”. And it is no less. Comparing Ethiopia with China is not just about high economic growth. The two countries are also similar in their long history.
And more than that, the history of China and Ethiopia also intersect in contemporary times, as there are some Chinese investments encouraging Ethiopian growth.
How to know the reality of African countries?
To really get to know the reality of African countries and understand their ways of life, nothing better than listening to and reading your own experiences.
So, to understand the African continent beyond stereotypes, it is essential to read African authors and watch the films produced there.
To help you get started, here is a list of African authors — as suggested by Nei Lopes and Luiz Antônio Simas, in the book “ philosophies Africans ”:
- Achilles Mbembe
- loves Mazama
- Charles Moore
- Cheikh Anta Diop
- Frantz Fanon
- Henry Odera Oruka
- Maulana Karenga
- mekada graham
- Molefi Kete Asante
- Muniz Sodré
- Reiland Rabaka
More than that, it is important to listen to different sides of the stories they tell, such as, for example, getting to know the perspective of people descended from enslaved people who, to this day, suffer the effects of the African diaspora and slavery.
As Caetano Galindo teaches, “ sometimes it's not about using the devices we have to see further, but about realizing that it's necessary to change devices to see what was already before our eyes ”.
In addition, you can access non-Western news portals, investigate contexts of scenes that are represented in videos or photos on social networks, study about wars in countries (and other countries that inject money into these wars) and so on.
And now, tell me: what do you know about the African continent?