Speaking of Africa, Again

I read a fascinating article a few days ago, asking whether it was time to change the name of ‘Africa.’ I must admit that after reading it, I was convinced that the name of the continent should be changed. It will be hard to think of a different name for my blog though. Foluke’s ____ skies? However, when we think of all the negativity attached to the continent, changing its name does not seem like a bad idea. It seems very difficult for people to speak of Africa without being negative or false. (I will not mention Macron.)

Let me start by proposing the motion that we stop, with immediate effect, all inaccurate, false and misleading use of ‘Africa.’ For example:


Stop travelling to ‘Africa’

Stop conflating Africa and blackness – Not all Africans are black and not all black people are African

Stop leaving Africa out of the international

Stop talking about Africa as a shorthand for poverty, disease, war and ignorance


Talking about ‘Africa’ is our problem. How can we dare to talk about Africa? How do we try and contain the uncontainable? How do we imprison a huge and diverse continent with a limited label? We reduce a vast and complex reality to a single pasteurised narrative. We tell one incomplete story. We show the carcass of the antelope without the lion that killed her.


Let us take aid. We are so concerned with talking about aid to Africa. But talking about African aid without talking about African plunder is like telling a story without its beginning or its end. It’s only fair to mention that you killed the person you’re trying to save, even if that person is doing nothing to save themselves.

How do we know Africa? Many people outside Africa derive their ‘African knowledge’ from films like Tarzan and the Lion King and 30 second adverts of children covered in flies. There are never African people central to the narratives of Africa through the Western gaze. Erase a place of its people and you deprive it of its soul. Take a peoples’ voice from them and you leave them with nothing.

This is not to say that African states do not need to be improved. But remember, we are the left behind. We are the remnant. There are no African problems that are not global problems. There are no causes of these problems that are not global causes. There are no African solutions to African problems that are not global solutions to global problems. Constantly talking about an unknown, singular African as other, will leave us all poorer.



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