Stereotypes of Africa

By Oluwasegun Akinola

My name is Segun which means Victor in English. People could tell that I am an African by the sound of my name and accent. Whenever I am around people, they begin to ask questions about Africa. For example, someone asked me “do you walk around naked in Africa?” Another person asked me “do you live in huts at Africa?” Whenever people ask me these questions, I laugh it off. This shows that these are the stereotypes people of other races have about Africa. They didn’t know what the life in Africa looks like because they got these stereotypes from movies and internet sources. As an African, I want to contrast the good life I had in Africa with the stereotypes of my homeland.

I was born in Lagos, Nigeria in West Africa. Lagos is one of the biggest and busiest places in Africa. It is filled with airports, hotels, restaurants, and some industries. I was raised by my parents in a town that is filled with big houses and business areas. Countries outside Africa even have business and vacation sectors in Lagos. When I grew up, I visited amusement parks, beaches and I traveled around Africa. In schools, the teachers thought us regular subjects. I also learned English language. We speak British English as our first language along with our traditional languages. Nigeria has more than 200 tribes; each tribe has its own language and dialect. For example, I am a Yoruba, my friend, Stanley is Igbo, and we have more tribes like the Deltas and the Efiks. In addition, the Nigerian governments are working on bringing some advanced technologies in order to make the country better. Nigeria is not the only advanced country in Africa; there are countries like South Africa, Ghana, Tunisia, Togo and other countries that are advancing.

When I was 14, I moved to United States in order to start a new life with my mother. I wanted to explore the culture of Americans. Some months later, I started at a school that has a population of few immigrants. People of other races came to me and they asked me questions about Africa; they also began to make jest. One person asked, “Do you ride elephants in Africa?” While I was trying out for the soccer team, the team captain said “how come you are so fast, have you ever chased a cheetah before?” Whenever someone with an African accent talks in class, another person makes a clicking sound with his tongue; he mimicked the African by acting as if the African is talking to an animal. All these stereotypes were funny to me, but some people stereotyped us in a disrespectful manner. Some of my African colleagues felt bad about the stereotypes, while some denied about being an African. I decided to motivate them to be happy with themselves because they can never change their race; also, they shouldn’t pay attention to the stereotypes.

In conclusion, every race is stereotyped. Africa-Americans are stereotyped as murderers, rapists, thieves and the spreaders of diseases like HIV/AIDS. Mexicans and Latinos are stereotyped as illegal immigrants. Arabs and Muslims are stereotyped as terrorists. People are entitled to the stereotypes that they got from the things that they saw in movies and online articles. They haven’t seen the real life in Africa. Life in Africa is the same as living in America except for having people with different language and dialect. The rural and urban parts in Africa and America look alike. In my opinion, the stereotypes are based on the history of Africa. Africa is not the same place like it was a million years ago. A lot of things have changed in Africa. I like to encourage people to read books that African authors wrote in order to get some knowledge about Africa. Finally, Africa is simply a beautiful continent not a place of old civilization.


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10 Responses to “Stereotypes of Africa”

  1. EDM Says:

    Aw, Segun!

    I hope I haven’t done that to you! Not that I would do that to insult your culture or anything. This essay makes me think of a friend back at home who I used to pick at back home. Now that I think about it I do feel like an idiot for asking questions or clicking my tongue… no harm meant though.


  2. nollywoodforever Says:

    I hate the way non Africans talk like Africa is a country as if Sudan is the same as Zimbabwe is the same as Togo or Morrocco or Cape Verde. Caribbeans do that expecially but let someone lunp Jamaica along with St Lucia and Barbados and they will riot, when in fact the islands are a lot more similar than random African countries!

  3. Nikita Says:

    Well done, good entry. You got those questions about your country. I got the following about South Africa…[hahah…it shows you how little the “westerns” really know about African and in this case..SA! [all they know is Africa is…wild! and have animals…nothing more]
    Anyway..i was asked the following: Have you got some tea in your country? Do you have tar roads…are there animals walking wild in your back gardens, have you got some cd’s in your shops. Do you have shops like us (in the uk). Where in Africa do you live! [question from an adult, by the way!!][oh my gosh…i used to live in South Africa..don’t they know where that is!!]
    I think they should educate students more about Africa and South Africa (your country etc) in schools. They haven’t got a cooking clue what it is like… ask them a question and all they know is…animals/wild…nothing else..not even a name of a river…name of a mountain range…etc…I was 12 when I had to learn ALL the names of the countries in the the capital cities PLUS another big city in that country…plus the mountain range of each continent + big rivers of the continents….etc etc etc… so, if we could do it…why not all the others too…I think we were far more educated when it comes to Geography and general knowledge if you ask me… take that footballer of the US [last year] he didn’t know that English is the language that is spoken in the UK! – what about ms Teen US….of a few years on youtube… making a fool of herself [and the education system of the USA!]

  4. Yoyoo Kadingi Says:

    The artical is so interesting and helpful. However, foreigners are adviced to pay a visit to Africa not to relay on books. Some writers are really misleading. Writers like Hegel who said that “Africa is a dark continent” He also divided Africa into Three parts: that is European Africa, Asian Africa and Africa proper (south of Saharah). For Hegel Africans south of Saharah are innocent as far as reason is concerned, no history, they belief in magic and no logic.
    Other writers like Lucien Levy said that African mind is premitive, pre-logical and non-conceptual. He added that African mind can only accommodate contradictions.
    Diedrich Westernmann said that African man’s emotions outweighs his logical thinking. His power of thought is easily fatigue. It is difficult for him to follow argument without this implication. Thus the African mind will always go to sleep when it is involved is seriouis thinking.
    Therefore, some books give a wrong picture about Africa and African people.

  5. hj Says:

    @nollywoodforever: i hate when they lump africa together too! even now with the world cup going on in south africa, people still assume that africa is one country! its ridiculous. even countries right next to each other are completely different from one another which makes me so mad when people lump all africans together!!!
    I’m Somali and when I tell people that, they never know what it is. And if they do, they assume its the same thing as Ethiopian, which its not! I have had people make fun of me with those typical African stereotypes, but I’ve also laughed them off, but sometimes people take it too far whether in regards to the continent’s economic situations or the HIV/AIDS crisis, etc. I just think people need to be more sensitive and better informed when it comes to Africa

  6. Gidz Says:

    I’m an African from Nigeria as well and i don’t like it when people think bad of me. Nice one by the way.

  7. melo Says:

    hi…my name is melo from ecuatorial quinea..a small country in africa…i
    i just want to encourage you to keep writting articles like this..cos..people who deem negative of africa..i would say they’re leaving under ignorance…..once i wanted to buy a car and the car dealer asked me……why don you ask your parents to send you an elephant rather than buying car?…i actually didn’t consider it as a denigration but a lack of information and need to mind opennig towar the car dealer….thank.

  8. Martha Rea Says:

    Im African-American and some sterotypes really hurt people. It’s really bad in America if 4 out of 5 people dont know Africa’s a continent. What are kids learning these days. I say children aren’t learning anything because, of other people are influsing in a bad way.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I’m also from Nigeria and I find it very bad that people stereotype Africa just because of what they see in movies. Yes, we might be a ‘Third World’ country but we don’t act like cavemen!

  10. William Packer Says:


    I have been traveling to southern africa for 2 months and am producing a documentary piece of 22min on the stereotypes about the african continent and how most of them are completly false. One of he point is how diverse Africa is and o show people from different countries to share their stories about the cliches or negative images they have experienced in the west.
    We will be travelling to the US (CA, NYC, DC) so if anyone is in the area in june july or august and would be interested, please let me know.

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