Misconceptions of Africa

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Text and Photograph: Jaro Asikainen

”You shouldn’t leave any food on your plate because there are starving children in Africa”.

That was a common sentence my mother used to tell me when I refused to finish my meal as a kid. That was also my first image of Africa: famine, poverty and primitive clans living in the bushes.

Some other images I got from the Disney film Lion King and popular Finnish board game The Star of Africa. That was my image of Africa.

Unfortunately old images stick strong and many western people still picture Africa in similar way. The media is partly to blame, since it still tends to represent Africa from a quite thin viewpoint, showing often huts built of mud and people lacking basic needs.

When we arrived in Nairobi I saw tall futuristic skyscrapers, luxury shopping malls, fancy business centers built of glass and lush central park that was well taken care of. Not the Africa I was told about as child.

It’s essential to know that Africa is a rapidly evolving continent which consists of 54 countries, each different and with great varieties of life inside of them. Worlds’ fastest growing cities are in East Africa and Nairobi is one of the future mega cities. The economy of Kenya is growing approximately 6-8 percentage per year and many African nations belong to fastest growing countries in the world. Kenya sure has poverty but Kenya has also big, continuously growing middle class, who dress in stylish clothes, party in nightclubs, buy expensive cars and go to the movies – just like in western countries.

Kenya and many other African countries have developed a lot during last decade. Media is slowly adapting to diverse its agenda and show also development not just traditional images of Africa.

It’s time to forget the old stereotypes.

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