Africa: A misrepresented continent

War, corruption, diseases, violence, poverty and dark continent. Do these words genuinely reflect reality in Africa?

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

A worker looks for holes in mosquito netting at A to Z Textile Mills in Arusha, Tanzania,

Updated Feb 27, 2016

Africa is frequently linked to violence, war, corruption, poverty and infectious diseases in the media. This perception goes all the way back to when it was first dubbed the “dark continent” in the 19th century.  But here is the question;  Does this impression really reflect the reality of Africa as a whole?

Although some African countries have faced many challenges, there is another side of the continent that has not generally been shown fairly.

Here are some interesting facts about Africa which are generally overlooked:

Africa is not one country

The continent is often stereotyped as a land uniformly filled with deserts, savanna and dangerous creatures with little in the way of culture and civilisation. Yet, when we talk about Africa, we talk about a landmass which is shared by 54 countries and more than 2000 languages. The amount of diversity in Africa is truly staggering.

New tigers of the world: African Economies

Although some African countries have been hit by internal and external factors such as Ebola and political crises, in general the continent is continuing to develop at a steady pace.

According to the World Bank’s Global Economic Prospects for 2015, six out of the 13 fastest growing economies in the world are African countries. Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Tanzania and Rwanda have predicted higher annual growth rates (CAGR) from 2014 through 2017 than the USA, Europe or China.

A report by the international management consultancy firm, McKinsey & Company, named "Lions on the Move: The Progress and Potential of African Economies" says that Africa’s combined Gross Domestic Product will be $2.6 trillion by 2020.

 Africa's population boom

 Africa is the youngest continent in the world with 200 million people aged between 15 and 24.

Niger is the youngest country in Africa as well as in the world, with an average age of 15.1 years, while European countries have the oldest median ages with all of them above 29 years.

It is predicted that Africa’s population will have doubled by 2050 from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion, according to the United Nations.

Female Representation in Africa is high

Although African countries are regularly criticised for not successfully institutionalising democracy, women are well represented in the institutions of many of them.

Four out of 10 African countries have more women representatives in their lower houses than men, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union - a worldwide parliamentary dialogue organisation.

Rwanda is at the top of the list with 63.8 percent of its parliamentarians being women while the United States of America is listed 75th with 19.4 percent.

Rwanda is closely followed by three other African countries - the Seychelles, Senegal and South Africa - in terms of female representation.

In addition Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a female South African politician, serves as the head of African Union Comission, the administrative branch of African Union.

Africa's female labour force

The media generally focuses on the image of helpless and poor African woman. 

However, World Bank figures says exactly opposite of 'helpless African woman' image.

 Women in Africa have the highest labor force participation rate in the world at 86 percent according to the World Bank.

Rwanda sits at the top of the list with 54 percent of its labour force being women. The country is closely followed by Mozambique in which 53.1 percent of workers are women and Burundi and Malawi, each with a  51.4 percent female labour force.

Who is the richest person of all time?

Well, it’s neither Bill Gates nor Tom Ford. The richest person in world history so far is Mansa Musa, who had an estimated personal net worth of $400 billion, according to the ranking website Celebrity Net Worth.

Mansa Musa was the king of Malian Empire between 1312 and 1337 - a state which ruled over modern day Ghana, Timbuktu, Mali and West Africa.

During his reign Mansa Musa transformed Mali’s capital Timbuktu into an economic hotspot where trade lines from across West Africa met.

At that time Mansa Musa’s empire was the largest producer of gold in the world, mining nearly a tonne in a year, according to Professor Richard Smith from Ferrum College in the American state of Virginia.

His famous pilgrimage to Mecca made the king well-known across the Middle East and Europe.

Mansa Musa is said to have travelled to Mecca along with 60,000 men and dozens of camels, each of them carrying pounds of golds. Musa gave gold to poor people he met on the road, which caused a serious currency crisis in Egypt, according to South Africa’s first renowned archaeologist Astley John Hilary Goodwin.