Africa for Dummies

Michael Kirkpatrick, the blogger known as International Global Citizen, has an idea:

There is an amazing amount of diversity on the continent of Africa. Unfortunately the focus of western media seems to be on death, destruction, danger, and disease in Africa. Americans would be offended if the world defined America through sensational murders, natural disasters, misguided political leaders, and epidemics. That’s exactly what we do to other parts of the world. The book cover “Understanding Africa for Dummies” is my tongue-in-cheek attempt to get people to think about how we perceive the rest of the world, especially Africa. I would like to see the book become a reality. Ignorance and misunderstanding is only alleviated through fair and objective education. I would like to bring together some of the finest Africans to be able to accurately represent the African narrative. Each chapter would focus on a unique subject matter: climate, the environment, education, government, history, trade, aid & development, politics, the arts, music, food, etc. Each chapter would be written by a respected African personality who is qualified to write about the subject matter.

Comments?

Comments

comments

Sean Jacobs

Also goes by Hasan Wazan. Life President.

28 Comments
  1. My intention is to point out the incredible amount of diversity on the continent, as stated. The geo-political boundaries that exist today are mostly arbitrary borders created by European colonial powers during the "Scramble for Africa" in the 19th century.

    1. I'm not trying to impugn your intentions or poo-poo the project, exactly. But virtually ALL the geo-political boundaries in the entire world were arbitrarily created in the 19th century, and it doesn't mean they're not "real" in some important ways. I'm just pointing out that South Africa is a really different place than Kenya, than Mali, than Nigeria, than Libya, etc, and that they're all still "African." Which isn't to say that this kind of project couldn't be, on the whole, a good thing; depends on how it's done, I suppose. But while it's one thing "to get people to think about how we perceive the rest of the world, especially Africa" (and I'm all for that), it's something else to "accurately represent the African narrative," because there is no single "the" African narrative.

      1. I think that is very true., there is no single narrative. South Africa and Togo or Burkina fasso are like two continents, two worlds apart. Like there is also no single European narrative. If only we look at the way the crisis regarding the Euro and the Greek debst are being perceived in the minds and hearths of the general European public. In the North (like in the Netherlands) the overal view (at least in the media) is that the Greeks are lazy, irresponsible, have no control over their finances, borrow and spend but don't save. Greece is a nice country to go for a holiday, but not to share your finances with. It is being seen as part of the Balkan, which has always been far away from NW Europe, culturally, politically and emotionally. Right or wrong, that is the feeling which is becoming a stong polital force in Europe. And in this case these countries are part of one single union (EU), have one currency, are represented in the same European parlement. But there is no single narrative ….

  2. Michael the validity of your intentions here isn't in question, but in an effort to problematize this particular cause a focus not just on the motives behind this is important, but also how this could perhaps help to critically shift the discourse on continent. Without the inclusion of generalities which perpetuate single narratives. perhaps reducing the scale to focus on certain regions for example west Africa. Although i would much appreciate an "understanding of Nigeria" by itself… but with that said we all know the countries of the continent are highly complex in and of themselves i do believe though that there could be something here.
    watch this space?

  3. This idea isn't meant to be an encyclopedia on African countries. It's intended more to address condescending arrogance and ignorance from non-African perspectives. It can be a catalyst to spark further dialog and education. The points that have been made are are proving my point regarding to incredible diversity of an entire continent. There is no single narrative.

    1. i agree completely with you!! we need to eradicate the negative views and, ideas of Africa being portrayed as a continent of disease and death!! this subject hasn’t been discussed openly enough …..!!!

  4. I like this – For educators in the UK, largely ignorant of the diversity in Africa, the first thing to do is to look at our own attitudes and perspectives on the world beyond our borders before seeking to advise others on what needs to be done. Maybe the best place to start would be in an official ban on Comic Relief!

  5. Hey,

    Is the notice for wide circulation or just AIAC? i.e. May I re-post. I have my thoughts and I'll come back and post them later.

  6. i think what's important about a project like this is that is has the potential to reverse some truely ingrained western stereotypes about africa in a way that is accessible. when you consider how the stereotypes are reinforced currently – movies, aid agency appeals, etc – in comparisson to how the history and reality of africa, as a continent and as individual countries, is conveyed – through less wide spread media – you begin to understand the importance of something like an "africa for dummies" book. in fact, maybe the same could be applied to all of the continents to create more understanding of the other.

    at the same time it is important to remind ourselves how difficult it would be to take on a project such as this. there is the issue of inadvertently reinforcing the stereotype of a homogenous africa. i think the best way to avoid this would be to a) divide the book by regions and b) use case studies that can be used to show similarities and differences between the countries. futhermore, and i feel this is somewhat obvious, one should include a section that consists of simple 1 or 2 page profiles on each country.

    What would also be something to consider is imagery used. i suggest illustrating the book with images by african artists/photographers (one of the main drivers of stereotypes are images, so maybe an entire chapter could be devoted to images of and from africa).

  7. africa is finished i ever there was an entity called africa to which i`m not aware of because in this continent it has just been europe,hindu,arab,jew and western practices there were visible a.d.right now those expected to lead are in the forefront of destroying any vestiges of africa that might still be there by westernising themselves and their followers.

    when you hear people supposedly african because they are from the ecowas shouting at the top of their voices to the media that we are coming to south africa to learn french,english and afrikaans then you know africa is a dearth of itself!

  8. africa is finished i ever there was an entity called africa to which i`m not aware of because in this continent it has just been europe,hindu,arab,jew and western practices there were visible a.d.right now those expected to lead are in the forefront of destroying any vestiges of africa that might still be there by westernising themselves and their followers.

    when you hear people supposedly african because they are from the ecowas shouting at the top of their voices to the media that we are coming to south africa to learn french,english and afrikaans then you know africa is a dearth of itself!

  9. Your idea is really great! I would l love to be part of the project! My site is all about showing a different face of Africa. As a african woman living studying and living abroad it has appeared to me , that we have to fight that image of Africa! Can i be part of the project?

    Ary

  10. you must create africa right where you are just like everybody else who live their traditional life whereever they go.

    your traditional ldeaders must have tribal offices in all the countries your envoys are to enssure that you practice your customary laws .

  11. we first need to create africa before we talk africa.you need something like the afrikaner domineered south africa where everything was designed and ingratiated in the afrikaner culture.

    we need one african church,political party,economic system,educational system,language of instruction,industry and culture

  12. Unfortunately the focus of western media seems to be on death, destruction, danger, and disease in Africa.

    barbarism with some military precision is the order of the day in africa so i have no idea where you`re basing your polemics on because to distance the continent from banditry you must have worked damn hard to bring morals to it but you`re sitting comfortably in your comfort zones defending the indefensibles!all those militarists who get demobilised come straight home to commit heinous military crimes in the continent because they are not counselled or rehabilitate!

  13. I am in support of any project that has the potential to cure some people of their unacceptable ignorance about Africa and its constituent countries. In this era where information is only a click away, it is shocking to still see instances where some people refer to Africa as a country.

  14. Can’t wait for the book. Great idea. Go for it…don’t let the critics stop you before you star.

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