Thursday, March 29, 2012

Changing perceptions of Africa

South Africa soccer fans at the World Cup in Johannesburg

I recently asked on Twitter why Africa is so under-represented in the travel blogging world. It seems like Southeast Asia and South America and Europe and Australia and New Zealand are all over the place, but I rarely come across bloggers who choose to spend any significant portion of time in Africa (well, except for the one tweep who told me that people do write about Africa -- he'd been to Tunisia!).

Okay, I should have been more specific -- travel bloggers don't write enough about sub-Saharan Africa.  Is it because we don't go there as often?  If so, why?

I've been to sub-Saharan Africa twice, once when I was a teenager in South Africa (with a night in Swaziland, but I am under no impression that that means I know a thing about Swaziland), and once when I was a young adult in Tanzania.  Since it has been a few years since I was in Tanzania (and I am currently writing about it for an upcoming book!), I won't try to contribute my stories here right now.

I came across these two articles today and wanted to share them, since they are both challenge certain misconceptions about the (huge, diverse, multiligual and complex) continent.  The first is a piece that encourages travelers to challenge their own assumptions about Africa, especially as popular media gives a very one-sided portrait of poverty and political corruption and violence (though try to ignore the fact that at one point it refers to Africa as a country...).  Definitely watch the video, it put a HUGE smile on my face!

The second piece is all about the awesome technological innovations coming out of Africa -- apps, start-ups, and cool new devices.  In certain regions, technology skipped a generation, in a way (for example, in some places with long distances between hubs, it never made sense to erect telephone lines.  So communities "skipped" right to mobile phones and cellular networks) -- this has made for a fascinating technological history of the continent, made more interesting because it forces westerners to accept our technologies as having a particular place in our cultural development.  What sorts of cool tech can come out of a place with a completely different developmental history?

(As an aside, I love reading my news about Africa from Al Jazeera, they have a really skilled African bureau!)

(image via, Creative Commons.  Sorry for all the Creative Commons pictures lately, I'm at a borrowed computer -- and never owned a digital camera while in Africa, anyway!)

1 comment :

  1. Of course there are bloggers in Africa. Less of the traditional budget backpackers though. More people living and working there and 'overlanders' (on bicycles, motorized, or 4x4) and that's not to mention Africans blogging too... it's a beautiful and.fascinating continent and those who visit almost always go back.

    With the mobile revolution in Africa and social.networking we'll be seeing more of Africa on Twitter in the coming years...

    Helen (


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