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LBST 2102

Camille Alvin
Stereotypes in Africa
Africa is huge. The size can be compared to US, China, India, the majority of Europe in
one massive landmass, 54 countries in all. This is why Ryszard Kapuciski, writer of The
Shadow of the Sun says, The continent is too large to describe. It is a veritable ocean, a
separate planet, a varied, immensely rich cosmos. Only with the greatest simplification, for the
sake of convenience, can we say Africa.. So, when looking at globalization in Africa, one
must be cautious to avoid too many generalizations, especially since they are normally negative.
At the beginning of class, every person was asked to say a few things that came to mind when
talking about Africa. My answers included plains, drums, tribes, guns and war. Others listed
Nelson Mandela, sunsets, lions, poverty and more. The general theme was our perspective of this
vast continent was based on the news, social media and Lion King. Mark Twain said, Travel is
fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. While our class couldnt physically travel to
Africa, to gain further understanding, we traveled through Sub-Saharan Africa by reading books
from Liberia to Kenya to Zambia.
There are countries that conform to the negative stereotypes, such as Nigeria and Uganda.
Daniel Agbiboa, a PhD Scholar from Oxford in the Department of International Development
used the description crippled giant, to explain the predicament of Nigeria since its
independence in 1960. Even though the country has great potential wealth from oil, its people are
still impoverished. (As a side note, there are many countries that are being short changed

currently through low oil prices. The central bank has devalued kwanza currently with Angolas
losses at 22%. Algeria gets 60% of its revenue from oil so the lowered gas prices are burning
through foreign money.) The statistics are staggering. Almost 70% of the population lives on a
meager $1 a day, the life expectancy is about 47 years and it has a very low human development
ranking, an abysmal 159 out of 177 states.
The Commission for Africa woefully condemns its history by saying, Africa has
suffered from governments that have looted the resources of the state; that could not or would
not deliver services to their people; that in many cases were predatory, corruptly extracting their
countries resources, that maintained control through violence and bribery; and that squandered
and stolen aid. The Commission goes on to damn African leaders, saying that one of the
significant tragedies in African history was citizens putting trust in their leaders, but few have
been moral or principled. Chinua Achebe, Nigerias most famous novelist lamented that Nigeria
had nothing wrong with its land, climate, water or air, but was continuously devastated by poor
leadership. Because of this, most of Africa is stagnated. It cannot develop because development
needs leaders to fuel economic growth. Daniel Agbiboa said virtually all African cultures
appreciably declining shows the profundity of underdevelopment despite the overabundance of
natural resources.
Uganda is another example of fitting the stereotype. War was waged from 1986 to 2012.
Warfare affects all parts of society which leads to difficult healing in the aftermath. Civil war
makes the healing exponentially harder because of the close relations of the differing sides to
each other. Child soldiers were used by the LRA, the Lords Resistance Army of rebels. Sofie
Vindevogel is a Post-doctoral assistant at Ghent University working with the Centre for Children
in Vulnerable Situations. She talks about how these children were taken from their homes, held

against their will for over a year and abused. For some, the captivity comprised most of their
young life. During this time they were exposed to warfare which included horrible living
conditions, insecurity, physical harassment and witnessing countless deaths. The majority said
they participated in killing, mostly civilians and enemy soldiers.
There are also countries that break stereotypes and revolutionize change in Africa. The
book This Child Will be Great by Ellen Sirleaf is a memoir about the first African woman
president in Liberia. She talks about the history of Liberia and explains how the country
deteriorated the way it did. Liberia had its share in leader corruption and war, but from the
beginning, Sirleaf was a woman to be reckoned with. She became educated and stood for
morality and did her best to guide the corrupt leaders without getting killed. As debts increased
and people died, she was encouraged to make a difference. After a long career in various high up
jobs that taught her about world economics and politics, she ran for president and against all
odds, won.
Over the past 10 years, she has removed $4 billion in debt, had $16 million in investment
for Liberias natural resources, which provided jobs, and increased the budget from $80 million
in 2006 to over half a billion in 2011. She has revived national hope by strengthening the
institutions of national security and good governance, leading the revitalization of the national
economy and infrastructure, including the construction of more than 800 miles of roads, and
restoring Liberias international reputation and credibility. (Emansion, 2016)
Education could be one of the strongest arguing points for Sirleafs successful political
career. Sirleafs parents instilled in her the value of education, so when an opportunity arose, she
went to America to attend graduate school. She studied accounting at Madison College of
Business in Wisconsin for her associates, economics at the Economics Institute in Boulder,

Colorado for her bachelors, and public administration at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy
School of Government for her masters. She attended schools in America because with education
lacking in Africa, America was the best place to go. International students are highly prevalent in
the United States because America has some of the highest ranking universities of the world,
according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities.
Africa, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa, is suffering in the education department. While
the rest of the world is declining, the out-of-school population in Sub-Saharan Africa is on the
rise where more children of primary school age will be out of school by the 2025 than presently.
For primary school, the percent of students for every region is the highest with the N. America
and W. Europe section closest to 100% and Sub-Saharan Africa the lowest of the regions around
80%. While the percentages stay in the 85-100% for all of the regions for enrolling in secondary
school, the percentages for Sub-Saharan Africa are down to about 40% with tertiary school down
to 5%. The graph (1.1) will show the complete comparisons. The true tragedy is even for
children who are in school, only around half will learn basic skills. Of the 128 million school
aged children in Africa, 17 million will never go to school, an additional 39.5 million students
will not learn (Fleet et al., 2012).
Figure 1.1

Sirleafs education could be a form of political globalization because it allowed her to

form the connections she did through the World Bank and Citibank. She formed relations with
the United States as somewhat of an ambassador for Liberia to plead with them with various
political issues such as the illegitimacy of Samuel Doe as president.
Other than just influential leaders like Ellen Sirleaf in Liberia, there are also other
countries that are helping Africa to turn around. In general, Africa has a growing middle class,
fewer civil wars, more honest voting due to technology (not as much government corruption),
and financial inclusion where the number of Africans with a bank account has doubled since
2011. Specific countries such as Ethipia, Ghana, Burkina Fasa, Mali, Uganda, Tanzia and South
Africa are emerging countries that have reduced poverty and have increased political
accountability. Trade and investment have doubled and poverty have declined 59% to 48%.
Democracy has spread to be the majority of governments, instead of being the exception. It is
still flawed but has made great improvements.
Botswana is an example of one of these countries with a success story. When Botswana
first gained independence, they did what few others didnt, they embraced democracy, free
markets and enforced law. Even though Botswana started as the third-poorest nation and has
been riddled with its own poverty and corruption, they have been the worlds fastest developing
economy for 30 years (Frank, 2015).
There are many generalizations when people think of Africa, however by traveling
through several African countries, there is now a more complete pictiure. If information is
received only from movies, social media and the news, Africa might look very bleak. However,

the books we have read in class, especially This Child Will be Great has been very informative
on understanding the entirety of a countries history and the struggles of an impoverished nation.
Though there are many negative stereotypes, there are also positive sides to Africa many dont

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Finnstrm, Sverker. "Shibboleth Authentication Request." Shibboleth Authentication Request.
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Fleet, Justin. "Africa Learning Barometer." The Brookings Institution. Brookings, 12 Sept. 2012. Web.
10 May 2016.
Frank, Ed. "This African Country Was Once the World's Third Poorest. Here's How It Turned Things
Around." The Daily Signal. N.p., 15 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.
Johnson-Sirleaf, Ellen. This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa's First
Woman President. New York: Harper, 2009. Print.
Vindevogel, Sofie. "Forced Conscription of Children During Armed Conflict: Experiences of Former
Child Soldiers in Northern Uganda."(Article, 2011) [UNC Charlotte Libraries]. Child Abuse &
Neglect, July 2011. Web. 10 May 2016.