People Share Their Surprising Misconceptions About Africa

July 20, 2018 | Christine Tran

People Share Their Surprising Misconceptions About Africa

“I've never really wanted to go to Japan. Simply because I don’t like eating fish. And I know that's very popular out there in Africa.” ― Britney Spears

When it comes to Africa, outsiders can get lazy and depend on stereotypes for their descriptions. Hollywood and word-of-mouth should not be one’s first choice for information on one of the world's largest and most diverse continents in the world. Nevertheless, (as one will read here) some people have some out-there, and pretty hilarious, ideas on what exactly goes on in Africa. Reddit came to the rescue with people who know better coming together to put the facts straight about African architecture, food, and life itself.

We’ve heard the common debunkings (“It’s a continent, not a country"), but we weren’t prepared for some of these misconceptions about Africa.

Misconceptions About Africa factsNegromanosphere

30. Let's Get the Obvious Out of the Way First

Kenyan here. That Africans know the local languages and a little English. Most people here are fluent in at least 3 languages (native language, Swahili and English). Anyone below 20 years is likely to have studied French too (it's a recent addition).

And no, Africa is NOT a country.

Misconceptions About Africa factsAlibaba

29. Burkina What-Now?

To start, 90% of the people I come across have never heard of my country before. (I'm from Burkina Faso and I live in the US.) That makes things already difficult.

I therefore actively avoid answering the "Where are you from?" question, because, when I answer, people are very often baffled. I then have to go through my well practiced spiel of: "Don't feel bad, it's a tiny country, and we share a border with Ghana—heard of Ghana?"... for the conversation to carry on to easier topics.

The ones that know about Burkina rarely have misconceptions—they know it's not a rich country, but for them to know about our existence, they usually have to be pretty familiar with Africa to start with.

On the other hand, I have LEGIT had to answer all the questions below:

"Are there zebras running around?" "Do you still live in huts?" "How did you travel here?" "Do you guys have war?"

FYI: Answers are no, no, I took a plane, no.

Misconceptions About Africa factsCountryReports

28. All Mod Cons

I live in Nairobi, Kenya and when I recently went back to Europe to meet up with friends they all asked me questions like: "what does it feel like to live without wifi?" or "How do you even get to school?" Which are the stupidest questions. People have to understand that it isn't totally different and that a lot of things are the same.

P.S. They also didn't believe me when I told them there's KFC here

Misconceptions About Africa factsLayover Guide

27. Tall Tales

Cameroonian here (Country: Cameroon). If you do not know where it is, it is a funny shaped country to the east of Nigeria also known as Africa in Miniature. Studied in the mid 2000s in the Netherlands. Old lady at the bus stop asks me which African tribe I come from and if some people still live in trees because she saw that one National Geographic documentary of the Korowai people (Indonesia) who do. I told her yes and the Dutch ambassador to Cameroon had the tallest tree...The look on her face at that moment still puts a smile on my face to this day.

Misconceptions About Africa factsOne Road One World

26. Kentucky Fried Chicken and a...

South African here, the first time I travelled to America, LA to be exact, one of the first questions I was asked was if I had ever had pizza before.

I mean, South Africa performed the first successful heart transplant, we've had the nuclear bomb, and yes, we have had a chain of pizza huts (among other brands) for decades.

Misconceptions About Africa

25. More Than Sand

95% of Moroccans/Algerians/Tunisians do NOT live in the desert, we live and have always lived in the extreme North.

Plus, most people here have NEVER been to the desert before, it always baffles people when I tell them this.

Edit: An additional fun fact, at least a third in Morocco, and a quarter in Algeria, do NOT speak Arabic as their first language, they speak Berber—and identify as such—which is the native language of North Africa (except most of Egypt) with around 20 million speakers worldwide.

Misconceptions About Africa factsModern Diplomacy

24. Pie in the Sky

I moved to Kenya when I was in 4th grade and moved to the US in the 8th grade. People were shocked I knew what a pizza was. I was also asked if I "lived in a hut on a tree." It was a very genuine question and the middle school I went to was one of the top public schools in Maryland.

Misconceptions About Africa factsTadashi Kawamata: Tree Huts - WordPress

23. Game up

I'm from Nigeria, came to the US for college. People are surprised when I bring up the fact that I have been gaming since 2003. PS2s and PSPs were super popular in Nigeria when I was growing up. You would go to barber shops and see people playing Pro-Evolution Soccer pretty often. There was a huge market for pirated games back then too.


Misconceptions About Africa factsYouTube

22. The Shop Doesn’t Stop Here

Sudan here, we don't hunt for our food, we go to the mall and supermarkets. I know it sounds stupid, but you would be surprised to hear how many people believe that

Misconceptions About Africa factsAl-Arabiya

21. Not A Kingdom of Catfish

That Nigerians are all internet scammers.

Misconceptions About Africa factsBove Spa Listings - quick scam reviews

20. Shocker: Their Economy Is Diverse as They Are

When my sister moved from Zimbabwe to the UK. People thought she was rich or royalty when she spoke about having servants. People in other countries don't realise that a lot of people in the Southern parts of African have maids and gardeners.

Misconceptions About Africa factsdarrel-betty-hagberg

19. Transit Accessible

Egyptian here. So few people realize that the pyramids are quite literally in the middle of the city. Everyone just assumes it's just somewhere in the middle of the desert.

Misconceptions About Africa factsNews18

18. You Know Nothing, Jon Snow

Someone asked me if I ever saw snow? I said no. Then they asked if I ever saw rain? LORD!

Misconceptions About Africa

17. So Much to See, So Much to Do

Ethiopian here. There's a couple.

That we speak "Ethiopian." The official language is Amharic, and there are many dialects—none of which are called Ethiopian. I assume this is particularly offensive to families who speak other languages (i.e. Tigrinya, Oromo).

That everyone is starving and unhappy. No. Even my family that lived in a mud house (dad's family) was happy and decently fed. You don't need much to be happy—of course now that my dad's been in America a couple decades he complains about internet speeds like the rest of us.

That it's in the desert. This one is actually partly true, however the capital (Addis Ababa) is on the Ethiopian Highlands. It's ~2300m (1.4 miles) above sea level and has a quite lovely climate. Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s and 40s. Never goes above 90, though I've heard it can reach freezing. The highlands cover about 70% ish of Ethiopia. There are 3 different climates in Ethiopia, one of which is (depending on the year) the hottest place on Earth.

Oh, and also we're the birthplace of coffee!

Misconceptions About Africa factsAfrica Center for Strategic Studies

16. Draws All Kinds

South African: biggest misconception is that we are all black or white. It even gets portrayed that way in South African media and political talks. In general, African-Asians and Indian-Asians always get forgotten.

Misconceptions About Africa factsNewsGram

15. Queen You Shan’t Be

I’m from Uganda, and we are not looking for a queen. We abolished monarchy back in 62.

Misconceptions About Africa factsPinsDaddy

14. Home Sweet Home

That we love our home. That we would stay here even if we had the option to move.

Misconceptions About Africa factsFlickr

13. Love Shack

That everyone loves in mud huts and sings songs all the time. That elephants and tigers roam the streets (not getting that tigers are from Asia). That people roam around wearing nothing but beads. That "African" is one language.

(Edit: lives in mud huts!!! Although generally I guess the loving might happen there too ????)

Misconceptions About Africa factsReciproBoo

12. Morocco’s Modern Life

Moroccan here and people from Europe still think that we ride camels and live in the desert.....we have fiber optics, 4g, Netflix, Imax, and camels of course.

Misconceptions About Africa factsEden Keeper

11. GoogleMaps Is Free, Buddy

I've had people try to correct me, telling me that no, I am not from Ghana, West Africa....but that I'm from Guyana, South America.

Oh, ok thanks bud I always get my homeland mixed up.

Misconceptions About Africa factsWest Africa Wire

10. Somewhere In-Between?

That Rwanda is still at war even though the war ended 24 years ago, and Rwanda is now one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa.

Misconceptions About Africa factsField Africa

9. There Can Be More Than One

That if one group has a tradition (you can also sub in accent, dress, etc.) that all of Africa does it.

Misconceptions About Africa factsPinterest

8. The Tower of Babel

From an Egyptian friend: Arabic language is not all the same. There are many different dialects.

Misconceptions About Africa factsAl-Arabiya

7. Touch the Sky

I’m not African, but in grade 10 I told my friend they had skyscrapers in Africa and she was mildly shocked.

Misconceptions About Africa factsBuzzSouthAfrica

6. Don’t We All Wish?

That Wakanda is a real place.

Misconceptions About Africa factsProvidence

5. Fill up Your Gas Tank

That you can travel across Africa in like an hour or two...this one is hilarious. People do not realize that Africa is quite literally one of the biggest landmasses on Earth with some highly developed cities.

Misconceptions About Africa

4. Hear Me Roar

I am from Cameroon and I live in Canada. I remember one of my friends in first year engineering asked me If I ever saw a lion in real life. My answer was Yes b----h! At the f---ing zoo like everyone else!

Misconceptions About Africa

3. Aw, Nuts


I heard this story from a Kenyan friend of mine, and her American husband.

Lots of Christian mission groups want to go visit Kenya to help "convert the masses," and one of their go-to tactics is to bring some sort of American food as a gift to help win over their hearts.

A very popular "gift" item is peanut butter.

They are surprised to find out that peanut butter is stocked in all the grocery stores, just like it is in the USA.

Misconceptions About Africa factsCNN

2. Too Much Going On Here

I emigrated from South Africa about four years ago.

I used to be a beautician there and went on to do nails in New Zealand.

I had a few great questions.

One of the questions I got asked was if I used to work out of a hut. And when I explained that we have houses and buildings, the client seemed shocked.

But my favorite one is as follows. During the conversation she asked me, "I know Africa is in America. But where in America? Sorry. My geometry isn't that great."

Misconceptions About Africa factsforums.operationsports

1. Bad Dog!

I'm friends with a Nigerian. (Okay, she's a US citizen now, but her early childhood was there and she still considers it her home to a degree, so it counts.) We had a few mechanical engineering courses together and she's cool; friendly and spunky.

A really weird thing I remember her saying about Nigeria as well as Ghana is that it's common to name pets not as a single word (like "Cookie"), but as an entire sentence. The name choice can often be a passive aggressive way to vent the owner's grievances about a neighbor or a way to stealthily voice negative opinions about the government by getting around their limited free speech protections. (Come here, "X, you are a corrupt piece of cr*p," do you want a treat and some belly rubs?)

EDIT: She also says she has a little trouble pronouncing "h" sounds, as apparently that's not a thing in Yoruba, though I haven't really noticed.

And speaking of languages, I really want to learn Xhosa just for the heck of it. A tonal language with an extensive use of clicks? It's so weird and so awesome.

Misconceptions About Africa factsAfrica Deluxe Tours


More from Factinate

Featured Article

My mom never told me how her best friend died. Years later, I was using her phone when I made an utterly chilling discovery.

Featured Article

Madame de Pompadour was the alluring chief mistress of King Louis XV, but few people know her dark history—or the chilling secret shared by her and Louis.

More from Factinate

Featured Article

I tried to get my ex-wife served with divorce papers. I knew that she was going to take it badly, but I had no idea about the insane lengths she would go to just to get revenge and mess with my life.

Featured Article

Catherine of Aragon is now infamous as King Henry VIII’s rejected queen—but few people know her even darker history.

Dear reader,

Want to tell us to write facts on a topic? We’re always looking for your input! Please reach out to us to let us know what you’re interested in reading. Your suggestions can be as general or specific as you like, from “Life” to “Compact Cars and Trucks” to “A Subspecies of Capybara Called Hydrochoerus Isthmius.” We’ll get our writers on it because we want to create articles on the topics you’re interested in. Please submit feedback to Thanks for your time!

Do you question the accuracy of a fact you just read? At Factinate, we’re dedicated to getting things right. Our credibility is the turbo-charged engine of our success. We want our readers to trust us. Our editors are instructed to fact check thoroughly, including finding at least three references for each fact. However, despite our best efforts, we sometimes miss the mark. When we do, we depend on our loyal, helpful readers to point out how we can do better. Please let us know if a fact we’ve published is inaccurate (or even if you just suspect it’s inaccurate) by reaching out to us at Thanks for your help!

Warmest regards,

The Factinate team

Want to learn something new every day?

Join thousands of others and start your morning with our Fact Of The Day newsletter.

Thank you!

Error, please try again.