Africa is Not a Country. Shift Your Understanding.

Africa is a region of 1.4 billion people and over 2,000 languages.

News, entertainment, and even charity campaigns tend to promote a stereotypical image of Africa that ignores its nuance and history. Dipo Faloyin, a senior editor at VICE, in his new book, Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent (W. W. Norton & Company, September 2022) is correcting this narrative.

In this edition of Author Talks, McKinsey Global Publishing’s Raju Narisetti chats with Dipo Faloyin. Faloyin reconstructs centuries of context from Africa’s history and disrupts popularized misperceptions about the continent, illuminating it for what it really is: a complex region bustling with culture and potential.

Dipo Faloyin. Image courtesy: Author Talks, McKinsey

What is the meaning of the book’s title?

Dipo Faloyin: The book’s title, Africa Is Not a Country, is a phrase a lot of people across the continent have grown up thinking and having to express to people. Most people see Africa as this singular monolith of pain and devastation and poverty, and with that comes pictures of darkness.

When we think about darkness we think of suffering, and when we think about light we think of joy. Traditionally in literature and in popular culture, Africa is considered to be the dark continent. It was specifically called the “dark continent” around the 1890s, when colonialists decided it was their right to go to Africa to take control.

The aim of this book is to shed light on the context of this region that has been missing, and to give people a better understanding so that they can build a better relationship with Africa as it actually is—not as most people grew up understanding it. That’s why I call it Africa Is Not a Country with the subheading, Notes on a Bright Continent. It’s about trying to shift people’s understanding of Africa from this vision of darkness toward one that is brighter.

Why did you write this book now?

Mapping Africa’s natural resources. Aljazeera infographic

It’s the perfect time for a number of reasons. During the pandemic, we saw one of the biggest expressions of a movement toward equality in a really, really long time, through the George Floyd protests that started in the US and spread around the world. I felt like this was the time people would be most receptive to this idea of trying to better understand Africa.

For many of us who are from the continent—my family is from Nigeria—we’ve always had this understanding within us. It’s something that I’ve certainly carried within myself for most of my adult life. I go out into the world, and I try to explain to people the specificities of my particular culture and background.

Many people have not been receptive to discussions about racial equality or understanding of identities and cultures, but the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement shifted that. It made me realize that it was the perfect time to write this book.

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Honorary contributors to DesPardes: Adil Khan, Ajaz Ahmed, Ammar Jafri, Anwar Abbas, Arif Mirza, Aziz Ahmed, Bawar Tawfik, Dr. Razzak Ladha, Dr. Syed M. Ali, G. R. Baloch, Hasham Saddique, Jamil Usman, Jawed Ahmed, Ishaq Saqi, Khalid Sharif, Majid Ahmed, Masroor Ali, Md. Ahmed, Md. Najibullah, Mustafa Jivanjee, Nusrat Jamshed, Shahbaz Ali, Shahid Hamza, Shahid Nayeem, Syed Hamza Gilani, Syed Hasan Javed, Syed M. Ali, Tahir Sohail