‘I do not speak African’

By: Ashka Comoe

“There are naive questions, tedious questions, ill-phrased questions, questions put after inadequate self-criticism. But every question is a cry to understand the world. There is no such thing as a dumb question” said Carl Sagan.However, as an African living in the US we come across a tremendous amount of questions that are inadequate. A set of inadequate questions that we hear are

  • In which state is Africa located?
  • Do you guys dress in africa ?
  • Is there water in Africa?
  • Do you live in huts?
  • Why is everybody so poor in Africa?
  • Africa is all about hunger,poverty and corruption isn’t it ?
  • Do Africans have dogs as pet ?

The first thing that comes to mind is that American education is so self-centered, there is little to no focus on countries outside of America. Even High school books depict the North America map on a broader scale than any other continent. In fact, a friend of mine was explaining how amazed he was when he realized that Africa was large enough to contain North America (US,Canada,Mexico and Greenland) with plenty of room left to add Central America,Argentina,Chile, and Bolivia too. Then, there is the fact that African government, media, radio, do a poor job of branding the continent as it is. This misconception about Africa was created due to the lack of high-end technology, the government controlled-media, and political hidden agendas.

 

The true size of Africa

Being an African millennial, I understand the importance of using social media to paint a different portrait of Africa than the one already installed. I intend to present Mama Africa for what she is.

Mama Africa is considered as the oldest inhabited territory on earth. She is often described as the mother of civilizations because scientist discovered the second largest hominid fossil collection in the world and evidence of the oldest controlled fire.

Mama Africa is a continent, located on the southern half of the Mediterranean Sea, west of the Atlantic ocean,and southeast to the Indian Ocean. She is host to diverse lands, sunny days and hot nights except for some areas like North Africa where they have winter. She also holds a vast desert (The Sahel) as well as very nice beach on the west coast.

Mama Africa is rich in natural resources such as diamonds, sugar, salt, gold, iron, cobalt, uranium copper bauxite, silver,petroleum,and cocoa beans. In fact, 30% of the earth’s mineral resources are found in the African continent. The Democratic Republic of Congo is widely considered to be the richest country in the world regarding natural resources, its untapped deposits of raw minerals are estimated to be worth in excess of U.S $24 trillion. Yet, African countries even the RDC are seen as the poorest countries in the world. One can say that Africa is suffering from the resource curse also known as the paradox of plenty.

Mama Africa gave birth to 54 babies. She is the second largest continent in the world after Asia. Her babies name are as listed below :

Algeria,Angola, Benin,Botswana,Burkina Faso,Burundi,Cameroon,Cape Verde,Central African Republic,Cameroon, Chad,Comoros,Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo,Congo, Djibouti,Egypt,Equatorial Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon,Gambia,Ghana, Kenya,Lesotho, Liberia,Libya,  Malawi, Mali,Mauritania,Mozambique,Morocco, Namibia,Niger,Nigeria,Rwanda, Sierra Leone , Senegal, South Africa, Sudan,Somalia,Swaziland,Tanzania, Tunisia,Togo ,Uganda, Madagascar, Zambia,Zimbabwe.

Mama Africa was scrambled from 1881 to 1914 by European superpowers. The scramble for Africa refers to the socio-political invasion,occupation,colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers.She was multilingual before her partition. Yet, after her scrambled other languages were forced on her grandchild to the detriment of her tribal languages. Those forced languages were French,English,Portuguese, Dutch,and even Spanish . They became official languages in most colonies, and still are. Yet,the only country who speak Afrikaans, is South Africa. “Afrikaans” is not be confused with the term African which refer to people from an African descent. There is no such thing as speaking African. Just like speaking American or European would sound absurd.

I,myself am originally from the country known today as Ivory Coast, a baby (country) located on the west coast of Mama Africa. People call my country Ivory Coast because it is more convenient. Yet, our founding father Felix Houphouet Boigny whom we affectionately called “Nanan” or “Le vieux” (The Old one) insisted that we keep calling it Cote d’Ivoire as a reminder to our colonial history.

Cote d’Ivoire is thus the french name for my country while Ivory Coast is the English denomination.

By now, you should have figured we were colonized by France, and our official language is still French. The reason being, my country has around 78 languages spoken. Unlike Senegal where Wolof is the most spoken language, our population is so diverse that we need french to converse. The reason why most Africans speak either english or french lies in this very fact: Colonization and multilingualism. Again, the 78 languages that I mentioned earlier are solely for Cote d’Ivoire, which is only one of the 54 countries in the African continent. There are 1500-2000 African languages spoken in Africa as a whole.

This is definitely not enough words to give a proper image of Mama Africa, however, I believe my goal here has been met. Mama Africa is filled with political ambiguity,suffering from the paradox of plenty, but she is so much more than that. Westerners,Americans,and Asians need to fetch more information than what is shown on screens to have a clear-cut vision of her.