Nigerian writer Dipo Faloyin has grown up seeing the Western coverage of Africa from a “bird’s-eye perspective,” as many diverse communities were stereotyped and the huge continent oversimplified as a monolith. “They treat Africans and African countries as if they are sort of these strange species, unnoble people, unnoble communities that exist in a way that is so different and so far away from, you know … the rest of the world. And that obviously isn’t true.” Faloyin joined Riada Asimovic Akyol on the Wider Angle podcast to talk about his work and recently published book “Africa Is Not a Country: Notes on a Bright Continent.”
He explains that the coverage depicting communities so simplistically and incorrectly “has been done deliberately, to subjugate people, to eradicate people and to ensure that their humanity is stripped away. And that makes it easier to exploit them often.” But Faloyin doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the challenges that many countries on the continent face, pointing to Western governments’ interventions and the violence, corruption and tyranny that have marked many countries’ histories. He emphasizes both the current facts, such as that “less than 10% of the continent is under authoritarian rule” as well as the context of modern Africa’s formation, including the history of European powers’ colonialism and the fabricated myths of Africans as uncivilized savages who “needed colonial powers to save them from themselves.”
The continent is today made up of 54 countries, with a significant number of national borders as straight lines. Faloyin argues in the podcast that “they are all largely manmade nations that make very little sense in reality. They were designed by colonialists who were very little interested in the realities of people on the ground.” Among major consequences of such artificial borders, Faloyin speaks of “chaos, violence and fundamental, foundational instability.” Yet, despite colossal efforts to build or rebuild nations, he describes how little acknowledgement has been given for the work that these countries put in after gaining independence in the 20th century.
For the lack of mutual understanding between Africa and many Black diaspora communities “who are looking to rebuild or even build connections with the continent and their lost heritages,” Faloyin points to the absence of “realistic portraits of the region” in the mainstream.
Listen to the conversation to hear the wider angle of harmful projections, lazy thinking and incuriosity about Africa. Faloyin welcomes new engagement with the continent, one that focuses on multilayered stories and realistic portrayals of characters beyond typical representations. This conversation is available wherever you listen to podcasts or on YouTube here.
“Wider Angle” is produced and hosted by Riada Asimovic Akyol.