Africa is not a country by Dipo Faloyin

On Wednesday 16th November, the renowned author of ‘Africa Is Not A Country’, Dipo Faloyin, came to Headington School to discuss the history and geography behind the stereotypes in Africa, as explained in his book.

He began his talk by referring to the Berlin Conference (1884), the moment in history when European colonies gathered to discuss the partitioning of Africa, while also establishing rules to amicably divide resources among the Western countries at the expense of the African people (the part which most textbooks seem to miss out).

The Berlin Conference resulted in the division of Africa into what is now known as the 54 countries of Africa. Dipo Faloyin explained this event in detail and also shared the justification that the European colonies used at the time – a myth saying the Africans were savage and needed intervention. He continued to exemplify the formation of the African countries by talking us through the formation of the now Democratic Republic of Congo; he explained how King Leopold II felt he didn’t hold enough power in Berlin and therefore decided to take a central mass in Africa then known as the ‘Congo Free State’.

I feel that this example is imperative when learning about the division of Africa as it showcases how those in power were quick to take this land while only thinking about themselves.

From the focus on history, Faloyin shifted to show how geography has led to the current image of Africa as shown by its map. The forced division of land can be seen through Africa having the most borders in the world and if looked at closely the borders tend to be very straight.

Dipo Faloyin followed this description of the map by telling the audience how this resulted in issues regarding the fact that many communities were consequently divided over two countries and as a result, any one country could have people that spoke many different languages. Thish made them weaker compared to the empire they were under and hence making it near impossible to fight back.

To conclude, he explained that after these countries gained independence in the 1960s, many of them faced economic issues resulting in them having to showcase themselves (in things such as charity advertisements) as poor. This consequently resulted in the current image of poverty in Africa.

I personally found this talk very insightful and really enjoyed learning about how the current media representation of Africa was, due to such a strong history that resulted in immense geographical barriers, and how these two topics result in such long-lasting impacts on Africa.

Report by Amber, L6