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Africa - scale and diversity
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Africa - A continent of contrasts - Dealing with common misconceptions of Africa

Africa - a continent of contrasts

This lesson looks at the common misconceptions and stereotypes of Africa.

Key questions

  • Is Africa a Country or a Continent?
  • What are the common misconceptions about Africa?

Key concepts

  • Place
  • Space
  • Physical and human processes
  • Diversity

What are the common misconceptions about Africa?

Africa is all too often referred to as if it is a country and people forget or do not realise that there is great diversity within this continent.

Diversity, as already stated starts with the physical environment and the spread of people but there are also huge variations in culture, language, religion and lifestyle. There is great wealth in many parts of the continent but it is shared unevenly between the countries and between the people within countries.

Although the majority of people still live in rural areas, the percentage of people in towns and cities is growing fast and many of the people are strongly influenced by western lifestyles in the urban areas.

The opportunities and the challenges faced by African countries vary widely.




Africa or not?

The aim of the Africa or not powerpoint is for you to work out which of the photos you think were taken in countries in Africa, and which you think were taken on other continents. Discuss the reasons behind your answers with other members of your class.

When you have completed the exercise, the answers are given at the end of the PowerPoint.

  • How many did you get right?
  • Were you surprised by any of the answers?
  • Why?



Africa word association

You have two minutes to write down up between five and ten words that you associate with the word Africa.

As a class, share your word lists, ticking off on your own list any words that are mentioned by other students and writing down new words that you have not got. Continue with this until no one has any new words left to share.

Discuss the words that your class has come up with. Can they be grouped into any categories?

Perceptions of Africa

Read and complete the perecptions of Africa worksheet, which focuses on our perceptions of Africa and the impression of the continent that we are often given by the media. Write down your own definitions of the words perceptions and bias.

Wealth and HDI data

The Wealth and HDI data spreadsheet provides you with data about the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the HDI (Human Development Index) of people living in the 53 countries of Africa. To put it simply, these are measures of wealth and standard of living respectively.

You can graph or map this data either by hand or using ICT.

  • How accurate do you think this data is?
  • What does it tell us about the lives of individual people living in these countries?
  • What factors do you think are important to consider when it comes to measuring people's quality of life?



Journey through Africa

Imagine that you are travelling across the continent of Africa, either from east to west or from north to south. Write down some of the differences that you might see on your journey as you pass through some of the 53 different countries. Try to include an equal number of positive and negative things that you might see.

Tip: Think about the landscapes, environments, resources and people.

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