News ‘Africa is not a Country’ with Dipo Faloyin 23.03.2023

On Tuesday the Geography Book Club hosted author and journalist Dipo Faloyin who spoke about his book, Africa Is Not A Country: Breaking Stereotypes of Modern Africa. Dipo is a senior editor and writer at VICE, where his work has a specific focus on culture, race and identity across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. His writing has been featured in the Guardian, Esquire, Newsweek, and many others. Dipo was born in Chicago, raised in Lagos and currently lives here in London. The Geography Book Club have been reading his book over the course of this term and meeting fortnightly to discuss what they have learnt.

The book has prompted members to confront the simplistic picture of Africa, so often of a red sun rising over the savannah with leaping antelopes in the foreground, or starving children with distended bellies, that has become etched in our mind. This book provides a much-needed corrective and has allowed us to develop a more accurate portrait of Africa, a continent made up of 54 vibrant and distinct countries, each with their own culture and complex histories. Throughout his book, Dipo writes with a balance of seriousness and humour on topics such as stolen artefacts, white saviours, Rwanda and impact of the film Black Panther on how Africa is viewed.

Dipo focused his lecture on Tuesday evening on the story that has been portrayed of the countries of Africa to the wider world. Either of safari or poverty, as Dipo put it. Starting with the Berlin Conference in 1878, where the Western powers of the time decided to spin a narrative of Africa as uncivilised in order to justify breaking the law with illegal land grabbing, to the harmful lyrics of ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ released in 1984, Dipo demonstrated the continued perpetuation of harmful stereotypes of Africa as a continent where all its inhabitants can do is hope to survive another year.

Dipo was extremely gracious, and also provided our Book Club members with a Q&A session prior to the talk, where they discussed the decolonisation of the curriculum, the ‘Singapore of Africa’ Rwanda, and the process of writing and publishing the book. Dipo also kindly stayed behind after the lecture to answer any further questions and sign some books!

This was a very valuable lecture, which demonstrated to all those who attended the damage of a single story, especially one written by those with an agenda. We would also like to thank Rosie Egelie and Annabelle Hart, Upper Sixth Geographers who have run the Geography Book Club this year. They come to every meeting with further research and interesting questions for us to consider. They have been fantastic and have inspired many future geographers with their deep knowledge and keenness to go beyond the curriculum.