Throwback: Africa’s Misconceptions

Africa Misconceptions

After publishing over four posts on this subject, we have finally created an almost full collection of African misconceptions. Africa, it seems, is misunderstood. To date, we have published two posts on African Misconceptions, one on Uganda’s Technology, and another on crazy facts about Africa. These posts averaged 1,250 words apiece, showing that there truly is a lot of unknown information about Africa.

But, if you’re a new follower or simply haven’t been able to read these posts, today’s your lucky day; this post contains all of the information found within the last four combined, but in bite-sized pieces.

Expectation: Lions and elephants roam freely wherever you go.

Reality: While lions may have been common to Uganda back in the 1900s, they have long since been either killed or placed in captivity. The only lions I have seen were in captivity at the Entebbe Zoo.

Expectation: Everybody lives in trees or mud houses.

Reality: Again, while this may have been possible three hundred years ago, these are modern times. Anyone that is not homeless lives in a brick, mud, or concrete house. My little siblings have a treehouse, but that doesn’t count. We, as a family, lived in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house made with brick walls and covered by an iron sheet roof.

While mud houses are still used in Uganda today, the Ugandan government has put a massive effort into increasing the standard of living. Many families that lived in mud houses were given a government grant to upgrade to a brick house which, as it seems, is far safer and more comfortable.

Expectation: The Ugandan people are all needy and poor.

Reality: While poverty is certainly a massive issue in both Uganda and the surrounding countries, it does not run nearly as rampant as many might think. Even the man selling chapatis (a type of tortilla) or gum on the side of the road has enough money to carry a smartphone. The most desperate need there is the Gospel, not money. And, while poverty is still common and the standard of living is far lower than that of the United States, Uganda has seen growth in leaps and bounds and is now the most powerful country in East Africa.

Expectation: Everything is hot, all the time.

Reality: While this can seem to be true, especially to new missionaries during February, Uganda can actually stay quite cool. Even though I lived only a few dozen miles from the Equator, there were several months in which the average temperature was 70+ degrees Fahrenheit (21+ degrees Celsius), which is quite pleasant. Granted, the coldest temperature I have ever seen in Uganda was 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 Celsius). On the other hand, the hottest I have ever seen was probably 98 degrees in the shade (37 Celsius), which is probably similar to summer temperatures in the United States.

Expectation: The countryside runs rampant with bugs.

Reality: Ladies, have no fear, there are no giant bugs or snakes in Africa. While the occasional bug may sneak into the shower, or you might step on a stink-ant (inch-long ants that have a nasty bite), the odds of you getting bitten by a snake or finding a three-inch beetle are literally 1,000 to 1. Snake bites are relatively unheard-of, and three-inch beetles are not native to Uganda. My ministry, New Hope Uganda, is guarded closely by men dedicated to the eradication of snakes. Finding a snake in New Hope is almost as rare as finding gold.

Expectation: Uganda has no electricity, cell phone service, or technology.

Reality: Uganda, while being a little behind on the times, does have technology. I often describe Uganda as a mix between “1800’s culture and 20th Century technology”. Even the old grandmothers way out in the middle of nowhere have smartphones and Twitter accounts. Where many Ugandans used to read books or newspapers in bus stops or trains, today every eye is glued to a screen. This is a problem, but still proves that Uganda is chock-full of technology from the United States or China.

Expectation: Uganda is a country of middle-aged people.

Reality: Uganda is also the youngest country in the world with “48.47% of the Ugandaís population being in the 0-14 year-old age group” (2019). This proves to be a massive problem within the church, as well over half of all churchgoers are under the age of 16. The children of Uganda are an unreached people group, and the Christian church should make all efforts to reach them. Sadly, Muslims from across the world have realized the same thing and have joined the battle for the hearts of Uganda’s children. Mosques appear everywhere, and Muslim orphanages have become popular.

Expectation: Africa is made up entirely of Muslims and tribalists.

Reality: Studies show that Roman Catholicism and Protestantism both dominate the religions of Uganda. “The inhabitants of Uganda are mainly Roman Catholic and make up 39.3% of the total population. Anglican, Muslim and Pentecostal believers represent 32%, 13.7% and 11.1% of the total population respectively” (2019). This statistic can be quite misleading. While an apparent 71% of Ugandans are Christians, statistics do not tell that many of Uganda’s “Christians” are not actually Christians at all. Their beliefs have been corrupted by folk religion and the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Health and Wealth Gospel”.

Unfortunately, there are no statistics (as of the writing of this article, in May of 2020) that can measure how deep these corruptions go. I, personally, would estimate that one in every two Ugandan Christians has been corrupted by folk religion, Islam, or the prosperity gospel.

Expectation: Africa is a country

Reality: Some mistakenly believe that Africa is one country made up of several states, similar to the United States of America. Thankfully, Africa is made up of fifty-four countries, all independent, making it the most diverse continent on the planet.


Expectation: Everybody in Africa is black

Reality: This is absolutely wrong. While the majority are black, there are still millions of Hispanic, white, Asian, or other races found within Africa. Assuming that Africa contains only dark-skinned people is equivalent to saying that the United States contains only white people.

Expectation: Africa is homogeneous

Reality: Many are under the impression that the people of Africa are the same, from skin color to attitude, religion to politics. Unfortunately, this is so far from the truth, it’s almost like saying Michael Jordan isn’t the greatest player of all time. The people in Africa are so different from each other, the diversity found within Africa is completely unparalleled. Even within the same country and district, you can find dozens of different tribes and people groups, speaking different languages, believing different religions, and supporting different political parties.

Expectation: Africa needs missionaries more than any other continent.

Reality: There is not a particular continent that needs particularly strong Christian support. I mean, personally, I would have said that the United States needs Christian missionaries more than any other continent, but that’s not true either. Every country and continent needs equal amounts of support and mission work. It’s up to God to determine where missionaries should go.

Alright, that’s all for today. Hopefully, these twelve realities will have changed your opinion of Africa forever. At some point, I will publish this into a mini-ebook. The book will sell for free on the Kindle store, so be sure to watch out for it!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and I hope you have a fantastic day!

-Elisha McFarland

Originally published here: “Africa: Expectations vs. Reality”

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10 thoughts on “Throwback: Africa’s Misconceptions

  1. Ella Smalley

    Great post. I was particularly relived to hear about the cooler temperatures and the sparseness of giant bugs.😂 Yea, not a fan or big insects. Lots of great interesting facts. Thanks for sharing.


  2. Pingback: Monday Q&A: The Character of God – Elisha McFarland

  3. Pingback: Throwback: Lecrae and Sexual Abuse – Elisha McFarland

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