by Anthony Conty (Parkville, MD): “Africa Is Not a Country” by Dipo Faloyin starts by explaining what Africa is not. As with people who have taken a safari or done missionary work, it is easy to forget that cities and organized towns exist where no touristy activities occur. More to the point, assuming that places lack their own culture just because someone conquered them 200 years ago damages a country’s reputation. When those imperialist countries draw random borders and separate ethnic groups, the problem grows.

The West’s impression of Africa drives the novel, as even philanthropic efforts damaged the continent’s reputation as a dark place with backward people. The term “White Savior Complex” may be overused, but the author shows how the United States tends to oversimply with its desire to help. In a land with seven different dictatorships that are all different, Africa needs help that would best occur locally as the citizens know which areas need help and which are doing fine.

Faloyin dedicates much time to demonstrating how seven African dictatorships existed for vastly different reasons. He finds democracy to serve as the solution for these countries but argues that citizens should solve those problems instead of thinking that the answers come from white Europeans. With 48 countries on the mainland, it saddens me to realize that Muammar Gaddafi’s actions could make Americans avoid and stereotype a whole continent.

A fellow reviewer described this book as a “collection of eight essays” instead of chapters, making the transition from dictatorships to Hollywood’s horrible depiction of Africa make sense. They focus on wilderness and do not give African towns a personality or Africans their storylines. He credits “Black Panther” (no surprise) and “Coming to America” (minor shock) as films that allowed Africa to develop a unique personality, despite Wakanda and Zamunda being fictional.

It all adds up to a cultural experience like no other. So many of us have studied abroad and learned that the most exciting thing about different continents is how they go about their business in such similar ways. Africa has fought to maintain its identity while generations of pillagers have stolen from them. Come for a different perspective but stay for the celebration of Jollof Rice and the introduction of travel options you did not know you had. Call some “shithole” countries if you want, but no blanket statement you make covers them all.