What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the African continent (hereafter referred to as Africa)? This is the first question I ask when I conduct global citizenship education for various schools and citizens over the past decade. How has the answer to the question changed during those years when the rivers and mountains change? Unfortunately, the image of Africa that we recognize, such as 'poverty and hunger' and 'animals and nature', is still limited. There are many reasons for this perception. This is because the number of people who visited Africa in person was small, the opportunity to learn indirectly was lacking, and the images shown in the media mainly focused on the negative and the outdated. As a result, we generalize negatively by tying the whole of Africa together, and these stereotypes sometimes create discrimination.
The first keyword to understand in order to understand Africa is ‘diversity’. There are 55 countries in Africa based on the African Union, and even within the same country, there are many differences between cities and provinces. As such, climate, geography, race, ethnicity, culture, and language are very diverse, so each characteristic and characteristic must be understood individually. Of course, there are efforts for integration and solidarity within Africa, such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) launched in 2018 and the African Union's Agenda 2063, but this is an internal effort to unite based on historical and geographical similarities. It must be distinguished from the perspective of an outsider who perceives Africa as a single entity, and it requires effort and respect for a more detailed view.
But where should we start and get to know Africa, where physical and psychological distances are not close? Although various efforts have been made in the past, the opportunities have not been sufficient, so this is a task that our society must solve together in the future. However, I hope that the closest people in our society will pay attention. According to Statistics Korea, as of August 22, 2022, there were 19,258 African-American foreigners are staying in Korea. Except for Other(G-1) visas, the most common type of visa is the student(D-2) visa, which has 2,301 people, and they are talented people studying at various universities in Korea. As the words 'a picture paints a thousand words', a visit to an African country would be the most effective, but there is also a way to meet and interact with international students studying in Korea with an understanding and affection for Korea.
Africa Insight, where I work, holds the <Seoul Africa Festival> festival every year to provide such exchange opportunities and operates the <African region information sharing meeting> community where various people who have experienced Africa share information and we publishes a book 'My First Multicultural Class' series that introduces various African countries in detail. The answer to the question “Why should I be interested in Africa?” can be varied. Rather than a macroscopic and profitable perspective that focuses on the development of Africa's economy, society, and culture, it would be better to start from personal interest and curiosity based on sympathy for Africa, which has experienced similar historical pains as Korea. Africa, which once felt distant and unfamiliar, now hopes to meet the colorfulness of the continent and people from the close and trivial.
I finish my writing hoping that you will be able to meet the attractiveness and variety of the land and people.