As a black man who often travels to other parts of the continent I have realised that people from those countries often get excited to see me. They would say that they are not used to seeing black people in their countries.
While in Egypt I remember a lady friend and myself being approached by a group of Nubian children who were curious about where we were from. Many thought we were either British or American because they could not imagine a black African travelling. I am not sure whether they could not imagine them travelling or they could not imagine them travelling to other parts of Africa. They were really surprised to hear that we were from their continent.
I also realised that all South Africans I met there were white. There was one Zimbabwean man who didn’t want to speak to us at first and when we introduced ourselves he said he was from New Zealand, but I quickly identified that the accent was Zimbabwean and started talking to him about Zimbabwean and South Africa politics. He told us that he spent eight years studying to be a doctor in South Africa and the country is unsafe and there is no better place than New Zealand. He was also very negative about African politics and said he gives South Africa just a few years before it falls apart completely and the ANC wouldn’t be in power for much longer in the country. I thought it was a shame that the only black African I met on this trip didn’t think there was much good on the continent.
Every Nubian I met in Egypt was warm and called me either a ‘brother’ or a ‘cousin’.
In Zambia I met a taxi driver who drove me around town showing me the best spots to have a good meal and didn’t want to charge me extra for the added services as his duties didn’t include a city tour. When we were negotiating a price from the Victoria Falls the following day he wanted to charge me six times less than most taxi drivers. I didn’t feel comfortable with this idea and ended up using someone else as I felt I would be cheating the man who identified me as a brother who shouldn’t be charged a lot.
Lilongwe in Malawi is a slow city during the day but the time I spent there made me realise that it comes to life in the evening as there are many bars and pubs in the city. I was there on a work assignment, but we met an employee from the tourism department who assumed the role of a free tour guide. He never asked for any money for his duties.
Out of all the trips I think Zimbabwe had the most incredible people on the African continent. I remember arriving with two lady friends in the country and not knowing any locals. We were soon introduced to affluent individuals who own businesses in the country. Some were black and others were white. I was surprised by this rich minority one seldom sees in the news. When we hear of white Zimbabwean we are often told of freedom fighters, some of who I have interviewed on television, or farmers who have left the country to plough their skills elsewhere. On my recent trip to the southern African nations I realised that there were white Zimbabweans who own businesses and say they don’t dream of living anywhere else in the world. One man told me that he cannot stand the traffic in Johannesburg and has lived in the United Kingdom as well and those places don’t give him the joy he receives in Zimbabwe. I was even allowed to stay in a mansion owned by a local at no fee at all.
My wish for the future is that more black South Africans would stop judging the rest of the continent from what they see on television. I remember Nigerian singer Asa saying to me; “That’s just the television talking. Come and see.” What I often find while backpacking on the continent is that many live in poverty but the Africans are the most hospitable people in the world.