Things or types of people you probably didn’t know exist in Africa



10 types of people or things you probably didn’t know exist in Africa

By Samuel Yeboah

Africa is the world’s second largest continent in population and size and is more diverse and complex than many people give it credit for. Africa is huge and home to 1.2 billion people, (1) and almost 3,000 different ethnic groups and languages, as well as a variety of phenotypes (2). Unfortunately Africa falls under a lot of generalizations. Here is a list of 10 types of people and things you probably didn’t know existed in Africa. We bet at least one fact will surprise, even if you are from the continent itself.

  1. Snow – South Africa, Lesotho, Morocco, Algeria, Madagascar

Snowy mountains and ski resorts are not usually the first things that come to mind when one thinks about Africa, but in certain places in Africa they do exist, particularly South Africa, Lesotho, Algeria, Morocco, and sometimes Madagascar. South Africa is one of the few countries in the world to cover every topographical category in the world, and that includes snow, and Lesotho, a country that South Africa completely surrounds is considered to be the coldest country in Africa. Lesotho is the coldest country in Africa, with average June temperatures hovering at around 0 degrees Celsius, and 32 degree Fahrenheit. (3)





  1. African Atheists – South Africa, Botswana

Africa is known as a continent that is very religious, home to Christian megachurches, major evangelism crusades, large devout Muslims populations, major religious conflicts, and a large amount of superstitious people. Africa is said to be the continent with the highest (4)percentage of people who believe in a God or have a religion. However in certain parts of Africa, many people do not subscribe to a religion, at all most notably in Botswana where 20 percent of the people are atheist and South Africa where 15% are atheist (5). Some examples of famous African atheists include Nigerian Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and Barack Obama, Sr. the father of former U.S president Barack Obama, Jr. (6) (7)

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  1. White Shantytowns– South Africa

When someone thinks of a White African, even if they know they exist, which a lot do not. Lot of times we think of Dr. Livingston, Indiana Jones, an NGO volunteer, or a Colonialist in Khaki shorts smoking on cigars with an African or Native houseservant waiting on them, this situations may be true in some aspects, but not every White person in Africa is rich, with a housemaid serving on them. Their numbers may be disputed from 80,000-400,000, but in South Africa poor Whites do exist. Particularly in White shantytowns like Munsieville, in Gauteng Province. (8)

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  1. African heavymetal and deathmetal Rock bands – Botswana

Botswana is known for its metals, gold, uranium, copper, etc. But there is another metal that Botswana is rich in and that is heavy metal. Botswana,unbeknownst to many a very vibrant heavy metal scene. Many of them are actually cowboys from small villages and farms, which explains the use of cowboy and biker looks. They also wear symbols of Africa -like animal horns- and adopt names like “Bone Machine, Coffinfeeder, Gunsmoke, Bound By The Moon, and Morgue Boss”, The heavy metal scene in Botswana has been around since the 1970’s, and have produced certain bands like Wrust that have achieved international success. (9)


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  1. Black Americans, – Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria

Many times people have made the argument Black Americans, will complain about racism in America, but they would never move to anywhere in Africa, their ancestral homeland due to its many problems and issues. However, many Black American, as well as Black Brazillians and Cubans, have made the journey back to Africa, for centuries, most notably in places like Ghana. There are over 5,000 Black Americans estimated living in Ghana, and other West African countries where there is a sizable community. (10) As far as their relations with the local communities, some have integrated and intermarried with the local communities, (11) (Ghana and Nigeria) while others have not, (Liberia, and Sierra Leone.) (12)

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  1. Latin Telenovela fans – Kenya, Angola

When we hear the word telenovela and Africa, one would suspect that these are two words that would have no relation to each other. However, it may come as a surprise to many that many people in Africa are major connoisseurs of Latin American telenovelas ( Latin American soap operas) . Many Latin American travelers to Africa have been surprised to see telenovelas playing on the television. In countries such as Kenya, there is a 24 hour telenovela channel called “Romanza Africa”, and is the largest channel for Latin Telenovelas. reaching 4.5 million Kenyan viewers, or households on Bamba TV which is a digital network. Romanza Africa iis a joint Venture between Mexico’s popular Channel TV Azteca, Venezuela’s Cisneros Media, and the local digital content distributor Africa XP.

Other networks like Brazil’s Globo, Colombia’s Caracol and RCN, and Mexico’s Televisa also have their telenovelas in the region and have seen their programs gain popularity as well.

The Spanish telenovela “Mi corazón insiste en Lola” (My Heart Beats for Lola) is the most popular telenovela in the region, ratings wise. Latin telenovelas are shown in TV Channels all across Africa. (13)With the exception of Equatorial Guinea most African countries do not speak Spanish. So they are usually dubbed or shown with subtitles. However in the many Portuguese speaking former colonies like Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, Brazilian telenovelas are just shown in their original language due to their linguistic bonds.

In some parts of Africa, telenovelas are so popular that they have made their own versions of telenovelas that have gained popularity as well, most notably Windeck which is from the Portuguese speaking country of Angola, and has become a very popular show for many people. (14)

Photo Credit: My heart beats for Lola

  1. Penguins – South Africa, and Namibia

Africa is famous for its animals, when we think of animals in Africa, The wild animals of Africa are some of the most incredible creatures in the world. we think of lions, tigers (erroneously, Tigers are in Asia, not Africa), elephants, hippos, rhinos, giraffes, but not penguins, however, due to the cooler climate of Southern Africa, Africa is actually home to a large number of penguins, In facts it is home to a local breed of penguins known as the black footed penguin that migrates between Southern Africa and Antarctica yearly, thus more deeply proving the amazing diversity of African fauna.

Photo Credit: USA Today

  1. High speed rail lines – Johannesburg, South Africa

Many times people associate the African continent with total backwardness, and while it is understandable in some cases, one needs to understand that Africa is a huge and changing continent and not all of Africa is technically behind, and technological development varies from country to country, while some countries do not even have functioning rail systems, some countries are home to modern advanced high speed rail lines, subway systems, trams, and world class airports. South Africa is home to the Gautrain which is high speed rail connects the two cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg. There are also plans to connect lines to other South African cities such as Durban and Cape Town (15). Morocco is also planning a high speed rail line from Casablanca to Tangier as well. (16)

Li Qihua/Xinhua /Landov



  1. Chinatowns and Asian influence– South Africa, Madagscar, Angola, Mauritus, Kenya, Nigeria,etc


When people talk about Africa and it’s relationship with the outside world, it is usually talked about in the context of it’s history with the European Colonialism and exploration. In his 1940 poem “As I Walked Out One Evening” W.H Auden quips with the line. “I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you Till China and Africa meet, and the river jumps over the mountain. And the salmon sing in the street” As if implying that China and Africa are such polar opposites that these two places meeting on any terms would be an impossibility. However China along with Asia have had a history that goes back for centuries.


Asians were the first Non Africans to visit Subsaharan Africa, Using sailing technology that did not even exist in Europe or the Middle East, Southeast Asians made one of the world’s longest voyages at that time, by sailing 4,000 miles to Madagascar from 350 BC to the early 1000 AD, mixing with the Bantu-speaking migrants from southeastern Africa to  create a unique cultural and genetic blend of Asia and Africa in what is today known as the Malagasy people, (17)

The Chinese were also early to visit Africa in 1413 when Zheng He of the Ming Dynasty landed his fleet of gigantic ships consisting of 30,000 men that were twice as large as the European ships on the coast of Eastern Africa, on which consists of the countries of present day Kenya, Somalia, and Mozambique. China had no intention of colonizing these places, and simply wanted to spread Chinese culture and show Chinese strength. Zheng hHe brought gifts and granted titles from the Ming emperor to the local rulers, with the goal of establishing a large number of tributary states. He sent back two giraffes, among many other things, as gifts to the Chinese Emperor, which the Chinese had never seen before and called them “long necked deers”

After that Zheng He and his fleet returned to China one the way home Chinese ships sank near Lamu Island in Kenya in 1415. Survivors are said to have settled in the island, and were allowed to settle and marry the local women after they had impressed the locals by killing a giant Python. Even till this day there are people till this day on Lamu and Pate Island who still display Asian phenotypes. (18)

The first real wave of Chinese immigrants came to the southern African countries of South Africa, Madagascar, and Mauritius from the 1890s to the early part of the 20th century. The early Chinese arrived to work in the gold mines of South Africa and on the Tananrive Tamatave railway of Madagascar, and as contract workers in Mauritius and Seychelles. These groups would establish the first Chinatowns in Africa, particularly in cities like Johannesburg (the largest), Port Louis, and Antananarivo. (19 )

Fast forward to recent times since the last 2 decades, there has been another wave of almost 1 million Chinese who have recently moved to Africa, making a population of almost 2 million Chinese people, due to the explosion of trade between China and Africa. (20)

In the beginning of the new millennium trade between China and Africa, was just $6.5 billion but has now metastasized to $220 billion. China is by far the largest trading partner of Africa. Being almost as large as trade between Africa’s other trading partners like the European Union, USA, India, Brazil, and Turkey combined. There are almost a 1000 Chinese corporations and businesses doing business in Africa. The Confucius Institute, which focuses on the promotion of the Chinese language and culture, has 20 centers distributed around 13 African countries. (21)

The Chinese presence has been met with mixed reception on the African continent, China today is responsible for more than 30% of all infrastructure projects on the continent with people in some countries praising the Chinese presence for helping to rapidly building, railways, trains, shopping malls, stadiums, airports, highways, entire new cities, curing diseases, etc. However, many people do complain, about Chinese racism, illegal mining, illegal logging, destruction of the environment, illegal poaching of animals such as rhinos and elephants, and destruction of local businesses because of inundation of cheap Chinese goods (22)

Many of the Chinese people who have moved to Africa want to live there long term, and feel that Africa is their new home, and thus have established new Chinatowns in places like Lagos, Luanda, Nairobi, etc. The Chinese have built Nan Hua temple in South Africa is one of the largest Buddhist temples outside of Africa. Many Vietnamese have also moved to places in Africa like Angola where many have done financially well, as well. It is said the Chinese are the most integrated in places like Seychelles and Mauritius. Some famous people of Chinese descent born in Africa are Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong, the richest Asian American, and actor Shannon Kook from the Canadian TV Show Degrassi (23)(24)



Painting the (China)towns Red


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  1. Dark Skinned Blonde haired blue eyed Africans – Cape Verde


Blonde hair and blue eyes are features that are almost automatically associated with Europeans, but In Cape Verde, off the Western Coast of Africa. It is not unusual to encounter dark-skinned people with blonde hair and blue eyes or children with pale skin and jet black, kinky, hair. Cape Verde arguably has one of the highest rates of blonde people in Africa

Reason being is that Cape Verde is a true melting pot of different people from Spanish and Italian seamen who were granted land by the Portuguese Empire, to Portuguese settlers, exiles and Jews who were escaping the Inquisition and West African slaves from brought from Senegal, as well as other foreigners from, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Arab countries (Lebanon and Morocco), China, India, Indonesia, South America, North America and Brazil, who all were absorbed into the local population, and created a genetic kaleidoscope in what you see today. (25)

Cape Verdeans have historically been the largest African immigrant group to immigrate to the U.S and there are more Cape Verdeans living abroad then there are in Cape Verde. (26) Most Cape Verdeans in America immigrated to New England to work in the whaling industry in the 1920’s and due to their common phenotypes their Latin surnames they are often more likely to be mistaken for other Latin American nationalities like Puerto Rican or Dominican or Black American than African.(27) Some famous Americans of Cape Verdean descent are model and actress Amber Rose, Rapper Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, and Rapper Benzino. (28) (29) (30)




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