Africa Is Not a Country


With 54 countries, around 2146 different languages, and nearly a billion people, the cultural diversity on this continent is staggering. One of Mr. Rikshaw’s favorite aspects of attending the IT conference in Kenya was that the majority of the participants were African nationals coming from all over the continent, from Ghana to Zambia. For some of them, this was the first time they’d been out of their own countries, and coming to Kenya was definitely cause for “culture shock.”


As they gathered for meals each day, the Kenyan cafeteria food was a common topic of conversation. Although the food was actually quite good in it’s own right, we’ll admit that we’re used to eating a wide variety of food, unlike most of the others there. An Ethiopian colleague, for example, bemoaned that he was “really suffering” because the food was so “tasteless.” Another man had had the forethought to bring a small bottle of Rwandan chili pepper oil, a concentrated spice that only requires a couple of drops to turn any dish into a firey inferno. And a colleague from Ghana had even brought a large bag of a potent Nigerian spice mixture.

One common element to perhaps every culture in Africa, however, is the importance of sharing. So, the spices were passed around so that everyone who needed to make their food more palatable could doctor it up. By the end, the bag of spices was nearly empty, and Mr. Rikshaw’s Ghanaian friend (who was staying for a second conference) was talking about seeing if he could hunt down a West African in town who could mix up a new bag of spice for him.