Europe VS Africa

Walk around a weekend market in any European city, like I just did, and you’ll be struck by how wealthy, orderly, neat and pleasant it is. It made me realise that most Europeans witness no poverty in their day-to-day lives: for many of them the world’s major problems are abstracts that exist only in the media.

It’s an enviable situation, and most Africans would, rightly, agree that we can’t get our continent to a European style of living quickly enough.

Why then would most of us choose the mayhem, noise and vibrancy of an African market over the first world equivalent? Even though ours are messy and chaotic places where poverty and hardship are ever-present.

I guess it’s got something to do with the feeling that, in Africa, our little actions can make a big difference.  The First World has got it right: they’ve all but beaten poverty and unemployment, but sometimes life here seems to lack purpose.  You could say that where they have order, we have meaning.

There are a couple more contrasts like this we noticed on our 15-month trip from Cape Town to London:

Infrastructure VS The Environment

We all know that Africa has a huge lack of infrastructure. This is the main coastal highway in the DRC:

For sure, it’s probably one of the worst roads in the world, but take a look at the surrounding scenery. The lack of infrastructure has preserved one of the most beautiful places on earth. With tarmac will come the shopping centres.

Technology VS Ingenuity

How about this ferry in Gabon:

Yes, that’s right, 9 outboard motors! Talk about built in redundancy.  Africa may lack technology, but we make up for it with ingenuity.

Wealth VS Fellowship

Or take this Cameroonian taxi:

This guy gets paid per passenger.  We got to town, he sat on the fuel tank and got paid 3 fares.  Now, most western taxis are faster and more comfortable, but can you imagine any better or more sociable way to arrive in central Kiribi on a Firday night?

Productivity VS Freedom

And lastly, this shot of Stone somewhere near the mouth of the Congo River, on a Tuesday morning, in June:

Africa doesn’t have the work ethic of China or the financial clout of the City of London, but I think most of us would agree with Stone here that freedom is pretty nice sometimes too.


7 Responses to “Europe VS Africa”

  1. 1 Taryn Aug 22nd, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Really great post! Couldn’t have put it better. Absolutely captures why there’s no place like home!

  2. 2 Lesley Williams Oct 2nd, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Having recently moved back to Joburg from London, I sit with the question ‘what is progress?’ There is no question that our continent has loads to offer in terms of natural beauty and warmth of people. How do we preserve this when tackling issues of poverty alleviation? Thanks for the great insert… let’s keep this dialogue alive.

  3. 3 Travis Smith Jan 14th, 2012 at 5:38 am

    Africa is the most beautiful and cultrally diverse contentant in the world.

  4. 4 Travis Smith Jan 14th, 2012 at 5:47 am

    HEY MEME, just to let you know, you have no right saying africans “low IQ’s” because you obviously can’t spell,and,just for the record, africa is cetinly not a vast wasteland. obviously you suck at geography. Africa is beautiful and diverse and cerinally not just inhabited by “black people.” I am not even black,but your inhumane comment about my friends have offended me. Andyou think you’re smart! Africa has mountains, beaches, grasslends and everglades, so the next time you speak, think again, dummie.

  5. 5 Travis Smith Jan 14th, 2012 at 5:54 am

    meme’s jelous because his ancestors were “neantderthals”

  6. 6 mo Feb 5th, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    Man Africa is beautiful read introduction to an african civilization wonder why this world is so hateful when we all came from the same race think about it when you mix all the colors

  7. 7 Hello Apr 22nd, 2012 at 9:55 am

    I’m European. Yes, there is A LOT of differences between Africa and Europe. And I really don’t agree when you write: “You could say that where they have order, we have meaning”.
    So, in Europe we dont have meaning? We are humans as well and we do have meaning. We go to school in 10-17 years, learn a lot about the world, we get the job we want and start a family. We travel and experience a lot of things.
    I’m only 14 years old, but so what? I’ve learned to speak 3 different languages so i can talk to people all over the world and i have a lot of things that i want in life.
    In Europe we just live in a different way that you do, but that doesn’t mean that we dont have meaning.
    There are things that we find very strage about Africa as well, but we respect that we have different cultures and that we live differently. Every country give A LOT of money to help in Africa as well.

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The original trip

March 2007: Tim, Lurks & Stone mission north from Cape Town up the west coast of Africa, in search of good waves and good times. Their vehicle: a trusty 1981 Landcruiser named Mzee Kobe (The Old Tortoise). Their final destination: London... finally arriving almost a year behind schedule in latter 2008!

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